This is a program that uses a caring adult, called a Promotor, to provide case management, mentoring, and advocacy for youths. This program is rated No Effects. The intervention had statistically significant positive effects on school enrollment, housing stability, and births, but had statistically significant negative effects on getting into a fight and binge drinking. There were no effects on employment, carrying a weapon, incarceration, marijuana use, or perception of control of one’s life.
This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.
Program Goals/Target Population
The Promotor Pathway Program is a community-based program that uses a caring adult, called a Promotor, to provide case management, mentoring, and advocacy for youths with multiple risk factors. The goals of the program are to improve education and employment outcomes, boost life skills, and prevent delinquency and unhealthy behaviors among at-risk or disconnected youths. The program targets immigrant youths and youths of color from low-income households, between the ages of 14 and 24, who have risk factors in one or more of the following areas: 1) education, 2) housing stability, 3) substance use, 4) mental health challenges, and 5) criminal justice involvement.
Youths who are potentially eligible for the Promotor Pathway Program are recruited through referrals from other youth-serving programs, government agencies, schools, and nonprofits. Referred youths complete a 30-question risk assessment that scores them on risk factors related to the five primary areas listed above. Those with risk factors in any of these areas are eligible for the program. Additionally, those with multiple risk factors from the following secondary areas are also eligible: involvement in special education, previous failure of a class or grade, a recent suspension, or having or expecting a child.
Each eligible youth is matched with a Promotor based on youth preferences or Promotor characteristics (e.g., gender, language spoken) and Promotor caseload size and areas of expertise. Once matched, the youth works with his or her Promotor to complete a detailed needs assessment to identify areas of highest risk and determine the youth’s unique needs in these areas. The outcome of the needs assessment process, which can take one or more meetings to complete, is used by the Promotor to develop a case plan. The Promoter refers the youth to internal and external resources, works with the youth through every program he or she receives, records service utilization, follows up with the youth and service providers to see how the youth is progressing, and maintains contact with all relevant adults in the youth’s life (e.g., parents, teachers, counselors, probation officers). The Promoter also helps the young person work toward his or her goals and address challenges and barriers, including help with a resume, job applications, and showing up for court dates.
The Promotor is expected to meet with the youth at least twice a month to assess his or her needs and encourage progress. The first 90 days of the program are more intensive and usually involve more frequent meetings. The Promotor is also expected to be available to the youth at all times via cell phone, to use all available forms of communication to maintain contact (e.g., in-person meetings, social media, phone) and to maintain a relationship with the youth for an extended period (at least 2 years). The Promotor records all contact with the youth using a structured case note system that captures the topics discussed and the Promotor’s rating of the youth’s ability in each topic area.
Promotors are paid staff members with at least 4 years of experience in youth development and extensive knowledge of community resources. They receive an average of 30 hours of training per year across a variety of program areas, including the Promotor Pathway Program model and theory of change, research and theory on positive youth development, mentoring youth, and techniques for communicating with youth groups.
The program’s goal of improving outcomes for youths with multiple risk factors using “a positive relationship with a caring adult” (Theodos et al. 2016, p.7) is consistent with Rhodes and colleagues’ model of youth mentoring, which theorizes that “the positive effects of mentoring are generally thought to be derived from the support and role modeling these relationships offer” (2006, p. 692). Additionally, the use of Promotors/mentors to advocate for and connect youth to services based on their unique needs and circumstances and to help youth develop skills to overcome life obstacles is consistent with empowerment theory (Zimmerman 2000) as well as research indicating greater effectiveness for mentoring programs that support mentors in assuming advocacy roles as part of their relationships with mentees (DuBois et al. 2011).
The findings from the study by Theodos and colleagues (2016) showed that at 18 months following baseline, youths in the intervention group had statistically significant better outcomes on measures of school enrollment, housing stability, and births, compared with youths in the control condition. However, youths in the intervention group also had statistically significant worse outcomes on measures of getting into a fight and binge drinking, compared with youths in the control condition. There were no statistically significant between-group differences on outcomes related to current employment, weapon carrying, incarceration, marijuana use, and perception of control of one’s life.
In School at 18 Months
At 18 months, a higher percentage of youths in the intervention group were enrolled in school, compared with those in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude).
