The National Mentoring Organization (MENTOR) has recently updated their set of research-based best practice guidelines, referred to as the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, which provides standards for recruitment, screening, training, matching, monitoring and support, and closure. These standards represent an important step in identifying key program practices that contribute to positive youth outcomes and in bridging research and practice.
Unfortunately, moving youth off long waitlists can sometimes take priority over creating high-quality matches. Even among the growing number of programs with careful recruitment, screening, and matching, a relatively smaller proportion devote themselves to in-depth training of volunteers or ongoing support to the mentors. Cost, combined with a general reluctance to make demands on volunteers, is the primary obstacle to providing more sustained involvement and infrastructure beyond the initial match.
Programs that offer adequate infrastructure increase the likelihood that relationships can endure difficult periods. In fact, meta-analyses indicate that program practices that support the mentor and relationship (i.e., training for mentors, offering structured activities for mentors and youth, having high expectations for frequency of contact, and monitoring of overall program implementation) produce stronger positive effects. These practices, which speak to a program’s ability to not only match mentors and youth but also sustain those matches, converge with the beneficial practices identified by other researchers.