Resettling Refugees through the Co-sponsorship model of Resettlement
How does the Co-sponsorship Model Work?
There are nine resettlement agencies in the United States that are responsible for overseeing refugees who have been approved for resettlement. Most often, these agencies will 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.
The resettlement agenices partner with organized groups who can prove they have the resources and commitment to engage in this model. This public private partnership is growing in popularity throughout the country.
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 benefiaries 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
It is important to understand that an organized group needs to partner with one of the nine government approved Resettlement Agenicies 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.
(See below for contact information for HIAS and Catholic Charities Community Services of NY.)
In the co-sponsorship model, volunteers are the key to refugee resettlement. Volunteers take part in our country’s long tradition of welcoming refugees. They are those people of goodwill who imagine what it would be like to arrive to a new country with nothing more than the bag they carry and the memories of a violent and sudden break from their home, family and life as it was known. With the help of committed volunteers, refugee resettlement and the path to independence and assimilation is more attainable and sustainable.
In the co-sponsorship model, volunteers organize according to resettlement needs. From a roof over their heads, to the cultural, practical and emotional needs of refugees, co-sponsors provide support that offers a soft landing and guides refugees to their ultimate goal of independence. The co-sponsorship structure that worked for HHR divided the needs and services into 15 committees –10 which directly interact and support refugees and five which are critical to the overall effort.
Resettlement Committees: Direct Family Support
- 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 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: Committment to drive more than one time is required and it is prefered 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 healthare 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.
Resettlement Committees: Organizational and Infrastructure
- HOUSING - Locate affordable housing in Pelham (or surrounding towns) securing, assist with lease, and oversee logistics.
- 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 – Assist with HHR activities that involve the community and oversee internal and external communications.
- VOLUNTEER COORDINATION- Help recruit volunteers, keep track of their information, update database as needed, oversee and link volunteer assignments to the family support and assistance teams. Provide HHR with technology support, updating database and overseeing website.
- TREASURER - Keep track of money raised and donated, work with Board Member/ CFO to 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)
Facebook: Hearts and Homes for Refugees
Neighbors For Refugees (NFR)
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
Certification for Co-Sponsors/Hosts
CORE Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange
This professional development opportunity is an interactive, self-paced course, designed for resettlement staff, volunteers, and interns who have direct, indirect, or informal duties as CO providers. These lessons are designed to establish foundational knowledge of the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and further the professionalization of CO instruction by supplementing and enhancing training resources available at Resettlement Support Centers and Resettlement Agencies. Learners may take lessons at any time and in any order. Upon completion of each level, including achievement of a passing score (85%) on each level’s assessment, learners will earn CORE certification.