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.