Resettling Refugees through the Co-sponsorship model
How does Co-sponsorship Work?
There are nine resettlement agencies in the United States that are responsible for overseeing refugees who have been approved for resettlement. Typically, these agencies directly resettle refugees without the support of volunteer organizations. There are standard procedures that the agencies follow to help refugees from the time they arrive. Housing and various forms of initial support are provided for a 90-day period, but after this time, refugees are expected to continue the path toward independence on their own with little additional support.
By partnering with volunteer Co-sponsors or Hosts, Resettlement Agencies, and therefore refugees, receive a boost through the co-sponsorship model of additional resources and time, making their landing here softer and offering greater outcome for successful acculturation and independence. This public-private partnership is growing in popularity throughout the country and, if shared and adopted, could result in a shift in the paradigm of the resettlement program.
The co-sponsorship model has obvious built-in benefits:
- Refugees receive far more support and for longer periods of time which provide not only a softer landing but a more sustainable and realistic future of integration and independence.
- Resettlement Agencies invest in their co-sponsor partners training and orientation and have more resources at their disposal through their co-sponsors.
- Those who participate are part of a growing network of volunteers and supporters who consider themselves to be the beneficiaries of welcoming refugees, personally involved in and well aware that they are making the difference they are making in the lives of refugees. Many volunteers experience this as "the magic of refugees."
How to Organize as a Co-sponsoring Organization
Co-sponsors or Hosts groups partner with one of the nine government-approved Resettlement Agencies in order to resettle refugees. In Westchester County, two of those agencies, Catholic Charities, and HIAS work with the dozen or so organizations that have formed specifically to support refugees.
In the co-sponsorship model, volunteers are the key to refugee resettlement. With the help of committed volunteers, refugee resettlement and the path to independence and acculturation is more attainable and sustainable. Volunteers are divided according to resettlement needs. From a roof over their heads to the cultural, practical and emotional needs of refugees, co-sponsors provide the support refugees need for a soft landing offer guidance to the ultimate goal of independence. In this co-sponsorship model, there are 15 committees dedicated to refugee needs and services. Ten of those committees directly interact and support refugees while five offer critical support to the overall model.
Direct Family Support Committees
- FURNITURE & CLOTHING & HOUSEHOLD ITEMS - Members of this committee outfit the apartment/home with furniture, plates, kitchen and all room items. In addition, they will get clothing sizes for all family members, but it must be "Furniture and clothing with dignity." If donors cannot provide the proper materials, they will find a temporary storage option and secure transportation as needed.
- LANGUAGE TRAINING & SUPPORT - Volunteers determine language training needs and organize appropriate support according to needs (either for children or parents). They will also register adults for ESL and provide other supplemental ESL support.
- EDUCATION SYSTEM INTERFACE– Committee members help register children at school identify educational needs, interface with the school system to obtain needed support, provide advocacy where needed, and interact with involved teaching professionals if necessary.
- OTHER ADULT EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT - If needed for adult family members, volunteers identify and organize education for their needs beyond ESL as necessary.
- EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE/SUPPORT - Volunteers help identify potential employment opportunities, determine skills set and levels, providing interview skills, find interviews, and assist family members to prepare for them.
- DRIVING & TRANSPORTATION COORDINATION & SUPPORT – The committee organizes and oversees the registration of volunteers as drivers and provide transportation as needed from the family, including medical appointments, school meetings etc. They can assist with buying/leasing a car if appropriate. Note: Commitment to driving more than one time is required and it is preferred that drivers participate over a four to six month period. In addition, this committee will show the family how to navigate public transportation and how to buy metro cards.
- HELP NAVIGATE STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT, SOCIAL SERVICES – Committee members help families apply for Social Security cards, SNAP, drivers license, state issued identity cards, enrollment in social services, and any other government related programs that are needed.
- HEALTHCARE – The medical insurance and healthcare systems is complicated for all Americans. This committee helps the family navigate the early and required medical appointments, any health issues, and the health insurance system. They will help them apply for Medicaid (Note: Medicaid is retroactive to the day of arrival) and pick an insurance plan. This can be done by a health navigator or at a public hospital. They also attend the various appointments that constitute the initial health screenings, which are usually at least three family appointments. They connect the family to a medical home that accepts Medicaid. They will work with the Transportation Team as necessary to arrange the transportation to medical appointments.
- FAMILY BUDGETING & FINANCES - They help the family get up and running by assisting the parents with family budgeting and finances.
- WELCOMING/ACCULTURATION/INTERPRETATION COMMITTEE - This committee is committed to providing anything that speaks to making the family feel welcome from the moment they arrive at JFK to their first meal and any other needs in the early days and weeks. They are the first faces of a WELCOMING AMERICA to help them integrate and assimilate as they strive for independence in the first year.
Organizational and Infrastructure Committees
- HOUSING - Locate affordable housing, secure and assist with the lease.
- FUNDRAISING - Develop a strategy, organize and execute the fundraising effort, outreach to potential funding sources, website development and management of "DONATE" page.
- COMMUNICATION/COMMUNITY OUTREACH – Oversee internal and external communications.
- VOLUNTEER COORDINATION- Recruit, screen, and assign volunteers to committees.
- TREASURER - Track of finances and donations, monitor the budget of the overall effort, filing necessary financial reports.
Resettlement Agencies in Westchester County
Catholic Charities Community Service (CCCS)
Catholic Charities Community Service is one of the nine government-approved resettlement agencies in the United States. CCCS has recently opened an office Westchester, enabling local organizations like Hearts and Homes for Refugees (and others) to partner with the Resettlement Agencies in co-sponsoring refugees. Besides co-sponsorship opportunities, there are other ways to get involved and volunteer with CCCS.
Volunteer page: http://www.catholiccharitiesnyvolunteer.org/
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
HIAS, similar to Catholic Charities, is also one of the nine resettlement agencies and the other agency that operates in Westchester county.
HIAS website: https://www.hias.org/
Facebook: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Westchester Community Co-Sponsors Organizations
Hearts and Homes for Refugees (HHR)
HHR is a non-profit humanitarian organization based in New York whose mission is to support the U.S. State Department approved agencies to welcome, protect and advocate for refugees. We are working with others to inspire, educate and motivate their communities to do the same.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: Hearts and Homes for Refugees
Pleasantville Armonk Resettlement Team (PART One)
PART One is affiliated with Pleasantville Community Synagogue, Congregation B’nai Yisrael in Armonk, and Westchester Jewish Community Services and is assisted by a larger group of faith communities and civic groups in northern Westchester. PART One is a community group that has partnered with Catholic Charities to “co-sponsor” resettlement of a refugee family in northern Westchester.
For more information and to volunteer contact info@PARTOne.us
Neighbors For Refugees (NFR)