The intervention and control groups did not differ in the percentage currently employed, at the 18-month follow up.
Carrying a Weapon
The intervention and control groups did not differ in the percentage who reported carrying a weapon in the past 4 months, at the 18-month follow up.
Getting into a Fight That Required Medical Attention
At 18 months, a higher percentage of youths in the intervention group reported getting into a fight that required medical attention in the preceding 6 months, compared with those in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude).
The intervention and control groups did not differ in the percentage who reported ever being incarcerated, at the 18-month follow up.
Sleeping in a Shelter
At 18 months, a lower percentage of youths in the intervention group reported sleeping in a shelter in the past 6 months, compared with those in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude).
At 18 months, a higher percentage of youths in the intervention group reported binge drinking in the preceding 4 weeks, compared with those in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude).
The intervention and control groups did not differ in the percentage who reported using marijuana in the past 4 weeks, at the 18-month follow up.
Having Had a Child
At 18 months, a lower percentage of youths in the intervention group reported having had a child in the past 12 months, compared with those in the control group (the associated effect size indicated an impact of medium magnitude).
Perceived Mastery Score
The intervention and control groups did not differ in their perceived mastery scores, at the 18-month follow up.
Theodos and colleagues (2016) used a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the Promotor Pathway Program in a sample of youths ages 14 to 24 years. Youths considered eligible for the Promotor Pathway Program were recruited between April 2010 and February 2013, through referrals from four Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) sites and from external sources such as government agencies, schools, and nonprofits. LAYC, the implementing agency for the program, provides youth- development programs aimed at improving the lives of low-income immigrant youths and youths of color, and their families. Following baseline assessments, eligible youths were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. Each youth in the intervention group was assigned a promotor; those in the control group did not participate in the program, but had access to other services offered by LAYC. Promotors worked individually with each of their assigned youths to guide them through the program components.
In addition to a baseline assessment, youths completed surveys at 6, 12, and 18 months following baseline. Attempts were made at each time point to collect data from those no longer in the program, but still affiliated with the LAYC and from those no longer affiliated with LAYC. Surveys included questions about current schooling (e.g., “What kind of schooling or classes are you currently enrolled in?”), current employment (e.g., “Are you working at a job for pay now?”), changes in living situation (“In the last 6 months, did you sleep outside or in a shelter on any night because you did not have a place to live?”), and births (“In the last 6 months, did you or your partner give birth to a child?”). Youths also were asked to report on the frequency with which they engaged in a variety of delinquent behaviors over a 12-month period, including getting into a physical fight that required medical attention and carrying a weapon. Pearlin’s Mastery Scale was used to measure the degree to which youths felt in control of their lives and able to solve problems (e.g., “There is really no way I can solve some of the problems I have.” and “I have little control over the things that happen to me.”).
At baseline, the average age of participants was 18 years, 24 percent were under 18, 56 percent were 18 to 21, and 20 percent were 22 or older. Fifty-six percent were Latino and 38 percent were black. Fifty-two percent were male, 47 percent spoke Spanish at home, 31 percent had a child (42 percent for females and 20 percent for males). Eighty-four percent were enrolled in some form of education (47 percent in school and 37 percent in GED classes), 33 percent reported that their highest grade completed was ninth grade or below, and 21 percent reported being employed. At baseline, significant proportions of participating youths reported risk factors related to housing stability (14 percent reported sleeping in a homeless shelter in the past 6 months), mental health challenges (21 percent reported a mental health diagnosis), delinquency (23 percent reported a recent arrest), and unhealthy behaviors (25 percent reported using marijuana in the past 4 weeks).
There were no statistically significant differences between youths in the intervention and control groups at baseline on any of the demographic characteristics or risk factors assessed, except that a higher percentage of youths in the intervention group reported selling marijuana in the last 12 months. At baseline, 476 youths completed the survey (165 in the intervention group and 311 in the control group); 388 youths completed the 6-month survey (144 in the intervention group and 244 in the control group), 371 youths completed the 12-month survey (137 in the intervention group and 234 in the control group), and 363 completed the 18-month survey (132 in the intervention group and 231 in the control group). There were no statistically significant differences in baseline characteristics between youths who did and did not participate in each of the survey waves.
