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Intervention Summary

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Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program

The Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program is designed to help participating youth ages 6-18 ("Littles") reach their potential through supported matches with adult volunteer mentors ages 18 and older ("Bigs"). The program focuses on positive youth development, not specific problems, and the Big acts as a role model and provides guidance to the Little through a relationship that is based on trust and caring. The Big and Little agree to meet two to four times per month for at least a year, with get-togethers usually lasting 3 or 4 hours and consisting of mutually enjoyable activities.

Volunteers applying to be a Big are screened by local Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) agencies for potential safety risks, ability to commit the necessary time, and capability of forming positive relationships with youth. Approved volunteers undergo training, which includes presentations on the developmental stages of youth, communication and limit-setting skills, tips for building relationships, and recommendations on the best way to interact with their matched Little, whose racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic background may differ from that of the Big.

In matching Bigs and Littles, BBBSA agencies often consider practical factors, such as gender, geographic proximity, and availability, as well as the match preferences of volunteers, youth, and parents. Volunteers indicate the type of youth they would like to be matched with, noting age, race, and the types of activities they expect to engage in with the youth. Youth and their parents state their preference for volunteers, noting such factors as age, race, and religion, and youth also provide their activity preferences. Matching policies may vary across local BBBSA agencies, but in all cases, the parent must approve the match.

BBBSA staff and national operating standards guide implementation staff in screening, orienting, and training volunteers and youth and in creating and supervising the matches. The mentoring program emphasizes supervision to facilitate effective matches. For example, national requirements specify that organizations implementing the program must contact the parent, youth, and volunteer within 2 weeks of the match; maintain monthly telephone contact with the volunteer during the first year of the match; and maintain monthly contact with the parent and/or youth. In addition, implementers must contact the youth directly at least four times during the first year of the match; after the first year, contact with the participants can be reduced to once per quarter. Staff from local BBBSA agencies also support the match by providing guidance if problems arise in the Big-Little relationship.

The study reviewed for this summary was conducted with eight urban BBBSA agencies and included youth ages 10-16.

Descriptive Information

Areas of Interest Mental health promotion
Substance abuse prevention
Outcomes Review Date: August 2011
1: Initiation of drug use
2: Aggressive behavior
3: School competence and achievement
4: Family relationships
Outcome Categories Drugs
Education
Social functioning
Violence
Ages 6-12 (Childhood)
13-17 (Adolescent)
Genders Male
Female
Races/Ethnicities American Indian or Alaska Native
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino
White
Race/ethnicity unspecified
Settings Other community settings
Geographic Locations Urban
Implementation History Big Brothers Big Sisters of America was founded in 1904 to provide one-to-one youth and adult volunteer mentor matching through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program. Since then, more than 360 agencies in each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Guam have used the program, which served 210,000 youth in 2010.
NIH Funding/CER Studies Partially/fully funded by National Institutes of Health: No
Evaluated in comparative effectiveness research studies: No
Adaptations The parent orientation guide has been translated into Spanish.
Adverse Effects No adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences were identified by the developer.
IOM Prevention Categories Universal

Quality of Research
Review Date: August 2011

Documents Reviewed

The documents below were reviewed for Quality of Research. The research point of contact can provide information regarding the studies reviewed and the availability of additional materials, including those from more recent studies that may have been conducted.

Study 1

Grossman, J. B., & Tierney, J. P. (1998). Does mentoring work? An impact of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Evaluation Review, 22(3), 403-426.

Tierney, J. P., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (1995, November). Making a difference. An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.

