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Youth mentoring is the process of matching mentors with young people who need or want a caring, responsible adult in their lives. Adult mentors are usually unrelated to the child or teen and work as volunteers through a community-, school-, or church-based social service program.
Although informal mentoring relationships exist, formal, high-quality mentoring matches made through local or state mentoring organizations are often the most effective.
According to the encyclopedia of informal education:
"The classic definition of mentoring is of an older experienced guide who is acceptable to the young person and who can help ease the transition to adulthood by a mix of support and challenge. In this sense it is a developmental relationship in which the young person is inducted into the world of adulthood."
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences published a major report examining after-school and other community programs designed to foster positive youth development. The report concluded that very few after-school programs “have received the kind of comprehensive experimental evaluation necessary to make a firm recommendation about replicating the program in its entirety across the country.” However, the report singled out mentoring programs modeled after the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program as a rare exception, and recommended its widespread replication.
History of U.S. mentoring movement 
The origins of the mentoring movement in the U.S. can be traced to 1904. Ernest Coulter, formerly a journalist, took a job at New York City’s first juvenile court, and was distressed to observe the harsh fate of children in the court system. Recounting one child’s story to a group of businessmen and professionals at a 1904 meeting of the Men’s Club of New York City’s Central Presbyterian Church, he said: "There is only one possible way to save that youngster: to have some earnest, true man volunteer to be his big brother, to look after him, help him to do right, make the little chap feel that there is at least one human being in this great city ... who cares whether he lives or dies." Coulter recruited 39 volunteers at that meeting, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program was born. Over the years, it grew to 500 chapters nationwide, and became the largest and best known mentoring program in the country.
In 1987, New York State First Lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo established the New York State Mentoring Program, the nation’s first state-wide, school-based mentoring program.
In 1990, businessmen/philanthropists Geoffrey Boisi and Raymond Chambers co-founded MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership to serve as a national resource and advocate for the expansion of mentoring.
In 1991, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership and the United Way of America convened The National Mentoring Working Group, a representative group of both national and community-based not for profit organizations with significant experience in running mentoring programs. A task force of The National Mentoring Working Group drafted the Elements of Effective Practice to provide rigorous guidelines that mentoring programs can follow to help ensure safe, effective high-quality efforts.
In 1995, Public/Private Ventures, a leading social science research group based in Philadelphia, published a landmark study evaluating the impact of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The study demonstrated that high-quality mentoring can have tangible and important effects on the lives of young people.
In 1997, General Colin Powell chaired the Presidents' Summit on America's Future to encourage the growth of volunteerism and civic engagement to provide support for at-risk youth, with President Bill Clinton participating along with former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford, and with former First Lady Nancy Reagan representing her ailing husband. Although the Summit’s focus was broader than mentoring, it had a tremendous galvanizing effect on the mentoring movement. As a follow-up to the Presidents’ Summit on America’s Future, its organizers created America's Promise, with General Powell as its chairman, to sustain, and build on, the momentum generated at the Philadelphia gathering.
In 1997, the Harvard School of Public Health launched the mentoring movement’s first national media campaign, mobilizing all the television networks and Hollywood studios to fuel the growth of mentoring.
1999 marked the first-ever White House event devoted exclusively to mentoring, hosted by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
2000 marked the first-ever State of the Union Address to cite the importance of mentoring, delivered by President Bill Clinton.
2001 marked the first-ever Presidential Inaugural Address to cite the importance of mentoring, delivered by President George W. Bush.
January 2002 marked the first annual National Mentoring Month, led by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership with the formal support of President George W. Bush and the United States Congress. Repeated each January, National Mentoring Month has become a national tradition, attracting the involvement of prominent celebrities and recruiting large numbers of volunteer mentors.
Several years ago, Donald Miller started The Mentoring Project (TMP), which is an advocacy and training organization that serves as a liaison between faith communities and matching agencies to provide mentors for fatherless youth.
Mentoring children of prisoners 
In January 2002, President George W. Bush signed a bill expanding the Safe and Stable Families Program (Public Law 107–133), which included authorization for a mentoring program for children of prisoners; and, in his 2003 State of the Union Address, he proposed a $150 million initiative that would bring mentors to 100,000 of these children.
Since then, the Family and Youth Services Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been funding community- and faith-based organizations to provide mentors to children and youth with incarcerated parents.
According to a U.S. Senate Report, children of prisoners are six times more likely than other children to be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Without effective intervention strategies, as many as 70 percent of these children will become involved with the criminal justice system.
See also 
- Youth club
- Peer mentoring
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
- The Mentoring Project
- National Mentoring Month
- Philip, Kate (August 2000). "mentoring and young people". the encyclopedia of informal education. infed. Retrieved 2005-11-16.
- "Community Programs to Promote Youth Development, p. 307". The National Academies Press. 2002.
- Menehan, Kelsey (2002). In Crum, Robert; McKaughan, Molly. Media Campaign Focuses National Attention on Mentoring Program for At-Risk Youths. Grant Results Reports. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (published 2004-02-13).
- Bostrom, Meg (2002). "Bringing New Mentors – and Hope – into the Lives of Children". In Schiller, Laura; Hoff, Tina. Case Studies. Shouting to Be Heard: Public Service Advertising in a New Media Age. Washington, D.C.: Kaiser Family Foundation (published 2002-02-21). pp. 12–13.
- In-Sung Yoo (2004-01-26). "Mentoring swells into 'a movement'". USAToday.com. USA Today. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
- Fact Sheet: Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, Retrieved on October 10, 2007
- Senate Report 106-404: Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, 2001. September 8, 2000, p. 56.