OBJECTIVE. The goal of this study was to determine whether youth in foster care with natural mentors during adolescence have improved young adult outcomes.
METHODS. We used data from waves I to III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994–2002). Individuals who reported that they had ever been in foster care at wave III were included. Youth were considered mentored when they reported the presence of a nonparental adult mentor in their life after they were 14 years of age and reported that the relationship began before 18 years of age and had lasted for at least 2 years. Outcomes were assessed at wave III and included measures of education/employment, psychological well-being, physical health, and participation in unhealthy behaviors as well as a summary measure representing the total number of positive outcomes.
RESULTS. A total of 310 youth met the inclusion criteria; 160 youth were mentored, and 150 youth were nonmentored. Demographic characteristics were similar for mentored and nonmentored youth. Mentored youth were more likely to report favorable overall health and were less likely to report suicidal ideation, having received a diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection, and having hurt someone in a fight in the past year. There was also a borderline significant trend toward more participation in higher education among mentored youth. On the summary measure, mentored youth had, on average, a significantly greater number of positive outcomes than nonmentored youth.
CONCLUSIONS. Mentoring relationships are associated with positive adjustment during the transition to adulthood for youth in foster care. Strategies to support natural mentoring relationships for this population should be developed and evaluated.