A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Long-Term Professional Mentoring Program for Children at Risk: Outcomes Across the First 5 Years
Child outcomes due to a paid professional mentoring program, Friends of the Children (FOTC), were investigated across the first 5 years of an ongoing multi-site randomized controlled trial. Participants were 278 children attending kindergarten or first grade who were identified as “at risk” for adjustment problems during adolescence. The program was delivered through established nonprofit community-based organizations. Mentors were hired to work full time and were provided training, supervision, and support to work individually with small numbers of children. Recruitment took place across a 3-year period. Random assignment to the intervention condition or a services as usual control condition was conducted at the level of the individual, blocking on school and child sex. After the initial assessment, follow-up assessments were conducted every 6 months. Differences in growth curves across the elementary school years were examined in intent-to-treat analyses. Significant effects favoring FOTC were found in terms of caregiver ratings of positive school behavior and less trouble in school, with a trend for higher child behavioral and emotional strengths. Effect sizes were in the range typical in recent trials of youth mentoring.