This individual and group mentoring intervention was designed to improve transition outcomes for foster youth by increasing their self-determination skills. The program is rated No Effects. There were no statistically significant differences between program participants and the comparison group in number of arrests or convictions, charge severity, range of punitive system involvement, comprehensive criminal justice involvement, delinquency, dropping out of high school, or homelessness.
This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.
Program Goals/Target Population
My Life Mentoring (formerly called TAKE CHARGE) targeted adolescents in the child-welfare system and youth in special education. The intervention was designed to improve the transition to adulthood and to prevent early adult offending. The My Life Mentoring (MLM) model focused on helping youth build positive self-attributions and improve self-regulation through contact with a mentor and other adults and through near-peer group mentoring.
The MLM model consisted of one-to-one mentoring, near-peer group mentoring, and peer support. Mentors for the one-to-one portion of the program, also called coaches, had to undergo a 3-day training, participate in weekly individual and group supervision, and videotape a minimum of 6 hours of their interaction time with youth for evaluation purposes. During these videotaped sessions, mentors were expected to highlight their mentees’ accomplishments or strengths, discuss target skills, help carry out activities, and identify next steps for themselves and their mentees.
In addition to receiving one-to-one mentoring, youth had to attend at least four group-mentoring workshops over the course of the year on transition-related topics that they identified. They also usually met with mentors weekly for 1 to 1.5 hours during, before, or after school for a minimum of 50 hours. Meetings followed a systematic structure, and youth learned self-determination skills related to achievement, developing partnerships, and self-regulation. Mentors helped youth develop these skills by rehearsing strategies, doing role plays of scenarios such as phone calls, providing positive feedback to youth on their progress, and by sometimes pushing them to act. Mentors focused on goal setting but introduced other skills as practice moments as they arose in the course of the mentor-mentee relationship. Relationships usually started with the mentor identifying a goal for the youth that could be achieved quickly; the relationships were then intended to progress to a point where the youth was taking the lead in more complex goal setting and problem solving. Mentors encouraged youth to develop transition plans to be shared with important adults in their lives.
Additionally, youth were expected to attend group-mentoring workshops led by former foster youth who successfully transitioned. These workshops addressed a range of transition-related topics that were generated by the youth.
MLM mentors were project staff or supervised master’s in social work (MSW) students who had training in working with youth. Caseloads for full-time staff typically included 8 to 10 youth; caseloads for MSW students typically included 2 to 3 youth. The workshops were led by former foster care youth who had to undergo an application process and training relevant to their interests and expertise. These workshops were organized and facilitated by program staff. In addition, the program required a full-time, in-house supervisor.
The MLM model was based on theoretical principles of the development of personal self-efficacy, which posit that people tend not to engage in activities unless they believe their participation will lead to a desired outcome (Bandura 1977, 2006). Thus, mentors highlighted their mentees’ strengths and accomplishments to help them develop positive self-affirmations. Though regular encounters, mentors also helped their mentees develop skills through observational learning, social persuasion, helping them develop self-regulation strategies, and providing feedback.
Number of Arrests or Convictions of Any Type
Blakeslee and Keller (2018) found that, at 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between youth who participated in the My Life Mentoring (MLM) intervention and control group youth in number of arrests or convictions of any type in the past year.
Charge Severity Across Six Types of Charges
At 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between MLM youth and control group youth in charge severity across six types of charges reported in the past year.
Range of Punitive System Involvement
At 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between MLM youth and control group youth in the range of punitive system involvement reported during the past year.
Comprehensive Criminal Justice Involvement
At 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between MLM youth and control group youth in whether they reported involvement with the criminal just system in the past year.
At 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between MLM youth and control group youth in delinquency scores for the past year.
High School Graduation or GED
At 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between MLM youth and control group youth in whether they reported having graduated high school or earned a GED.
Homelessness in the Past Year
At 2-years post-intervention, there were no statistically significant differences between the MLM youth and control group youth in the number who reported being homeless.
