Mentoring programs vary greatly in their adherence to the high quality safety- and research-based benchmark practices described in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (EEPM; published by MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership). These benchmark program practices are designed as guidelines that enable mentoring programs to better prepare and support mentors, mentees, and mentee’s parents throughout the mentoring relationship. The EEPM is composed of six Standards that are organized around the life cycle of a mentoring relationship beginning with recruitment of match members, and continuing through screening, training, matching mentors with mentees and initiating the relationship, monitoring and support, and relationship closure. Despite the fact that these guidelines were written based upon an extensive review of the scientific literature on mentoring and consultation with program practitioners and technical assistance experts, it was not known whether greater adherence to the EEPM would have a measurable impact on mentoring relationships. A recently published study in the Journal of Community Psychology concluded, “Yes!”
We know that mentoring relationships can have myriad positive effects on youth, and that as the length of the match increases, positive outcomes for youth can also increase. Furthermore, matches that end prematurely can actually have negative impacts on mentees, and leave them worse-off than when they entered the program. Therefore, it is important to look at what mentoring programs can do to increase the length of matches. This is difficult to do. One benchmark practice in the EEPM is that matches should last at least one calendar year (or one academic year for school-based programs); however, only 43% of community-based matches lasted 6 months or longer. So how does a mentoring program increase match length? By implementing more of the benchmark practices in the EEPM!
Written by Drs. Kupersmidt, Stelter, and Stump, of iRT and Dr. Rhodes, of UMass-Boston, the aim of the study, entitled, Mentoring Program Practices as Predictors of Match Longevity, was to examine whether mentoring programs were implementing the EEPM benchmarks, and whether benchmark practice implementation was related to match outcomes. The study examined archival data from 45 mentoring programs that included information from 29,708 matches. This study used archival data generously shared by Big Brother Big Sisters (BBBS) of America, as well as interviews conducted with 45 individual BBBS agencies from around the U.S. Most importantly, the investigators found that the more programs adhered to the EEPM, the longer their matches lasted. One conclusion is that what programs do in order to create and support a match really makes a difference.
When individual Standards were analyzed to see if they had a unique effect on match outcomes, only the Training Standard was uniquely and significantly associated with match length. Unfortunately, the investigators were unable to examine the impact of the Monitoring and Support Standard on outcomes, due to the fact that all of the participating programs followed one model and they were fairly uniform in their practices related to this Standard.
In conclusion, it is clearly important to implement as many benchmark practices described the EEPM as possible, and implementation of the Training benchmarks may be particularly important for fostering longer matches.
In the future, the authors hope to examine not only the quantity of benchmark implementation, but also the quality of implementation, and how it affects outcomes. Furthermore, the focus of the study on match outcomes for community-based matches may limit the generalizability of the findings to other types of mentoring programs using other models of intervention. Future research on the impact of implementation of the EEPM on match and youth outcomes will be conducted with other types of mentoring programs that use a wider range of models of intervention. The authors also noted challenges that programs may face when attempting to incorporate the EEPM benchmarks into their standard practices, and urged researchers to develop and evaluate methods to optimize efforts at program quality improvement.
For more information, the EEPM can be accessed through MENTOR’s website at; http://www.mentoring.org/2017/03/elements-leads-effective-practice/.
The original article can be accessed at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcop.21883/full