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April 2008Vol. 9, No. 3Mentoring Offers Benefits to Youth in Foster Care

Natural mentoring relationships may increase the likelihood that youth in foster care experience positive outcomes as they transition to adulthood. A recent study of youth in foster care compared young adult outcomes for youth with mentors versus youth without mentors. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the study analyzed 310 youth in foster care and found that mentored youth generally showed more positive outcomes. Mentored youth were defined as those benefiting from the presence of a nonparental adult over a period of at least 2 years between the ages of 14 and 18.

The study examined outcomes in four domains: education and employment, psychological well-being, physical health, and participation in unhealthy behaviors. In all four domains, mentored youth did significantly better than nonmentored youth. Participants who had a mentor performed better in school, led healthier lives, stayed away from unhealthy behaviors more often, and were significantly less likely to report psychological problems such as suicidal ideation.

The full study, "Youth in Foster Care With Adult Mentors During Adolescence Have Improved Adult Outcomes," by Kym R. Ahrens, David Lane DuBois, Laura P. Richardson, Ming-Yu Fan, and Paula Lozano, was published in the online version of Pediatrics and can be accessed at: