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April 2005Vol. 6, No. 3Strengthening Families Through Mentoring

Over the last decade, research to study the outcomes of youth mentoring programs has demonstrated many positive outcomes for the youth who have participated in such programs. Given the success of youth mentoring, the Family Strengthening Policy Center explored the idea of using mentoring as a family strengthening approach. A recent policy brief, Mentoring as a Family Strengthening Strategy, examines two types of programs:

  • Traditional youth mentoring programs that incorporate a strong family engagement component
  • Family mentoring programs that use a mentoring model to connect families to volunteer mentors

While the role of the family has been minimal in traditional youth mentoring programs, this policy brief looks at three programs that have used a family-centered approach to mentoring youth. Interviews with professionals at these programs show that their program activities focus on honoring the role of parents in the lives of their children and creating opportunities for families to develop supportive networks within their own community.

Family mentoring applies many of the principles of youth mentoring to families struggling with poverty, social isolation, or other stressors. These programs generally involve pairing a family with volunteers who provide support and encouragement as the family works toward such goals as self-sufficiency, improving parenting skills, and improving their education. Three case studies provide models for this approach.

Lessons learned and policy recommendations are presented for family- and youth-serving agencies, private sector funders, government agencies, and legislators. Web resources and a bibliography are also included.

The Family Strengthening Policy Center is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is a program of the National Human Services Assembly. This policy brief can be found on the National Human Services Assembly website at (PDF - 100 KB).