Lifetrack's Deaf Mentor Family Program - An Evaluation of the Experiences and Outcomes for Participating Families

In 2015, Wilder Research was contracted by Lifetrack to evaluate the Deaf Mentor Family Program. The program matches families with young children who are deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) with an adult who is Deaf (called a “Deaf Mentor”), who meets with the family approximately weekly over the course of two years to teach the family American Sign Language (ASL) and to help them learn about Deaf culture and other resources for their child and to support better communication among the family.

The purpose of this evaluation is to assess program outcomes and to help Lifetrack understand how to best meet the needs of these families. This evaluation will also inform Lifetrack as they expand programming to include the D/HH Role Model Program, which will serve families with children ages birth to 21 with priority placed on families with young children who are newly identified as deaf or hard of hearing. This new program will offer exposure to a variety of communication choices and represent the diversity of types of hearing loss. Lifetrack was interested in both process and outcomes evaluation for the Deaf Mentor Family Program. The process evaluation answers questions regarding the satisfaction of participating families, program reach, and barriers and challenges to participation. The outcomes evaluation addresses ASL proficiency among participating children who are D/HH, as well as how the program impacts families’ communication and their awareness of Deaf culture and the Deaf community.
Currently, there are a total of 56 children currently being served by the Deaf Mentor Family Program. Of these, 34 children are hard of hearing and 18 children are Deaf. Also, there are 16 families with children who are D/HH who are currently on the waiting list to participate in the program.


Wilder collaborated with Lifetrack to develop program logic models that show the inputs, activities, and intended outcomes for families that participate in these programs. The purpose of creating two logic models is to display how the Lifetrack Deaf Mentor and D/HH Role Model Programs have evolved over time (the first model shows the current program and the second model shows the aspirations of Lifetrack for the program in the future).
Wilder also helped Lifetrack to revise and conduct a web survey of participating parents/guardians to gain a better understanding of families’ overall satisfaction with the Deaf Mentor Family Program, parents’ self-rated proficiency in ASL, and how families felt about other outcomes related to their child’s development. A total of 28 respondents completed the survey.

Additionally, Wilder helped Lifetrack to select an ASL assessment tool to measure the ASL proficiency of children who are participating in the Deaf Mentor Family Program. Lifetrack selected the Visual Communication and Sign Language (VCSL) Checklist. Deaf Mentors administered the assessment to seven families as a pilot to see if the VCSL Checklist aligns with the program and if this assessment should be used on an ongoing basis. Wilder analyzed and interpreted the data from these assessments.

Key findings

  • There is universal program satisfaction among participants: 77 percent of families said they were “very satisfied” with the program overall, with the remaining 23 percent saying they were “satisfied.” All respondents said that they would recommend the Deaf Mentor Family Program to other families.
  • A majority (85%) of families felt their child’s quality of life had “improved” as a result of participating in the Deaf Mentor Family Program.
  • Two-thirds of respondents (68%) said that communication with their child had “gotten much better.”
  • When asked to self-rate their own ASL skills, most parents/guardians reported that their level of ASL proficiency was “intermediate” (68%).
  • Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said that ASL is a “very important” communication tool for their family.
  • Nearly all (96%) received information on Deaf culture or the Deaf community during their sessions with their Deaf Mentor; of those, three-quarters (76%) found the information “very helpful.” Overall, the VCSL results are not conclusive in terms of assessing participating children’s ASL proficiency, because only seven assessments were collected. The reported results for these children suggest “spotty language acquisition” or “hit and miss acquisition” that typically occurs when children begin to acquire sign language later than native-signing children and are not fully immersed in a signing environment. The results suggest that the children should be tested again in three to six months.