Over the last few months Braid has been working on a strategic plan.
As a part of that plan we have been conducting research into other mentoring programs, particularly programs which focus specifically on foster youth. This was in part out of curiosity, but also in part to see and measure how Braid compared to others in the “marketplace.”
It is not an easy comparison because our work has few tangibles with which and by which we can measure forward movement. The work of rebuilding trust and re-teaching the value of relationship is not easy to measure and sometimes hard to see.
Our research led us to spend time with a professor from the renowned psychology department at The University of Minnesota. She shared with us several research papers, including one of which she was an author. In this paper she and her colleague examine the existing research that has been conducted on mentoring programs to see if there are definitive outcomes that we might anticipate from mentoring.
- “Successful” mentoring programs for foster youth – and there exist fewer than one might think – have mentors who build a “social scaffolding” for the youth so they can begin to re-orient their lives in a safe, secure space. This scaffolding also networks them into places they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access.
- “Successful” mentoring programs for foster youth have mentors who are consistent, repetitive and provide positive relational experiences.
- “Successful” mentoring programs for foster youth require mentors who take a thoughtful, careful approach to their mentoring because the trauma is so present.
I would say by all three measures we can consider our mentor teams to be a “success.”
There is one other study that I want to share here that speaks to our mentors’ unique achievement in the world of mentoring programs.
It was a study conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) in Texas. The State of Texas mandated that every foster youth needed to be enrolled in a mentoring program. The State then contracted with BBBS to supply mentors.
Initially, the State referred 200 youth to BBBS. After three years BBBS had managed to match 46 youth with a mentor out of the 200 total. And, of those 46 matches ONLY 3 mentors stayed with the youth for more than one year. Only 3 remained present to their youth for more than a year! And we all know that from the research referenced above stability is so so necessary for foster youth.
Now BBBS is a huge organization and a direct comparison to Braid is not fully accurate without considering a number of factors.
Yet, if the research shows that what is important in a mentoring program is consistency, and if psychological studies around foster youth conclude that positive change occurs within a young person when the above factors of “social scaffolding,” consistency, and thoughtfulness are present then I think the following statistic speaks to the success of your efforts:
In three years Braid has had 40 youth referred to the program. Of those, 16 were ultimately not matched with a team because of shifts in their placements or because they or their caregivers were not interested in participating. Five youth are no longer with the program because they moved or lost interest. Four are in process of being matched with a team.
And of the remaining 15 active teams, 12 – that is TWELVE – mentor teams have been with their youth for OVER one year with many teams over two years and a couple going on three years!!!
I do believe that this comparison speaks volumes!
It might be hard to always have a sense of our success week in and week out.
It might be difficult at times to feel that we are making a difference. The work in which we are engaged is hard and recognized to be so by any number of scholars and studies.
But, according to all the metrics and measures used by those academics and professionals in the field we are outperforming and can trust that in the end we are making a huge difference in the life of our young people, moving them into a place of health and wholeness that will blossom when it blossoms – we can’t control that. But it will come.