Can We Just Play Instead Sharing and Implementing Research Based Best Practices for Mentoring Boys | City of Ideas

Posted 01/08/2013 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
While there are innumerable statistics on the risk factors facing young men of color in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan – they are more likely to drop out of high school, live in poverty, be incarcerated, be involved in violent crime – there is a distinct lack of research on how to effectively intervene on behalf these boys and their families. Most mentoring organizations serve primarily girls, and boys can be harder to match: about 65% of those on the waitlist for a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters are boys. Additionally, boys often face serious academic challenges and are 2-3 times more likely than girls to be suspended or expelled from school.

These boys and young men have few male role models to look up to in their communities. In Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, neighborhoods which together represent the highest concentration of child poverty in the state, 84% of Latino families and 86% of African American families with children in poverty are headed by a single mother. There are limited resources available to assist the families of boys and young men of color in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan in raising their children to be healthy and productive community members.

Project Proposed:
Friends of the Children-Boston, Professor Jean Rhodes of UMass Boston, Haji Shearer, independent consultant, and the Family Independence Institute (FII) will collaborate to bring parents, families, and nonprofit organizations in Boston together to examine how we mentor and build relationships with boys and young men of color in a meaningful and effective way. Boys and young men from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan face significant obstacles to attaining an education, and need targeted, research-based support to overcome these obstacles and reach their full potential. This collaboration will result in codified guidelines on mentoring this population, which will improve the lives and futures of boys and young men from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan who are being mentored by organizations throughout the city.

This collaboration will also further this goal by increasing the resources available to the families of boys and young men of color from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan through the creation and implementation of community groups where the parents of these boys will learn and share specific parenting strategies and challenges. These groups will increase families’ access to the organic supports within their neighborhoods, and support them in creating positive living and learning environments for their children.

Role of Collaboration:
Professor Rhodes and UMass Boston will host a series of workshops and talks examining best practices for mentoring boys of color of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. These talks will culminate in the creation of codified, research-based guidelines on how to effectively mentor this population, guidelines that will be shared with the larger Boston community. This will be an important step in closing the knowledge gap around mentoring boys from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, and will help inform the interventions of numerous nonprofits who work with this population.

Haji Shearer is professional group facilitator and speaker, and will lead a serious of workshops on raising boys in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan that will be open to families throughout these communities. This is a needed resource among a population who might otherwise be unable to afford parenting classes on their own, and among parents who often struggle with accessing the resources that would enable them to provide a positive living and learning environment for their children.

Friends of the Children-Boston and the Family Independence Institute (FII) will be a resource to Professor Rhodes and Mr. Shearer by connecting them with children and families in their respective programs who would benefit from this collaborate, and by providing space and staff. Friends-Boston serves 124 children through its innovative 12 year mentoring program, and FII has 150 families enrolled in its program, which organizes, tracks and supports family groups who join together to make a difference in each others’ lives and their community.

Impact:
A Collaborate Boston prize would allow Friends of the Children-Boston, Professor Rhodes, Mr. Shearer, and FII to increase the knowledge and resources around mentoring boys and young men of color in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. This collaboration will result in the creation of new, research-based guidelines which will inform the work of mentoring organizations and positively affect the boys they serve. It will also fund a series of community workshops for the parents of boys and young men of color, filling a vital unmet need in the city.

A prize from Collaborate Boston will also help Friends of the Children-Boston advance their work providing children from Boston’s highest-risk communities with 12 years of comprehensive mentoring and advocacy services, from 1st grade through high school graduation. Nearly one third of the children they serve are boys and young men of color who live in Dorchester, Roxbury or Mattapan, and they have already committed to early and extended intervention with these boys to help them graduate from high school and succeed in college. This collaboration will help Friends-Boston further refine their evidence based program and offer an additional resource to their families.

Other information:
This project will not only have an immediate positive effect on the lives and futures of boys and young men of color from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan through the creation of parent support workshops, but will also have a lasting impact on the mentoring field through the creation of new, research-based guidelines on how to effectively mentor and build relationships with boys of color from high-risk communities. The field of evidence-based mentoring is relatively new, and many mentoring organizations still base programmatic decisions on qualitative thinking rather than the quantitative research. Professor Rhodes is a leader in this cutting edge field, and her chronicle for evidence based mentoring (http://chronicle.umbmentoring.org/) has helped open up the field for practitioners. 

There project will help advance the field of evidence-based mentoring, thus having the potential to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color being served by numerous organizations throughout the community. By identifying and sharing research-based guidelines around mentoring boys and young men of color from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, this collaboration will have an impact on the lives and futures of this population that lasts well beyond its conclusion.

Primary Contact:
Friends of the Children-Boston: Juma Crawford, Executive Director, has a wealth of experience in educating and working with you from high-risk communities, having been a leader in the education field for over 11 years. Mr. Crawford has a M.Ed. with a concentration in Social Policy from Harvard University and J.D. from Boston College Law School. Friends of the Children-Boston creates generational change by engaging children from high-risk communities in 12 years of transformative mentoring relationships. They select children who face serious risk factors and provide them with 20 hours of support a month from 1st grade through high school graduation with the long-term goal that they graduate from high school and succeed in college.

Partner 1:
UMass Boston: Jean E. Rhodes is MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership Professor in UMass Boston’s Department of Psychology and is the Research Director of the Center for Evidence Based Mentoring. One of Professor Rhodes’ two main research focuses is adolescents’ mentoring relationships, and she has a Ph.D. in clinical/community psychology from DePaul University. The Center for Evidence Based Mentoring is a joint alliance between MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership and UMass Boston and is dedicated to creating the open and efficient exchange of research and ideas for the advancement of youth mentoring practice and policy.

Partner 2:
Haji Shearer is a professional group facilitator, speaker, trainer, and writer. He is also the Director of the Fatherhood Initiative at the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund and has worked extensively with proven-risk youth throughout the city of Boston. Mr. Shearer founded the fathers program at the Family Nurturing Center in Dorchester, a program that continues to serve men in Boston’s urban communities. He is a sLicensed Social Worker who spent many years going crisis intervention with families involved with the Department of Social Services.

Partner 3:
FII-Boston: Jesús Gerena is Director of FII-Boston; he came to FII in 2010 with more than a decade of experience working with youth, most recently as Deputy Director of the Hyde Square Task Force. He has over 15 years experience in working with urban youth and as a community organizer. FII serves 150 families, a total of 600 people, throughout the Greater Boston area. They believe in investing directly in families and people, putting people in the driver’s seat of their own change by helping the find the support networks within their own communities that will enable them to escape poverty.

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