Blakeslee and Keller (2018) examined the effects of My Life Mentoring by investigating outcomes of a combined sample of participants from two large randomized controlled trials that used parallel measures and designs (Geenen et al. 2013; Powers et al. 2012). In both trials, program participants were compared with control youth who received regular transitional services. The interventions took place in Multnomah County and Clackamas County, Oregon, which include urban areas (i.e., Portland), suburban areas, and rural areas. Eligible participants (n = 293) were between 16.5 and 18.5 years old, had been in foster care under the guardianship of the Oregon Department of Human Services for at least 90 days, and lived within the target area of the study. Youth who were in crisis were excluded, as were youth who were moving out of state, youth who were non-English speaking, and youth who could not access the community as needed for the intervention due to incarceration or placement in a locked residential facility. Treatment youth (n = 144) received weekly 1-hour, one-to-one mentoring and access to frequent peer-led group mentoring workshops in addition to regular transitional services. Control youth (n = 149) received regular transitional services. These services typically included the Independent Living Program, which consisted of classes to prepare for independent living, and one-on-one work with a case manager to develop a personal transition plan.
The average age of participants in the treatment group was 17.3 years, and 57.6 percent were female. Of this group, 43.8 percent were white, 24.2 percent were classified as Native American, 18.0 percent were Hispanic, 16.7 percent were African American, 2.0 percent were Asian, 2.0 percent were Pacific Islander, and 31.8 percent were multiracial/other. In terms of residence, about 60.0 percent of treatment youth lived in non-relative foster care, 29.2 percent lived in relative foster care (kinship), 4.9 percent lived in group home/residential treatment, and 3.3 percent lived elsewhere (with a friend/in own apartment). Participants had been in foster care for an average of 6.0 years with 41.7 percent of youth experiencing a change in placement in the past year. About 96.5 percent were attending school or in a GED program, 60.0 percent had a special education disability, 39.6 percent were enrolled in the Independent Living Program, and 23.6 percent were receiving developmental disability services.
The average age of participants in the control group was 17.3 years, and 49.7 percent were female. Of this group, approximately 48.3 percent were white, 18.1 percent were African American, 17.4 percent were Hispanic, 8.7 percent were classified as Native American, 1.3 percent were Asian, 0 percent were Pacific Islander, and 23.5 percent were multiracial/other. About 68.0 percent lived in non-relative foster care, 22.8 percent lived in relative foster care (kinship), 5.4 percent lived in group home/residential treatment, and 4.0 percent lived elsewhere (with a friend/in own apartment). Participants had been in foster care for an average of 6.0 years with 35.0 percent of youth experiencing a change in placement in the past year. Of the control youth, 90.0 percent were attending school or in a GED program, 59.1 percent had a special education disability, 44.3 percent were enrolled in the Independent Living Program, and 22.1 percent were receiving developmental disability services.
Youth were blocked for group assignment based on participation in the Independent Living Program and whether they received special education or disability services. There were no significant differences in race/ethnicity, special education status, developmental disability status, gender, or baseline delinquency scores between groups who were followed up at the final time point (treatment n = 77; control n = 81).
Self-report measures were administered to measure self-determination (The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale; Wehmeyer and Kelchner 1996) and self-efficacy (My Life Activity Checklist; Blakeslee and Keller 2018) at multiple time points: baseline (Time 1), at the end of the intervention year (Time 2), at 1-year post-intervention (Time 3), and at 2-years post-intervention (Time 4). Transition outcomes, including high school status, homelessness, and past-year trouble with the law, were measured in a self-report survey at Times 2 through 4. Criminal justice outcomes were measured at Times 1 through 4. This included charge severity across six types of charges, calculated by assigning each of six categories (i.e., property crime, drug-related crime, assault, robbery, sexual offense, other) a score of 1–3 (0 = no arrest, 1 = arrest only, 2 = misdemeanor conviction, 3 = felony conviction) and summing those scores for a final score of 0–18. Range of punitive system involvement was measured as the sum of past-year days in jail, in prison, or on probation and/or parole. Comprehensive criminal justice involvement was a yes/no question on whether the participant had any past-year trouble with the law or juvenile justice, and/or any self-reported arrests or convictions, and/or any self-reported days incarcerated or in trouble with the law. Two self-report measures of delinquency were also included at the final time point. Findings were assessed using general linear mixed models controlling for baseline age and gender. Subgroup analysis was conducted on implementation scores (coaching mode, skill building focus, or total coaching hours).
