Trauma Informed Youth Mentoring Program for Resettled Refugees
The project in brief
Catholic Community Services (CCS) of Utah
*CCS is a member agency of Catholic Charities USA who is a member of the Caritas Internationalis Confederation.
The project started 01 March 2018. It is expected to be continued, and it is pending approval for renewal until 30 September 2021.
The program pairs recently-arrived resettled refugee youth, ages 9-17, with a mentor from the local community to support academics, community involvement, relationship building, self-advocacy, and more.
Resettled refugee youth face a unique and daunting set of challenges as they transition to a new life in Utah. Many have spent years living in refugee camps, where educational opportunities were either limited or wholly absent. Others have been more recently displaced, as their home country has fallen into conflict and catastrophe. Refugee youth may not speak English well, and a large number will be attempting to make this transition while simultaneously struggling with residual emotional trauma from the upheaval and horrors they have experienced. This combination of emotional trauma, familial instability, and lack of resources means that many refugee youth can be considered “at-risk.”
The trauma informed youth mentoring program aims to improve social integration and bolster academic performances while reducing juvenile delinquency and other high-risk behaviours. Through the program, the youth are placed in an environment that fosters positive relationships, supports their individual interests, and provides opportunities to engage in other communities.
The Youth Mentoring program received grant funding from the Department of Justice: Multi-State Mentoring Program Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention FY 2018 Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative. Receiving the grant funding facilitated the creation of the youth mentoring program and supports the program’s activities.
- MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
- Search Institute’s DAPS Assessment
- Catholic Charities USA
- United States Department of Justice
Challenges and how they were overcome
- The top challenge encountered in this program is the language barrier between the Youth Mentor Coordinator and the youth/parents in the program. While program protocol dictates that Case Manager interpretation is the most effective form of communication, this is not always available, and can pose a challenge to the Youth Mentor Coordinator.
- Another challenge is encouraging parent engagement. The program faces challenges in successfully communicating the purpose and intent of the program and explaining how the mentoring can benefit the whole family.
How they were overcome
- The Youth Mentor Coordinator utilizes the language skills of other staff members that are willing to assist in translation. Online interpretation services are also now available and hiring of more translation staff.
- The program adjusting and revised the parent check-in to include more freedom in responding to questions and voicing concerns. The revised format better highlights family voice and allows for higher engagement and honest feedback. The Youth Mentoring program also began to have events with parents involved to promote the value of the program.
Results of the Good Practice
- School performance has been positively impacted. Grades have improved, as well as study habits. Routine communication with a native-English speaker has improved language skills and language retention. Students have shown the ability to learn quicker in the classroom, which benefits both the student and the classroom community.
- The Youth Mentoring program has also positively impacted the participant’s social skills. The program gives youth increased self-confidence. Connecting with a mentor has given the youth resources to access opportunities in their community as well as the empowerment to seek out these opportunities themselves.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The Youth Mentoring program promotes successful transitions of refugee children into the host community. In the short-term program promotes problem solving skills, negating peer pressure, and avoid drug involvement. This provides the foundation for long-term success, self-reliance, and being a contributing member of society.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The Youth Mentoring program engrains positive practices such as good homework habits and school attendance. The youth development better behavioural skills, improving self-reliance and positioning them for success in life
Pending grant approval, the program will be extended.
Sarah Hendley, Director Federal Grants and Special Projects, Catholic Charities USA