GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Catholic Charities West Michigan is expanding its programming to serve migrant youths who come alone to the United States.

“These youth are often coming to the country because they’re fleeing some sort of violence or abuse in their native country,” Caitlin Norton, director of transitional foster care at Catholic Charities West Michigan, explained.

Since October, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has encountered more than 81,000 unaccompanied minors at the Southern border. In response, Catholic Charities West Michigan has added a Transitional Foster Care program to help those kids. The program will give migrant kids a temporary home until they are connected with family or another sponsor who is close to the family.

“In the interim, we are placing those youth in licensed foster homes while we are studying the sponsor and making sure they’re appropriate to care for those children long-term,” Norton said.

Catholic Charities West Michigan will be capable of serving around 12 children referred to it by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

While under the nonprofit’s care, schooling will be provided at the Transitional Foster Care site.

“We have a teacher on site who will be working with them on traditional core subjects but also on acclimation because they are coming from another country, helping them acclimate to the United States,” Norton said.

Medical, dental and mental health services will be available.

“We’re really trying to get them set up to be successful when they transition to their sponsor family,” Norton said.

The organization is in need of additional foster parents to host a child for 30 to 45 days, but the time period could be shorter. It takes anywhere from four to six months to go through a series of background checks and a home study, being bilingual is not a requirement. Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can contact Mandi Thome at or 616.456.1443.

Norton said she hopes the program creates a safe space for a population that needs it.

“This is a place where we want to give back to them and help them to start to heal from the trauma that they’ve experienced prior to coming to us,” Norton said.

Catholic Charities West Michigan hopes to expand the Transitional Foster Care program in the future.