Research Forum

Research Forum Descriptions

Day One – Wednesday, November 2, 2016

11:00 – 12:30
Fostering Healthy Futures for Children in Foster Care

Youth with a history of maltreatment and foster care placement are at disproportionate risk for a host of mental health and behavior problems, resulting in adverse life-course outcomes of great public health significance. Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) is an innovative, positive youth development program designed to promote pro-social development in pre-adolescent children who have been maltreated and placed in foster care. The 9-month intervention consists of 3 components: 1) evaluations of children’s functioning, 2) one-on-one mentoring, and 3) weekly therapeutic skills groups. Mentoring is provided by graduate students who meet weekly for 3-4 hours with their mentees and interface with other important adult influences in the children’s lives. Therapeutic skills groups are implemented over 30 weeks and combine traditional cognitive-behavioral skill group activities with process-oriented material. FHF has been tested in two rigorous randomized controlled trials over the past decade and was recently named an evidence-based program (EBP) based on the results of these trials. This talk will describe the FHF program, the research that supports its efficacy, recent dissemination efforts, and a teen adaptation that is currently being tested.

Presenter Bio:
Heather Taussig’s research focuses on the development of efficacious preventive interventions to improve outcomes for children and adolescents at risk for adverse outcomes. Prior to joining the GSSW faculty, Taussig was a faculty member at the University of Colorado’s Kempe Center, where she developed and directed Fostering Healthy Futures ® (FHF), a mentoring program for pre-adolescent children in foster care. Her team conducted two randomized controlled trials of FHF, funded by the National Institutes of Health, and they are piloting a mentoring program for teens to extend the program’s reach. Other current research endeavors include the dissemination and implementation of FHF through community-based organizations and a longitudinal study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, to examine the transition to independence for young adults with a history of out-of-home care. 
Taussig, who serves as GSSW’s Associate Dean for Research, has also conducted studies on risk and protective factors, child well-being in foster care, youth mentoring and policy issues. She served on former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s Task Force on Foster Care and Permanence, and she participates in several community collaboratives. Taussig was honored by the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect for her significant contributions to the field.

13:30 – 14:45
The More the Merrier: Using research to think about how to best use group mentoring

As mentoring grows in popularity, programs face shortages of mentors to meet the growing demand. Group mentoring has been increasing as a strategy for reaching more youth without having to maintain 1:1 youth-adult ratios. Group mentoring has also been suggested as a way to help sustain youth’s participation in programs, potentially addressing the issue of early termination of mentoring relationships. In fact, some programs combine group and one-on-one mentoring as means of drawing on the strengths of both approaches. The research suggests that group mentoring can be effective, and may target different outcomes than traditional 1-on-1 mentoring. But there are also important factors to keep in mind when considering a group program. This presentation will review the basics of group mentoring, including its different forms, and discuss what the research says on best practices for implementing group-based or combined mentoring programs.  

Presenter’s Bio:
Nancy L. Deutsch is Associate Professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. Her research focuses on positive youth development, with a particular focus on the role of after-school programs and formal and natural mentors. She has published many articles and books chapters on mentoring and after-school as well as two books about after-school centers, including discussion of the important role of staff as natural mentors within those settings. She serves on the U.S.’s National Mentoring Resource Center research board as well as on a number of other boards and advisory groups. Her work has been supported by a number of foundations and federal agencies including the William T. Grant Foundation, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Institute of Education Science.

15:00 – 16:30
“Because she understands what I have been through”: A qualitative examination of youth initiated mentoring

Youth-initiated mentoring (YIM) is an innovative approach in which youth select adults to serve as mentors in formalized matches. It holds great appeal for its potential to help with long-standing issues facing mentoring programs such as volunteer recruitment and attrition and low to modest effect sizes of mentoring, particularly for higher risk youth. However, few programs have implemented this approach. This presentation will detail findings from a study of the efforts of two programs – one serving youth involved in the juvenile justice system and the other foster care youth – to implement YIM and the experience of the youth and mentor participants in these programs. The influence of YIM on the entire mentoring process – from mentor selection through relationship development and duration – will be detailed and implications for program practice discussed.

Presenter’s Bio:
Renee Spencer is a professor at the Boston University School of Social Work, specializes in the study of youth mentoring and the creation of innovative, effective approaches to improve outcomes for young people, parents and guardians. An active member on numerous national boards, she serves as Chair of her department, has published several book chapters and more than 40 widely-cited articles in top journals, and has received major grants supporting her research from a variety of foundations and federal institutions, including the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.

Day Two – Thursday, November 3, 2016

10:15 – 12:15
Mentoring Youth in Conflict with the Law

While mentoring is an evidence-based practice with regard to preventing delinquent involvement among at-risk youth, the research on the use of mentoring with juvenile justice-involved youth has often found inconsistent results. It is common to find youth mentoring programs that avoid or resist serving youth in conflict with the law. It is also, unfortunately, common to find programs that tried, and failed, to deliver effective mentoring programs for this population. This presentation will cover the key aspects of the design of mentoring programs to effectively serve youth involved in the juvenile justice system with particular attention to the recruitment, training, and ongoing support for mentors working with these young people. With a combination of research, theory, and examples from practice, the session will feature an interactive experience that prepares the audience to apply what they learn to their own context.

Presenter’s Bio:
Dr. Roger Jarjoura is a Principal Researcher at the American Institutes for Research. He has over 20 years of experience in developing and evaluating mentoring programs for system-involved youth and children of incarcerated parents. His research has focused on mentoring juvenile offenders in a diversion program, and also juvenile offenders in a reentry program. Dr. Jarjoura also promotes mentoring approaches grounded in positive youth development and positive psychology as a means for connecting and building trust with youth who are most difficult to reach. He is currently the Project Director for the national evaluation of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Mentoring Enhancement Demonstration Program.

14:15 – 16:30 pm
Wrapping it Up: From Theory to Practice

This workshop will explore several key concepts for solidifying a mentoring program’s theory of change, measuring program implementation and effectiveness, and translating the research on youth mentoring into program improvements. The workshop will review key themes that emerged over the course of the previous Research Track workshops, as well as an overview of new tools and websites that can help practitioners measure outcomes and engage new research more effectively. If you’ve ever wondered how to strengthen your program’s work, measure your impact, or turn proven practices into innovations in your own program, this workshop will help take your efforts to the next level.

Presenter’s Bio:
Michael Garringer serves as the Director of Knowledge Management for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, overseeing projects related to the translation of mentoring research into program practice. Garringer has worked in the mentoring and education fields for over 17 years, primarily on training and technical assistance projects serving federally- or state-funded mentoring programs. He also leads data collection and evaluation projects in an effort to highlight the prevalence and impact of mentoring across the United States. Garringer has authored and edited many guidebooks and program tools to support youth mentoring in school and community settings, including The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (4th Edition) and the Measurement Guidance Toolkit.