Ninety-four percent of the intervention group engaged with their Promotor at least once, 46 percent had 45 or more total contacts with their Promotor during the 18-month period, and the average number of contacts per month was 3.5. Furthermore, 63 percent of the contacts occurred in person, and 64 percent of Promotor-youth matches lasted 16 or more months. Although the average number of contacts was similar for male and female participants, female participants who were highly engaged with their Promotors (45 or more contacts) had greater numbers of contacts than did their male counterparts (e.g., 42 percent of female participants had 60 or more total contacts, compared with 25 percent of males). The total number of contacts and contacts per month did not differ by participant race/ethnicity. Participants with children were more likely to have had over 45 contacts with their Promotor. At 18 months, intervention group participants were more likely than control group participants to have participated in non-Promotor LAYC services related to education, workforce, and case management. Similarly, at 18 months, intervention group youths were more likely than control group youths to have received non-LAYC services related to mental health counseling, substance use, public assistance, housing, and legal problems.
Effects of the program on outcomes were evaluated using regression analyses with an intent-to-treat (ITT) framework. Analyses controlled for baseline scores on the outcome and on the following baseline covariates: gender; age; ethnicity (Latino or not); being a parent; whether ever used marijuana; and whether ever drank; perceived mastery score; adult support score; and a delinquency score based on involvement in the following eight behaviors in the previous 12 months: 1) carrying a weapon, 2) spraying graffiti/damaged property, 3) getting into a fight that required medical attention, 4) stealing or attempting to steal item worth more than $50, 5) breaking or trying to break into a building, 6) selling marijuana, 7) selling hard drugs, and 8) being a member of a gang or crew.
There is no cost information available for this program.
Once Promotors are hired, they receive an initial training that covers a variety of programmatic areas. These include an overview of the research and theory of positive youth development and providing crisis services and methods to refer youths to a specialist after a crisis is dealt with. After the initial training, Promotors receive monthly trainings, each of which covers a specific topic such as how to work with particular subgroups of youth (e.g., gang members). In addition to meeting with youths, Promotors are expected to meet with the significant adults in the youth’s life (parent/guardian, a teacher, a probation officer, etc.).
Theodos and colleagues (2016) also found that, at 18 months, there were no statistically significant differences between youths in the Promotor Pathway Program and those in the control group in their reports of the following outcomes: having a high school degree or higher, having attended any college, having had employment in the past 6 months, having moved three or more times, having used other drugs, having sprayed graffiti or damaged property, having stolen or attempted to steal an item worth more than $50, having broken into or attempted to break into a building, having sold hard drugs, or having been a member of a crew or gang. In addition, youths in the treatment group were more likely to report having sold marijuana, compared with youths in the control group.
Analyses were also conducted separately to test for differences in outcomes by ethnicity (Latino or not) and gender. Among male youths and among Latino youths, there was a statistically significant difference between those in the treatment group, who were more likely to be enrolled in school at 18 months and less likely to have had a child in the preceding 12 months, compared with the control group. However, male youths in the treatment group were also 1) more likely to report selling marijuana and other drugs, 2) more likely to report fewer work hours per week, and 3) less likely to report having worked recently, compared with males in the control group. There were also statistically significant effects found for female youths and non-Latino youths in the intervention group, compared with those in the control group. Intervention group participants were less likely to report having slept in a shelter, but more likely to report use of marijuana and having gotten into a fight.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Theodos, Brett, Michael R. Pergamit, Alexandria Derian, Sara Edelstein, and Allison Stolte. 2016. Solutions for Youth: An Evaluation of the Latin American Youth Center’s Promotor Pathway Program
. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute.
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
DuBois, D.L., N. Portillo, J.E. Rhodes, N. Silverthorn, J.C. Valentine. 2011. “How Effective Are Mentoring Programs for Youth? A Systematic Assessment of the Evidence.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest
Rhodes, Jean E., Renée Spencer, Thomas E. Keller, Belle Liang, and Gil Noam. 2006. “A Model for the Influence of Mentoring Relationships on Youth Development.” Journal of Community Psychology
Zimmerman, Marc A. 2000. “Empowerment Theory: Psychological, Organizational and Community Levels of Analysis.” In Julian Rappaport and Edward Seidman (eds.). Handbook of Community Psychology
. New York, N.Y.: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.