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2011 Summer Symposium on Mentoring Research

The 2011 Summer Symposium featured researchers on mentoring for youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health and other systems of care. This special event was supported by the Portland Children's Levy, Oregon Community Foundation and hosted by the PSU Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research.


Foster Club All Stars share a powerful message about mentoring: "Come and Find Me -- I am Waiting for a Mentor."The Foster Club  “All-Star” program provides leadership development to youth who are aging out of the foster care system, and trains them to be national advocates to improve the child welfare system. Find out more about Foster Club at


Thomas Keller, the director of the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring, discusses the qualities that mentors serving youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems must have: the ability to try new approaches to old problems, listening skills that allow them to be attuned to what their mentee is really saying, and a deep interest in learning about their mentee’s needs, strengths, and dreams.


Renee Spencer, talks about the many lessons learned from her important research into mentoring relationships. She emphasizes that mentoring relationships can suffer from inconsistencies, misunderstandings, and challenges, just like any other human relationship. Programs should rethink recruitment messages that make mentoring sound "easy" and as if "anyone can do it."


A leader in researching juvenile justice programming, here Jeffrey Butts speaks about how the services we create to support youth in “systems” often wind up missing the mark, or even exacerbating the problem. Done poorly, these services can increase stigma and isolation.


Jarjoura is the founder of the Aftercare for Indiana through Mentoring program (AIM), a reentry program targeting juveniles in the correctional system who will be transitioning back into their communities. He speaks about the need to design very structured programs for youth in juvenile justice and correctional settings, noting that these youth need sustained support, not loosely-defined or quick-fix interventions.


Leslie Leve provides an overview of her work developing one of the most highly regarded and rigorously researched interventions for working with youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems -- Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC). The treatment model incorporates mentoring in a model that also includes parenting groups, skill-building classes, individual therapy, and crisis management.


Laurie Powers, a foremost expert on mentoring youth with disabilities, presents her compelling findings on mentoring youth in foster care with mental health diagnoses as they transition into adulthood. Her landmark research includes the first experimental study of self-determination enhancement with foster youth. She illustrates how tight program design can lead to powerful, focused results.


Heather Taussig discusses her groundbreaking intervention, Fostering Healthy Futures, which is a multi-component program for foster children age 9-11. Her work has demonstrated that short-term mentoring interventions can work for children in foster care, especially if they are designed to help reduce the stigma of maltreatment and to work effectively with the child welfare system itself.


Julia Pryce speaks about the connection between curiosity and good mentoring. She argues that the best mentors are those who are truly curious about their mentees, building on that desire to know more about the youth by learning to recognize subtle verbal and nonverbal cues and building “attunement” with their mentee.


Munson discusses her research on “natural” mentors for youth who have been in the foster-care system, showing how these adults support youth in systems of care through advocacy, emotional engagement and mutuality, and helping provide practical things like financial assistance and transportation to appointments with service providers.


Dr. Ahrens presents her important research on the effective skills and traits of mentors working with foster youth. She explores her findings on natural mentors and discusses traits such as persistence, patience, self-disclosure, flexibility, and confidence as they relate to building trusting relationships.


Tim Cavell, who works with aggressive children, offers up a vision of mentoring as a six-sided box: three sides of relationship conditions (acceptance, containment, leadership) and three of relationship foundations (clear goals, solid structure, and healthy communication). When these six elements come together, we find a “whole” mentoring relationship.




2008 Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring


Special Video Feature: Leading Researchers Discuss Issues of Diversity in Youth Mentoring

Laurie Powers, Ph.D., is Associate Dean for Research in the School of Social Work and Director of the Regional Research Institute for Human Services at Portland State University. Professor Powers is one of the foremost authorities on mentoring and individualized coaching of youth with disabilities.


Dr. Sanchez is an expert on the mentoring relationships of Latino adolescents and the role they play in the educational achievement of Latino youth. She has a special interest in cultural processes in volunteer mentoring relationships, especially when mentors and youth are from different races, ethnicities, or cultures. 


Jean Grossman, Ph.D., is an expert on after-school and youth mentoring programs, as well as evaluation design. She played leading roles in conducting the seminal PPV multi-site, randomized control design studies of Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based programs (in 1995) and school-based programs (in 2007) and has published numerous follow-up analyses based on data from these projects. Here she discusses issues gender-related issues in youth mentoring relationships as part of the 2008 Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring.


Michael Karcher, Ph.D., Ed.D., is Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at University of Texas-San Antonio. Professor Karcher is an expert on cross-age peer mentoring in schools, and he currently is conducting a major study funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation entitled “Effective interactions with Hispanic youth in school-based mentoring.” Professor Karcher is the author of numerous articles on mentoring in school settings, and he is co-editor of the landmark Handbook of Youth Mentoring.