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Public Policy and Administration


Gary Kelsey


AbstractVolunteer mentors contribute time by serving as role models to numerous children who face challenges that cause them to be at risk for delinquent behavior. Children of incarcerated parents are a growing population in need of special attention and strategies to minimize their risk of engaging in a life of crime. The purpose of this research was to explore the perspectives of volunteer mentors as they work with adolescents who have experienced the challenges and trauma of having an incarcerated parent. This research is grounded in Bandura’s social learning theory, which considers how people learn from one another. As mentors work with children whose parents are or have been incarcerated, the mentors’ perspective is valuable in understanding (a) to what degree adult mentors believe that adolescents (ages 13–18) with incarcerated parents are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, and (b) to what degree adult mentors working with adolescents whose parents are incarcerated believe that mentoring programs are effective in keeping adolescents from engaging in delinquent behavior. A qualitative research design was conducted by interviewing a purposeful sampling of eight mentors who have worked with children of incarcerated parents. Responses to the interviews were coded and analyzed for related themes and patterns. One theme included providing mentor training manuals of guidelines and resources to effectively help at-risk youth avoid delinquent behavior. Changes in policy and practice may result in positive social change from understanding the perspective of mentors to strategize more effective mentoring opportunities for at-risk youth so they become productive citizens by minimizing possibilities of delinquent behavior.