Supplementary Materials

Mentor Strength of Relationship Survey

Youth Outcomes Survey

Youth Strength of Relationship Survey

Outcomes

Outcome 1: Initiation of drug use
Description of Measures Initiation of drug use was assessed using a self-report item from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Outcome Survey: "Have you ever used any drugs other than medicines you may have taken for health reasons? Examples of drugs would be marijuana and cocaine." Youth responded to the item with "yes" or "no."
Key Findings Ten- to 16-year-old youth were randomly assigned to the intervention group, which participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program, or to a wait-list control group. Data were collected for both groups at baseline and at the 18-month follow-up. From baseline to the 18-month follow-up, youth in the intervention group were less likely to initiate drug use compared with youth in the control group (p < .05).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.0 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 2: Aggressive behavior
Description of Measures Aggressive behavior was assessed using a self-report item from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Outcome Survey: "Since last month, have you hit someone because you didn't like something they said or did?" Youth responded to the item with "yes" or "no."
Key Findings Ten- to 16-year-old youth were randomly assigned to the intervention group, which participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program, or to a wait-list control group. Data were collected for both groups at baseline and at the 18-month follow-up. From baseline to the 18-month follow-up, youth in the intervention group were less likely to engage in aggressive behavior compared with youth in the control group (p < .05).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.0 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 3: School competence and achievement
Description of Measures School competence and achievement were assessed using self-report items from two instruments:

  • Self-Perception Profile for Children--Scholastic Competence Scale. Youth reported their ability to complete their homework.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Outcome Survey. Youth reported whether or not in the past month they skipped a class without a valid excuse and skipped a day of school without a valid excuse.
Key Findings Ten- to 16-year-old youth were randomly assigned to the intervention group, which participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program, or to a wait-list control group. Data were collected for both groups at baseline and at the 18-month follow-up. At the 18-month follow-up, youth in the intervention group felt more confident in their ability to complete their homework compared with youth in the control group (p < .01), and youth in the intervention group had skipped 37% fewer classes (p < .05) and 52% fewer days of school (p < .01) than youth in the control group.
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.1 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 4: Family relationships
Description of Measures Family relationships were assessed using self-report items from two instruments:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Outcome Survey. Youth reported the number of times the youth lied to their parent in the past month.
  • Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA). Youth reported their relationship with their custodial parent using the Relationship With Mother Scale of the IPPA, including the trust, communication, and anger and alienation subscales, as well as the summary parental relationship measure.
Key Findings Ten- to 16-year-old youth were randomly assigned to the intervention group, which participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program, or to a wait-list control group. Data were collected for both groups at baseline and at the 18-month follow-up. At the 18-month follow-up, fewer youth from the intervention group had lied to their parent compared with youth in the control group (p < .05). Also at the 18-month follow-up, youth in the intervention group had better relationships with their parent (p < .05) and more trust in their parent (p < .05) compared with youth in the control group; however, no statistically significant differences were found between groups in regard to communication, anger, and alienation.
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.1 (0.0-4.0 scale)

Study Populations

The following populations were identified in the studies reviewed for Quality of Research.

Study Age Gender Race/Ethnicity
Study 1 6-12 (Childhood)
13-17 (Adolescent)
60% Male
40% Female
45% White
36% Black or African American
9% Hispanic or Latino
8% Race/ethnicity unspecified
2% American Indian or Alaska Native

Quality of Research Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the Quality of Research for an intervention's reported results using six criteria:

  1. Reliability of measures
  2. Validity of measures
  3. Intervention fidelity
  4. Missing data and attrition
  5. Potential confounding variables
  6. Appropriateness of analysis

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Quality of Research.

Outcome Reliability
of Measures
Validity
of Measures
Fidelity Missing
Data/Attrition
Confounding
Variables
Data
Analysis
Overall
Rating
1: Initiation of drug use 2.7 2.7 3.2 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.0
2: Aggressive behavior 2.7 2.7 3.2 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.0
3: School competence and achievement 3.2 3.0 3.2 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.1
4: Family relationships 3.0 3.0 3.2 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.1

Study Strengths

Mentors met with their assigned youth on a frequent basis (i.e., more than 70% met at least three times per month, and approximately 45% met at least once per week, with the average meeting lasting 3.6 hours), thus providing some measure of intervention fidelity. Attrition was relatively low in both the intervention and wait-list control groups, and both the baseline and follow-up surveys were completed by approximately 84% of the total sample. The study had a large sample size and used random assignment. There were no important differences in characteristics between those assigned to the intervention group and those assigned to the control group. The analyses used were appropriate and very thorough. A variety of multivariate and subgroup analyses were conducted, and intent-to-treat analysis was used.

