Amachi Texas completes a randomized controlled trial–with impressive results

Amachi Texas completes a randomized controlled trial--with impressive results - The Chronicles of Evidence-Based MentoringBy Richard A. Lewis, Director, Federal Compliance and Project Management, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

In Texas, the Amachi program was established in 2006 as a public-private partnership and joint initiative of the Office of the Governor, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Education Agency, OneStar Foundation, and all Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) organizations in the state. The program is the first statewide model to offer children of prisoners’ one-to-one mentoring intervention. The Amachi Texas mission is to prevent the inter-generational cycle of crime and incarceration by helping children of prisoners realize their maximum potential through safe, positive, one-to-one mentoring relationships. In an effort to advance understanding of the importance of mentoring among children affected by incarceration, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded a field-initiated research grant to ICF International (ICF) and Baylor University to implement a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to determine the impact of the Amachi Texas mentoring program on children with incarcerated parents and/or family members. The three-year study included an outcome and process evaluation intended to: (1) determine the impact of the program on children of prisoners; and (2) provide an understanding of how mentoring is being delivered to this at-risk population of children. The RCT study combines rigorous research with strong methodology to evaluate program operations in three BBBS agencies—Abilene/Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio (N = 351 children; 192 treatment group; 159 control group).

The RCT Study of Amachi Texas Evaluation Report concludes that mentoring matters in the lives of children impacted by parental incarceration—and brings hope for the future. Results of the study show that:

• the presence of a caring, supportive adult mentor improves short-term outcomes for children affected by family incarceration (i.e., improved relationships with their parents/caregivers/adults/friends and an increased sense of self-worth);

• the impact of one-to-one mentoring on child-family relationships and child well-being outcomes is sustained over time and improves as the duration of the mentoring relationship increases (i.e., greater connection to school, community, and family).

• mentoring improves attitudes toward school, increases literacy, and reduces alternative education/disciplinary referrals; and

• the robust process evaluation identifies critical elements of effective practice, informs the further development of a best-in-class program, and increases satisfaction to advance the field of mentoring.

In summary, the Amachi Texas program evaluation concludes that mentoring matters—the aforementioned findings demonstrate the impact or “value-added” of one-to-one mentoring including significantly improving a variety of individual-level outcomes for children with an incarcerated parent and/or relative.