Highly Vulnerable Children Research Center

Psychosocial benefits of a mentoring program for youth-headed households in Rwanda

This report presents the final results from a study designed to test a model of adult mentorship and support to improve psychosocial outcomes among youth-headed households. After a thorough screening process, World Vision Rwanda (WVR) trained 156 adults (60 percent male, 40 percent female) as volunteer mentors. Through regular home visits, these mentors developed a stable, caring relationship with children and youth in their local community living without an adult caregiver.  The mentors monitored the well-being of vulnerable children and youth; provided attention and encouragement, guidance and support; transferred life skills; and helped ensure the children’s health and safety. This intervention model was intended to strengthen the environment for children’s healthy growth and development, and mitigate the psychological impact on children of disrupted caregiving structures.

The study used a quasi-experimental design. Youth-headed households in two of the four districts in the province—Karaba and Nyamagabe—implemented the mentoring program in addition to the basic needs program during the study period. Youth-headed households in the other two districts—Mudosomwa and Nyraguru—served as a comparison group. The research team collected two rounds of survey data from youth who were serving as heads of their households. The baseline was conducted in March 2004 (see baseline summary) and the follow-up survey was carried out two years later in March 2006. The follow-up sample included 593 youth heads of household, who were by then between the ages of 14 and 26.  The research team also obtained qualitative data through focus groups with youth, adult mentors, and community members at both baseline and follow up.

The report concludes that adult mentors from the community can measurably mitigate adverse psychosocial outcomes among male and female youth who serve as heads of household. Despite disturbingly high levels of depression, maltreatment, and marginalization, and low levels of adult support reported at baseline, follow-up data over a relatively short period (18 months of intervention) indicate positive changes in these factors among youth participating in the program. Overall, the mentoring program appears to have enhanced social protection and community connectedness and minimized psychological problems among youth participants.

Suggested Citation: Brown, L., Rice, J., Boris, N., Thurman, T.R., Snider, L., Ntaganira, J., Nyirazinyoye, L., Kalisa, E. & Nshizirungu, E. (2007). Psychosocial benefits of a mentoring program for youth-headed households in Rwanda. Horizons Research Summary. Washington, DC: Population Council.

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