Friends for Youth Mentoring Services

About This Program

Target Population: Youth who are referred by teachers, counselors, probation officers, county mental health workers, Children's Protective Services, and other youth professionals as being at-risk of not reaching their full potential due to challenges at home, at school, or in their neighborhood

Program Overview

Friends for Youth's mission is to create quality mentoring relationships for youth who need them most. Friends for Youth was established in 1979 by local community leaders who recognized that many at-risk children did not fit the focus of other available services. The Friends for Youth Mentoring Services program creates and sustains community-based, long-term, one-to-one relationships between adult volunteer mentors and youth who lack a positive adult relationship. This relationship exposes youth-in-need to new opportunities for learning and growth, with an emphasis on positive youth development, academic achievement, health and wellness, prevention services, and critical skills for future self-sufficiency.

Friends for Youth integrates outcome measures for the youth (e.g., academic achievement, wellness, skills development) into ongoing operations. Data is gathered during the intake interview of the mentee, three-months after being matched with a mentor, and at the one-year mark and is then analyzed. The data is then used to see how the youth has progressed.

Friends for Youth’s core values are:

  • Belief in power of human relationships
  • Uncompromising program excellence
  • Integrity
  • Leadership in the mentoring field
  • Community Impact – e.g. Community Educators
  • Optimum program quality

Program Goals

The goals of Friends for Youth Mentoring Services are:

  • Increase positive behaviors, reduce risk behaviors, and improve the self-concept of at-risk youth in order to help them make healthy choices and reach their full potential
  • Improve academic engagement and achievement and help low-income, at-risk youth set goals for their future by providing effective, educational, and enriching out-of-school support services and activities
  • Build a ‘community of caring’ for young people through networks, collaborations, and coalitions
  • Promote best practices and safety in all mentoring programs in the community

Essential Components

The essential components of Friends for Youth Mentoring Services include:

  • Meeting and exceeding the Elements of Effective Practices for Mentoring, 4th Edition, (2015), available at
  • Using mentor recruitment strategies that realistically portray benefits, practices, and challenges of mentoring and having written statements of eligibility
  • Recruiting mentee (youth clients) who have needs that best match their services and having written statements of eligibility
  • Conducting a comprehensive mentor screening process
  • Screening all mentees to ensure each mentee’s appropriateness and parent/guardian’s support
  • Providing 6 hours of prematch in-person training to mentors
  • Providing prematch mentee and parent/guardian training
  • Matching mentors and mentees along dimensions identified by research and practice that will hopefully increase match success and longevity
  • Monitoring of matches through an intensive and ongoing process that include meetings and contacts with mentors, mentees, parents/guardians, and other relevant youth service professionals
  • Providing ongoing group activities program for matches 3 times per month
  • Recognizing mentor commitment and accomplishments
  • Following match closure procedures that promote positive transitions and endings for mentees
  • Designing and planning a program that reflects current research, program evaluation results, and practices with an evidence base
  • Designing a relationship-based program design
  • Utilizing positive youth development principles in program planning and implementation
  • Providing program management that ensures adherence to policies and procedures, staff development, and appropriate finances and resources
  • Conducting ongoing program evaluation designed by a leading mentoring researcher and analyzed by an independent evaluation expert
  • Ensuring weekly 3-hour match outings are occurring
  • Recruiting mentors and mentees with the expectation that matches are minimum of one year; many last a lifetime
  • Providing ongoing activities and communication with program “Alumni” (matches that are past their one-year initial commitment, going back to the program’s first matches made in 1979 and since)

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Friends for Youth Mentoring Services directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Poverty, living in homes and/or communities in which violence, drugs, and other negative risk factors are present, abuse, violent or delinquent behavior, low self-efficacy, academic failure, truancy/suspension from school, avoidance of reading or other “academic” endeavors, depression, short attention span, withdrawal, lack of appropriate social skills, anger, substance use, aggression, sexual activity/teen pregnancy, and grief
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Parents/guardians are first approached about Friends for Youth through a county or private youth service professional or school personnel with whom they have built a positive relationship. Once a referral with parental consent is received, a home visit is set up, during which time parents/guardians are interviewed, and families receive program details, with an opportunity for questions. Families must support their child’s participation. Consistent contact with families continues once a match is made, allowing staff to build positive relationships with the family, monitor the mentoring relationship, and identify any challenges. Friends for Youth helps parents/guardians by referring them to other community resources that they may need for their families. Friends for Youth also communicates with schools and other agencies involved with each youth. Friends for Youth is highly collaborative and networks with other community agencies in order to best respond to needs of families that are identified.

