Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help promote healthy childhood environments and prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Building relationships to change behavior: Mentoring programs for delinquency seek to engage at-risk youth by pairing them with vetted mentors. The programs often equip mentors with training and a framework (such as activity recommendations and meeting frequency) to help youth shift toward more positive behaviors.

  • Formal mentoring: One common, highly-structured approach is formal mentoring, which involves youth and mentors taking part in structured activities planned by the sponsoring organization (e.g., a game night at a community center).

  • Community-based mentoring: Another method is community-based mentoring, which pairs carefully-screened mentors with youth, with the expectation that they spend at least four hours per month together engaging in activities outside of a formal setting; these include every-day activities like playing sports, working on homework, or taking a walk.

  • School-based mentoring: A third common approach involves structured mentoring on school grounds that typically focuses on academic and social activities (e.g., as part of an afterschool program).

  • Supporting matches between mentors and mentees: Mentoring programs are often administered by nonprofits, which may focus entirely on mentoring or offer mentoring as a part of a broader mission. These organizations may formally partner with government agencies (e.g., school districts) or other nonprofits (e.g., social services agencies) that work directly with children. Typically, the administering agency is responsible for recruiting, screening, and training volunteer mentors; facilitating matches between mentors and mentees; and supporting mentors and mentees as they develop a relationship.

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that mentoring programs for delinquency are a well-supported strategy for improving outcomes related to youth behavior and violence reduction.

  • A 2016 research synthesis identified mentoring programs focused on reducing delinquency as a scientifically supported strategy for reducing delinquent behavior, aggression, and drug use.
  • Recruit using referrals: People are more likely to volunteer when they have been asked by someone they know. Mentoring programs can take advantage of this dynamic by creating a referral program for current employees and mentors to conduct individualized outreach to potential mentors in their network.

  • Adopt a rigorous screening process: A key priority of mentoring programs is ensuring the safety of participating children. Effective screening of mentors is a standard safety practice and should involve established criteria qualifying and disqualifying mentor applicants, a face-to-face interview with prospective mentors to assess their suitability for mentoring youth, and reference checks with multiple individuals who know the applicant.

  • Provide training to mentors: Mentors who receive training before matching with a mentee report higher satisfaction with their mentoring relationship, which may result in higher mentor retention rates. Programs should provide a minimum of two hours of pre-match mentoring training, which addresses program expectations (e.g., obligations, relationship development strategies) and risk management (e.g., mandatory reporting requirements).

  • Facilitate strong matches: Creating strong, long-term mentoring relationships starts with effectively matching mentors and mentees. To identify strong matches, mentoring programs may consider mentor and mentee characteristics (e.g., interests, proximity, preferences), sponsor matching events where prospective mentors and mentees interact with and provide feedback on potential matches, or provide parents or guardians with the opportunity to provide feedback on potential mentors.

  • Monitor and collect data on mentoring relationships: Mentoring relationships change over time, and programs should monitor the progress of each mentoring relationship. Scientifically-validated relationship assessment tools are an evidence-based approach to collecting data to assess relationship quality.