A community-based mentoring program for disadvantaged youth.
[Disclosure: Arnold Ventures provided funding for one of the two RCTs (Dubois, Herrera, et.al.).]
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the largest mentoring organization in the United States, with over 230 agencies serving more than 100,000 youth nationwide in 2020. Community-Based Mentoring is the organization’s flagship program. The program matches youth ages 6 to 18, predominantly from low-income households, with adult volunteer mentors.
The youth’s parent(s)/guardian(s) apply for the youth to be matched with a mentor through a written application and youth/parent interview. Potential mentors are screened by a Big Brothers Big Sisters caseworker through a personal interview, home visit, and criminal, background, and reference check to ensure that they are not a safety risk and are likely to form a positive relationship with the youth. Prior to a match being made, the youth and parent meet with the potential mentor; the match’s completion requires parental approval.
The mentor and youth typically meet for 2 to 4 times per month for at least a year, and engage in activities of their choosing (e.g. studying, cooking, playing sports). The typical meeting lasts 3 to 4 hours.
For the first year, Big Brothers Big Sisters staff maintain monthly contact with the mentor, as well as the youth and their parent, to ensure a positive mentor-youth match, and to help resolve any problems in the relationship. Mentors are encouraged to form a supportive friendship with the youth, and not seek to modify the youth’s behavior or character.
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (2019) has estimated the cost per youth for a year of services in the Community-Based Mentoring program at $1,765.