Recommended Intensity:

3 hours per week

Recommended Duration:

Minimum of 12 months

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Agency


Friends for Youth Mentoring Services includes a homework component:

There is an academic achievement component that focuses on all aspects of school behavior and performance. Prescriptive homework sessions are not as effective as a developmental approach involving stimulating academic interests, incorporating learning components into match activities, and developing positive relationships with school personnel. Homework is included in match activities as the relationship develops and mentees are open to this direct intervention. Additional learning resources are provided to and utilized by matches. Friends for Youth developed an Academic Activities Guide to help mentors design activities with learning components and teachable moments. Friends for Youth also developed a Mentoring Journal to help mentors and mentees have meaningful developmental interactions and activities.


Friends for Youth Mentoring Services has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Adequate personnel to implement the essential program components listed above
  • Community resources and connections to help meet individual mentee needs
  • Adequate space for confidential match meetings and support
  • Space for group activities for all matches
  • Adequate technology for database management and outcome evaluation

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Practitioners: Minimum Bachelor’s degree in related field plus 3 years of experience with target youth population, outstanding interpersonal skills with all community constituents, successful completion of extensive onsite training

Supervisors: Minimum Master’s degree in related field plus 3 years of experience in mentoring programs, achievement of mentoring expertise

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

Friends for Youth has developed training modules for all aspects of developing a mentoring program, including both core and supporting components:

  • Successful Practices
  • Mission and Vision
  • Program Operations
  • Program Evaluation
  • Mentee Referral/Recruitment
  • Mentee Screening/Assessment
  • Mentee Orientation/Training
  • Mentee Parent/Guardian Support
  • Mentor Recruitment
  • Mentor Screening/Youth Safety
  • Mentor Orientation
  • Mentor Training
  • Matching Strategy
  • Ongoing Monitoring Practices
  • Mentor Support/Recognition/Retention
  • Closure/Continuing Process

Training methods are adapted to best meet needs of agencies. Friends for Youth provides on-site training, monthly webinars, and workshops at numerous national mentoring conferences. Friends for Youth also hosts an annual 2-day conference for mentoring practitioners.

Number of days/hours:

Training days and hours are adjusted to meet the needs of agencies.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

The program representative did not provide information about pre-implementation materials.

Formal Support for Implementation

The program representative did not provide information about formal support for implementation of Friends for Youth Mentoring Services.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Friends for Youth Mentoring Services as listed below:

Fidelity measures for child safety are included in a chapter that Friends for Youth staff wrote in DuBois, D., & Karcher, M. (2014). Handbook of youth mentoring (2nd ed.), Sage Publications.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Friends for Youth Mentoring Services as listed below:

A Mentoring Services Resource Manual has been written for Friends for Youth programming, but it is only available to agencies being trained.

Research on How to Implement the Program

The program representative did not provide information about research conducted on how to implement Friends for Youth Mentoring Services.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Keating, L., Tomishima, M. A., Foster, S., & Alessandri, M. (2002). The effects of a mentoring program on at-risk youth. Adolescence, 37(148), 717-734.

Type of Study: Two group pretest-posttest study (nonrandomized)
Number of Participants: 68


  • Age — 10-17 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 37% Latino, 32% Caucasian, 24% African American, 3% Asian, and 3% Other
  • Gender — 65% Male and 35% Female
  • Status — Participants were youth deemed at risk by a concerned professional and were referred to mentoring program.

Location/Institution: Western United States

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study examined an intensive mentoring program that focuses on youth deemed at-risk for juvenile delinquency or mental illness [now called Friends for Youth Mentoring Services]. The youth (ages 10 to 17) either participated in the mentoring program or remained on the waiting list for 6 months.  Mothers and teachers completed the Child Behavior Checklist, and youth completed the Hopelessness Scale for Children, the Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale, the Self-Report Delinquency Scale and the Social Support Questionnaire Self-Report.  Analyses assessed changes from preintervention to postintervention and indicated significant improvement in problematic behaviors for the intervention group. Mentoring appeared to affect African American youth differently than Caucasian and Latino youth. There were no significant interactions involving gender.  Limitations included lack of randomization, lack of blinding to study group, and small sample size for racial/ethnic analyses.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Arévalo, E. (2005). Creating matches that last: Friends for Youth best practice. 

Cooper, B., Arevalo, E., Chavira, D., & Smith, M. (2014). SAFE: Guidelines to prevent child molestation in mentoring and youth-serving organizations. Second Printing. Friends for Youth, Inc.

Cavell, T., DuBois, D., Karcher, M., Keller, T., & Rhodes, J. (2009). Policy brief: Strengthening mentoring opportunities for at-risk youth. Retrieved from

Contact Information

Karen Wilmer
Title: CEO
Agency/Affiliation: Friends for Youth, Inc.
Phone: (650) 368-4464
Fax: (650) 368-4467

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2016

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2012