In a cost analysis, estimated short-term marginal costs per youth for the My Life Mentoring program were $3,150, and long-term costs per youth were roughly $8,020 (Blakeslee and Keller 2018).
Mentors had to attend a 32-hour training session conducted by a trainer certified in the My Life Model, followed by in-person or remote supervision. Mentors had to videotape six of their sessions so that investigators could identify whether they were highlighting their mentees’ strengths or accomplishments, discussing relevant skills, helping the youth carry out activities, and identifying important next steps for the youth as well as themselves. Former foster-care youth hired as near-peer mentors also had to undergo interest-specific training following their hire. Fidelity data were collected by mentors through a fidelity of implementation checklist and mentor logs that included youth skills ratings. Fidelity was achieved for a specific skill if it was named and the required steps to reach a goal were described and practiced or performed. For Blakeslee and Keller’s study (2018), fidelity scores were calculated to measure coaching mode (total experiential, didactic, or relationship- building minutes), skill-building focus (total achievement, partnership, and self-regulation-focused minutes) and total mentoring hours (40- to 50-hour threshold). All materials were written in English.
Other Information (Including Subgroup Findings)
Blakeslee and Keller (2018) found that outcomes among those in the treatment group did not differ significantly based on implementation scores (coaching mode, skill-building focus, or total coaching hours). Thus, youth whose mentors closely adhered to the required program components did not fare differently from youth whose mentors did not adhere to required program components.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Blakeslee, Jennifer J., and Thomas E. Keller. 2018. Extending a Randomized Trial of the My Life Mentoring Model for Youth in Foster Care to Evaluate Long-Term Effects on Offending in Young Adulthood
(Report No. 251418). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/grants/251418.pdf
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Bandura, Albert. 1977. “Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavior Change.” Psychological Review
Bandura, Albert. 2006. “Adolescent Development from an Agentic Perspective.” In Tim Urdan and Frank Pajares (eds.). Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Adolescents
. Greenwich, Conn.: Information Age Publishing.
Blakeslee, Jennifer, A. Del Quest, Jennifer Powers, Laurie E. Powers, Sarah Geenen, May Nelson, Lawrence D. Dalton, Elizabeth McHugh, and Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. 2013. “Reaching Everyone: Promoting the Inclusion of Youth with Disabilities in Evaluating Foster Care Outcomes.” Children and Youth Services Review
Powers, Laurie E., Ann Fullerton, Jessica Schmidt, Sarah Geenen, Molly Oberweiser-Kennedy, JoAnn Dohn, May Nelson, Rosemary Iavanditti, Jennifer Blakeslee, and Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. 2012. “Perspectives of Youth in Foster Care on Essential Ingredients for Promoting Self-Determination and Successful Transition to Adult Life: My Life Model.” Child Youth Services Review
Geenen, Sarah, Laurie E. Powers, Jennifer Powers, Miranda Cunningham, Lisa McMahon, May Nelson, Lawrence D. Dalton, Paul Swank, Ann Fullerton, and other members of Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. 2013. “Experimental Study of a Self-Determination Intervention for Youth in Foster Care.” Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals
Wehmeyer, Michael L., and Kathy Kelchner. 1995. The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale: Adolescent Version
. Washington D.C.: The Arc of the United States.