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Big Brothers/Big Sisters Mentoring Seen Establishing Long Ties

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Mentoring relationships established through chapters of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America tend to last longer and have higher rates of interaction than matches formed through many newer mentoring programs, a new report concludes.

The only other programs with comparable rates of interaction are those in which the adults are paid or the youths are incarcerated, according to the study of eight regional Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs conducted by Public/Private Ventures, a private, nonprofit research organization based in Philadelphia.

The study, part of a four-year effort by P.P.V. to evaluate mentoring programs, is the first of four that will focus on Big Brothers/Big Sisters, which recruits adults in about 500 communities nationwide to form friendships with youths who, for the most part, live with only one parent.

Previous studies by PŸPŸVŸ have evaluated programs that match senior citizens and college students with children. (See Education Week, Aug. 5, 1992, and Jan. 13, 1993.)

Researchers visited eight Big Brothers/Big Sisters agencies that served 2,948 youths in fiscal year 1991. They also conducted a telephone survey of 821 volunteers at the agencies in the spring of 1992.

Among the telephone survey's findings:

  • Just under 90 percent of the mentors said they met at least once with the youth they were matched with during the past four weeks.
  • For matches that had lasted two years or less, the pairs met an average of three times during the past four weeks.
  • For matches that had lasted more than two years, the pairs met about two times during the past four weeks.

"The matches last longer than what we've seen in any other mentoring program, and, within that, the amount of time that adults and youths spend meeting is much more frequent then any of the other programs,'' said Alvia Y. Branch, one of the four authors of the report.

"The undergirding of support for the match that is present in Big Brothers and Big Sisters--and that is absent in so many other mentoring programs--is really responsible for having produced an extraordinary amount of interaction between adults and youth,'' she observed.

Copies of the study are available for $5 each from Public/Private Ventures, 399 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa., 19106; (215) 592-9099.

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