Study Weaknesses

Only alpha coefficients of measures were used to establish reliability. Although face validity was reported for the measures, other types of validity were not. There was no discussion of missing data other than a narrative report by the study authors, who stated that there were very little missing data.

Readiness for Dissemination
Review Date: August 2011

Materials Reviewed

The materials below were reviewed for Readiness for Dissemination. The implementation point of contact can provide information regarding implementation of the intervention and the availability of additional, updated, or new materials.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. (2000). Membership affiliation agreement. Philadelphia, PA: Author.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. (2007). 2007-2010 nationwide strategic direction. Philadelphia, PA: Author.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. (2009). Onboarding program staff: Participant guide. Philadelphia, PA: Author.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. (n.d.). Personal safety awareness for teens: Relationships. Philadelphia, PA: Author.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. (n.d.). Talking with grown ups. Philadelphia, PA: Author.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Agency Connection Web site, http://agencyconnection.bbbs.org/site/, including the following materials:

  • Match Activity Workbook
  • Parent Orientation Guide
  • Preparing Volunteers Guide
  • SDM Part 1--Checklist of Essential Practices
  • SDM Part 1--Forms
  • Service Delivery Job Descriptions and Interview Guide
  • Service Delivery Model (SDM) Part 1 Manual
  • Staff Guide for Orientation
  • Supplemental Handouts
  • Volunteer Selection Policy

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Learning Center training site, http://rod.sumtotalsystems.com/bbbs/app/SYS_login.aspx, including the following materials:

  • BBBS Program Overview
  • Customer Relations On-the-Job Training
  • Enrollment and Matching On-the-Job Training
  • Fundamentals of Youth Protection
  • Match Support On-the-Job Training
  • SDM for Customer Relations v.2
  • SDM for Enrollment and Matching v.2
  • SDM for Match Support v.2

Mentor Strength of Relationship Survey

Strength of Relationship Overview [PowerPoint slides]

Strength of Relationship Training and Fidelity [PowerPoint slides]

Youth Outcomes Survey

Youth Strength of Relationship Survey

Readiness for Dissemination Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the intervention's Readiness for Dissemination using three criteria:

  1. Availability of implementation materials
  2. Availability of training and support resources
  3. Availability of quality assurance procedures

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Readiness for Dissemination.

Implementation
Materials
Training and Support
Resources
Quality Assurance
Procedures
Overall
Rating
4.0 3.8 3.3 3.7

Dissemination Strengths

Extensive implementation materials are available online and provide detailed information on program implementation requirements, including the necessary budget, program policies, and organizational expectations. An affiliation agreement codifies these expectations, which require that implementing organizations adhere to the BBBSA policies. The program offers extensive online and in-person training, with curricula for staff and program managers. Self-assessment tools support quality assurance at various levels (e.g., individual staff, implementing organization).

Dissemination Weaknesses

Training materials for mentors are difficult to identify on the program Web sites. Although strength of relationship surveys are available for youth and mentors, it is not clear how they should be used to improve the program or support continuing strategic planning efforts.

Costs

The cost information below was provided by the developer. Although this cost information may have been updated by the developer since the time of review, it may not reflect the current costs or availability of items (including newly developed or discontinued items). The implementation point of contact can provide current information and discuss implementation requirements.

Item Description Cost Required by Developer
Membership fee (includes standards of practice, affiliation agreement, parent and volunteer orientation guides, information for onboarding program staff, child protection materials, information for program performance managers, information on agency development for regional staff, and surveys) Varies depending on site resources (minimum of $150,000 per year for 3 years) Yes
Agency Information Management (AIM) System $2,000-$12,000 depending on the number of youth served No
Role-specific training for various levels of staff Included in membership fee Yes
Replications

No replications were identified by the developer.

Contact Information

To learn more about implementation or research, contact:
Keoki Hansen
(315) 254-9759
keoki.hansen@bbbs.org

Consider these Questions to Ask (PDF, 54KB) as you explore the possible use of this intervention.

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