Tremendous growth in the youth mentoring field has resulted in an ever-expanding number of programs that provide choice, flexibility, and increased opportunities for young people who need mentors. However, the sheer number and variety of programs and approaches make it difficult for prospective mentors, parents, mentees, funders, and policymakers to know what constitutes a safe and effective mentoring program. The National Quality Mentoring System (NQMS) creates recognized standards and procedures for the operation of high quality mentoring programs based on evidence and a process for continuous improvement within a program.
Mentoring works best when steps are taken to ensure program practices meet quality standards that are safe and effective. To support mentoring programs in achieving these standards, MENTOR and Affiliates are leading the creation and facilitation of a structured, systematic process for programs to assess their practices in alignment with MENTOR’s cornerstone publication, the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, Fourth Edition, and receive the support they need to make continuous quality improvements and better serve their youth.
The National Quality Mentoring System (NQMS) provides a structured, systematic process for assessing the quality of a mentoring program’s practices in alignment with the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, Fourth Edition (EEPM). The impetus for the NQMS is based on the positive implementation of similar systems by MENTOR Affiliates in Minnesota and Massachusetts. These Affiliates developed two different systems to assess the quality of mentoring programs – the NQMS was created to build off of these local systems to establish one unified system which can be implemented consistently by MENTOR’s entire Affiliate network. MENTOR Affiliates participating in the NQMS assist programs in identifying existing quality practices, acknowledging areas for improvement, and developing action plans to meet national standards, while providing ongoing training and support to achieve program goals. In 2017, MENTOR will launch an online system that enables programs and Affiliates to manage all aspects of this process through a cohesive and easy-to-use tool. This approach allows MENTOR and Affiliates to establish consistent quality standards among mentoring programs across the country. The NQMS will provide a meaningful indicator of quality for youth mentoring programs and lend credibility to individual programs to attract resources and support. It will also help families and volunteers feel confident about participating in a mentoring program that meets national quality standards.
The core components of the NQMS are:
In partnership with its Affiliates, MENTOR aims to create a standardized and consistent approach to supporting programs across the nation in their quality improvement efforts. To that end, MENTOR has developed a standardized online NQMS tool for Affiliates to utilize with programs in their regions. The online tool is built within MENTOR’s Mentoring Connector and contains a 92 question self-assessment that is aligned to the Fourth Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™. During the self-assessment, programs indicate whether each item is “in practice” or “out of practice”, and rate their current practice to identify areas of strength and improvement. The online tool then supports programs and their local MENTOR Affiliates in generating a custom work plan, which provides the basis of the training and support that Affiliates provide to programs to help improve their practices. MENTOR is working with its Affiliates to build their capacity to provide the NQMS across the country. A cohort of Affiliates will begin utilizing the online tool with programs in their service regions in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about NQMS and its availability in your region, contact your local Affiliate, or MENTOR’s NQMS Manager, Merlyne Pierre, at email@example.com.
Currently, a cohort of Affiliates is participating in a national evaluation assessing the impacts of quality improvement work for mentoring programs. The evaluation is funded by the William T. Grant Foundation and led by Dr. Thomas Keller of the Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research at Portland State University in collaboration with Drs. Reneé Spencer and Carla Herrera. Affiliates participating in this evaluation include:
This initiative includes an outcome evaluation examining the changes and improvements mentoring programs achieved through participation in quality mentoring systems. It will also include a process evaluation of the mechanics of implementing quality mentoring systems. While results from the evaluation are not complete (results are expected in 2018), early results are promising and reinforcing.