Research suggests that the well-being of black girls is often neglected in schools and juvenile justice systems. Gender-responsive programs designed to serve black girls can be beneficial if they focus on developing strong relationships between girls and adults. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 10 black girls and 10 adults at a gender-responsive agency. Staff members and girls discussed the ways mentoring relationships developed at the agency. Themes emerged related to positive relationships (the development of positive relationships, integrity and trustworthiness, perceived support, and role modeling) as well as potential challenges/barriers (challenges to trust, perceived judgment, advice giving, and confidentiality).
Our findings support research suggesting that mentoring relationships are important for girls and provide insights about the specific dynamics that are important for mentoring black girls. Mentoring relationships are a key component of gender-responsive interventions, which strive to build community, create a safe environment, and focus on relationships (Covington, 2001). Our data provide insights about how mentoring relationships develop, the characteristics of these relationships that girls and staff members find significant, as well as explore possible barriers that staff may need to navigate to promote the development of mentoring relationships.
Similar to past research (Pryce et al., 2010), our findings suggest that both the girls and staff members perceive that a relational approach is important for building positive mentoring relationships, as most participants highlighted the role of having meaningful conversations as a vital aspect of relationship building. Rhodes (2002) suggested that meaningful conversations play an important role in mentoring relationships. While Deutsch et al. (2012) found that having fun may help forge initial connections, a greater focus on building empathy, trust, and attention to the children’s needs and experiences are more important when building long-term connections.