Mentoring components have been incorporated into programs across the U.S. to aid in community gang prevention. The current study investigates some of the larger issues surrounding these mentoring interventions for gang involvement in the U.K., using qualitative methods.
The Gang Mentoring pilot was a 4 month (later extended to 8 months) intensive mentoring intervention with the goal of ‘building resilience’ among younger male siblings (n=18) of gang members at high risk for gang membership. The program focused on the following:
- ensure the younger siblings attended school regularly
- engaged mentee group in positive activities at peak times of risk
- provide information, advice, and guidelines to the youth and their families
A qualitative evaluation was conducted, with schools, parents, and youth all providing feedback on the mentoring schema and subsequent youth behavior/satisfaction with the program.
School staff had a positive view of the intervention. They reported improvement on youth’s school attendance and punctuality, their communication , and their social skills. Staff noted how mentors were helpful mediators between the families and the schools – with this increased communication being a very important outcome. Overall, the program received strong support from the both the school and the families involved.
The youth reported positive relationships with their mentors, satisfaction with the activities, and viewed the project as providing them with activities (sporting and leisure) that they otherwise would not be able to attend.
The study also identified the danger that may be associated with being identified as a potential gang member and the lasting stigma that accompanies that. It was a challenge to maintain appropriate communication between the school and staff while still maintaining confidentiality regarding family gang affiliation.
The parental satisfaction with the program and the strides in communication with the mentors and school are very impressive outcomes given the long history of negative experiences and general mistrust of statutory agencies and interventions reported by the families.
It is important to note that despite the satisfaction with the mentoring program, it is limited by its short duration limitation that mentors noted, is the scarce availability of activities for youth to engage in after school or on the weekends, especially upon completion of the program. Thus, future interventions could benefit from a longer duration of the mentoring relationship as well as increased access to positive group activities for the youth upon termination of the program.
Summarized by Laura Yoviene