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Special Feature
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A relationship with a mentor can be a valuable resource for a young person during life’s critical moments.

Successful mentoring relationships can improve a child’s self-esteem and academic achievement while deterring substance use, delinquency, and other high-risk behaviors.

Young person smiles and points to head. Wavy multicolored background. Text reads: Become a Mentor. Connect. Build. Grow.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has long supported youth mentoring programs, providing national leadership to deliver high-quality mentoring to a diverse and growing youth population. OJJDP delivers focused grant funding, publications, research, and training and technical assistance to organizations that provide mentoring programs.

In fiscal year (FY) 2023, OJJDP awarded nearly $92.5 million to increase mentoring opportunities for youth and improve the quality of mentoring they receive. And in (FY) 2023, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded over $2 million in support of rigorous youth mentoring research and evaluation projects.

Mentoring services can be one-on-one, peer-to-peer, in a group, or a combination. Diverse in their design and implementation, mentoring programs aim to provide young people with structured support from older or more experienced people, such as adult volunteers or students at higher grade levels.

Studies suggest that the effectiveness of mentoring programs can be enhanced by practices that train and support mentors. On the other hand, mentoring programs can harm youth if mentoring relationships end prematurely or if the mentor fails to maintain routine contact with the mentee.

Recent research supported by OJJDP found that mentoring programs can be an effective tool for:

  1. Reducing the entry of young adults into the criminal justice system
  2. Promoting career interest and exploration
  3. Improving young peoples’ attitudes towards police and beliefs in police legitimacy

The National Mentoring Resource Center, a program of OJJDP, is a comprehensive, no-cost training and technical assistance mentoring resource. In FY 2021, the center provided 11,870 hours of technical assistance to mentoring organizations across the country.

Additionally, OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide contains evaluations of more than 50 mentoring programs and comprehensively reviews the research literature on mentoring.

A review of 47 mentoring programs added to the guide between 2014 and 2021 found that a variety of mentoring models and approaches to mentoring can be effective. Researchers highlighted that in programs rated as effective or promising, program staff were intentional in their efforts to foster close, strategically oriented, and impactful mentoring relationships.

Research supported by OJJDP on mentoring youth in rural settings suggests caution in trying to replicate mentoring programs developed for urban communities. Instead, researchers advise working with rural communities individually to utilize the unique assets a rural community can offer to a mentoring program.

In 2022, January officially became National Mentoring Month. Annually, the organization MENTOR, founded to expand opportunities for young people by building a youth mentoring field and movement in the US, has launched a nationwide campaign to expand public awareness and participation.

More on Mentoring from OJP

Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies:

  Mentoring Publications Related Mentoring Resources  
Date Modified: January 11, 2024
Date Created: August 18, 2020