Utilization of research-based and safety-oriented program practices in the youth development field have been associated with positive youth outcomes, and quality improvement processes designed at increasing the utilization of these types of program practices have, in turn, been shown to improve practices, increase staff retention, and youth outcomes. However, rigorous application of quality improvement practices has not been systematically developed in the youth mentoring field. One barrier to the utilization of a quality improvement process was the lack of standards and benchmarks for the field, which have now been created. A second barrier is the lack of an automated, standardized, psychometrically strong assessment tool available across technology platforms for use onsite;training of program staff and certification of objective, external reviewers;and a library of resources to use in training and consultation during quality improvement planning. Through advances in mobile and web-based technology, there now exists an opportunity to provide innovative and accessible assessment, external reviewer, training, and program practice resources for mentoring programs across the country. The overall goal of the proposed project is to develop the EQUIP (Elements Quality Improvement Process) system, a quality improvement tool, external reviewer training program, and web-based quality improvement system that is accessible via Internet and tablet devices. In Phase I, functionality and table optimization will be added to the existing EQUIP software application. A focus group with mentoring program staff will be conducted to obtain input regarding system requirements and QI preferences. Web-based training lessons on quality improvement and the EQUIP system will be created. A One-to-One Evaluation study with five mentoring program staff members will be conducted to obtain usability and consumer satisfaction feedback on the EQUIP web interface and process. Finally, a Feasibility Study will be conducted to examine the short-term effectiveness of the EQUIP system for increasing the knowledge, quality improvement planning, and the intent to use evidence-based program practices. Consumer satisfaction and feasibility feedback regarding the EQUIP system will also be collected.
The proposed Elements Quality Improvement Process (EQUIP) web-based system fills an important gap in the service needs of mentoring programs. This training, software, and certification quality improvement system has the potential to directly affect staff and mentor retention, and the behavioral, academic, mental health and substance use-related outcomes for mentored youth.