Guiding the Western Wellness Foundation Inc. and the Best Friends Mentoring Program (BFMP) is the goal to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families, one at a time. BFMP matches adult role models with youth who could benefit from adult guidance and friendship, and is one of the largest formal mentoring organization in North Dakota.
The Best Friends Mentoring Program (BFMP) serves under the umbrella of the Western Wellness Foundation, Inc. The foundation started in July 1994 after a group of concerned Dickinson, North Dakota mental health professionals sought a mentoring program, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America to serve as role-models for regional youth. A previous BB/BS program had ended 10 years earlier.
The momentum for developing a program was based on a documented need for children, mainly from single-parent homes, to have more adult interaction and positive influence in their lives. In addition to the increase in single-parent households, the organizational group noted an increase in both parents in dual-parent families needing to be employed for the family’s economic survival. Consequently, the amount of time youth in the community spent with adult family members decreased, leading to a corresponding increase in the amount of time children spent alone, isolated from caring adults and the community as a whole.
This situation placed a significant percentage of the region’s children at risk for committing future delinquent acts; using alcohol, tobacco products and other drugs; resorting to violence to act out frustrations and to solve problems; skipping school; engaging in teenage sexual activity; and losing self-esteem.
The program’s founders — including professionals from both private and public agencies in the eight-county region — agreed that a youth mentoring program would provide the needed youth-adult interaction time, guidance and role modeling missing in some children’s lives. It would also serve to prevent delinquent and violent behavior that was beginning to occur among community youth.