Mentor helping up a mentee. Mentoring, youth mentoring. Helping hand.

How we can make mentoring programs better for the children of incarcerated parents

Stump, K. N., Kupersmidt, J. B., Mentor helping up a mentee. Mentoring, youth mentoring. Helping hand.Stelter, R. L. and Rhodes, J. E. (2018), Mentoring Program Enhancements Supporting Effective Mentoring of Children of Incarcerated Parents. Am J Community Psychol, 62: 163-174. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12250

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Although children of incarcerated parents (COIP) are in danger of facing negative outcomes, being in mentoring relationships can be a protective factor.
  • Stump’s, Kupersmidt, Stelter’s, and Rhodes’s (2018) study analyzes how mentoring, as well as mentoring program enhancements, affect children of incarcerated parents.
  • Based on the secondary analyses done on an archival database that contained 70,729 matches from 216 local BBBS databases and based on telephone interviews with a subset of the agencies.
  • The results indicated that enhanced program practices led to more positive outcomes for children of incarcerated parents. They found that specifically having extra funding as well as for having specialized mentor training correlate stable and longer-lasting matches.
  • The study simultaneously shows that having specific goals in catering to children of incarcerated parents correlated to higher expectations in education for children of incarcerated parents.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Children of incarcerated parents (COIP) are at risk for a range of negative outcomes; however, participating in a mentoring relationship can be a promising intervention for these youth. This study examined the impact of mentoring and mentoring program enhancements on COIP. Secondary data analyses were conducted on an archival database consisting of 70,729 matches from 216 Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) local agencies to establish the differential effects of mentoring on COIP. A subset of 45 BBBS agencies, representing 25,252 matches, participated in a telephone interview about program enhancements for better serving COIP. Results revealed that enhanced program practices, including having specific program goals, providing specialized mentor training, and receiving additional funding resulted in better outcomes for COIP matches. Specifically, specialized mentor training and receiving additional funding for serving matches containing COIP were associated with longer and stronger matches. Having specific goals for serving COIP was associated with higher educational expectations in COIP. Results are discussed in terms of benefits of a relationship‐based intervention for addressing the needs of COIP and suggestions for program improvements when mentoring programs are serving this unique population of youth.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Children who have an incarcerated parent are more likely to have been exposed to additional psychosocial risks such as poverty, altered living arrangements including separation from parents, and living in a home without a biological parent. These risks, in turn, may contribute to challenges in establishing and maintaining a long‐term, high‐quality mentoring relationship among COIP. However, the most important set of findings from this study showed that when mentoring programs enhanced their program practices to address the specific needs of COIP, mentoring can result in more positive match and youth outcomes for youth within this population. Without these enhancements to program operations, the myriad challenges faced by COIP can minimize the typically positive impacts of mentoring among youth who have an incarcerated parent. Overall, these findings suggest that more targeted and more powerful mentoring interventions are helpful for enhancing the experience of mentoring for COIP.

Providing specialized training to mentors in a relationship with a COIP resulted in longer and stronger matches. COIP have shorter matches, on average, than non‐COIP; however, the difference in match length disappeared after controlling for the nestedness of data, suggesting that differences in match length can be largely attributed to variations between programs. Therefore, focusing on program‐level variables such as practice enhancements allowed for the identification of program practices that best fit the needs of COIP and other high‐risk youth.

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