Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Bethany Christian Services, Grand Rapids, Michigan (

Program Name

Refugee Foster Care Mentoring Program of Bethany Christian Services

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

Through coordinated mentor relationships, support groups and casework services, the mentoring program will enable refugee youth to become self-sufficient by emancipation from foster care at age 21.

Program Description

Youth ages 14 to 20 in a specialized foster care program for refugee minors without family in the U.S. are matched with adult mentors from the community for weekly contact of at least one hour. Youth opinion is solicited as part of the mentor matching process, including the suggestion of mentors from youth themselves. Mentors go through a screening and training process and commit to being a mentor for at least one year. Mentors also keep a log of their contact with youth; this information is also available to case managers. Youth and mentors participate in separate monthly support group meetings with the mentor coordinator. Youth who have been in the U.S. for six months or less participate in a group twice per month for more intensive support.

Resource Materials Used in Program

The program uses Bethany's in-house independent living curriculum.

Groups Served by Program

The program serves a multi-ethnic group of refugee children and youth who have been separated from their families due to war, civil unrest and flight. Countries/regions of origin include: China, Bosnia, Central America, Congo, Somalia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan Liberia, Burma, Afghanistan, Haiti.

Program Funding

The program is funded by the Michigan Family Independence Agency (DHS) through a federal reimbursement by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ACF/ORR).

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Four staff work in this program:

  1. Mentoring Program Supervisor (.2 FTE)
  2. Mentor Coordinator (1 FTE)
  3. Case Aide (.5 FTE)
  4. Receptionist (.25 FTE)

The program supervisor and mentor coordinator are licensed social workers. Aside from required agency training, the mentor coordinator is being trained by the agency's volunteer coordinator on recruitment and retention strategies.

Program Evaluation

Success will be measured by both the acquisition of practical skills needed for independent living and emancipation from foster care, as well as the avoidance of risk behaviors such as pregnancy, substance abuse, early school termination and delinquent behavior.

Program Outcomes

The program has just begun, so no outcomes measures are available at this time. Evaluation surveys will be conducted after each group meeting, quarterly reports will be submitted to the funder, and feedback on mentoring relationships will be sought from youth and mentors.

Additional Comments

Under state regulations, youth in foster care must complete a ten week "Life Skills" class. BCS foster care staff developed this mentor program after observing that the ten week class was not sufficient to prepare refugee youth for self-sufficiency. The mentoring program augments the state required life skills education.

Program Contact

Marie Simon
Mentoring Program Supervisor
(616) 224-7547

Sarah Bolman
Mentor Coordinator
(616) 574-7932

Program Dates

This program began March 1, 2006 and is still operating.