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Keystone Family Alliance Mentor program

By June 20, 2024No Comments

Mentoring as a calling

For Sarah Whiteford, the impetus to find ways to help in kids in crisis is a biblical passage in the Epistle of James, 1:27, which urges Christians to “care for orphans and widows in distress.”

“It’s part of the calling we experience,” says Sarah, Lehigh County coordinator for the Keystone Family Alliance, a network of churches throughout Pennsylvania working to bring the resource of their members to bear on the challenges facing youth. 

 In many areas, she says, that involves helping to support foster families.  “A lot of people don’t know about the crisis in foster care in our communities.  In Pennsylvania we see our role as bridging the gap in resources in the child welfare system with the support from people in our churches.”

Sarah notes that in addition to recruiting members to become foster and adoptive parents, the Alliance works to create “care communities” to help existing foster families.  “These communities support the families with meals, child care, anything we can do for them. We have a gateway portal in which caseworkers can post something a foster family might need, and it connects them with churches and members who can provide it.  Supporting these families at this point can help prevent the destructive outcome of the children bouncing from home to home, because having a long-term stable relationship with caring adults is so crucial to their success later in life,” she says.

Now Sarah is taking this philosophy in a new direction – providing support for kids involved with the child welfare system who are clients in KidsPeace’s residential treatment program at the Orchard Hills Campus in Orefield, PA.  

“We learned that some of the kids in the program there have no one to visit them, and they lack connections to mentors beyond program staff.  So we decided to apply the same mission of the kind we’re doing for foster kids: raising awareness of these children’s needs for connection with stable, caring adults and facilitating the connections between willing mentors and KidsPeace staff.”

In April 2024 the “127 Connections” effort began with identifying mentors among church members in Lehigh County, especially retired couples.  Sarah says the experience has been “eye-opening” for the participants: “In many cases they had no idea of the needs of kids in their own backyard, so to speak.  They have been finding out what those needs are, and what these kids have endured in their lives.  One volunteer says they explain the situation to their friends by asking them to think of the worst conditions they’ve ever seen in a movie, and realize that kids right here in our community have experienced things like that.”

To date, ten mentors have been vetted and trained to work with the Orchard Hills clients, and several more are in the approval and training process.  One of the mentors, Joanne Guth, describes her motivation: “If I were a kid in their situation, I would want people to help me, instead of redecorating their house, or watching sports, or shopping, or detailing their car, or some other time-waster of choice.  My heart said, “How can you NOT help?” and that turned out to be God’s voice.” 

Another mentor, Melinda Howard, says: “I’m grateful to have opportunities where I can be the hands and feet of Jesus in practical ways to meet the needs of the hurting, lost, broken and vulnerable in this broken world. I’ve been there, and I have received His comfort, strength and provision in those times. We are called to share our joys and sorrows with others; I want to fulfill that call.”

Lori Klein, an adoption permanency specialist with KidsPeace, notes that she receives positive feedback from clinicians caring for the children involved in the program.  “One clinician told me, “I have seen such a difference in this child since he started with his mentors. He seems happier and has more to look forward, too …We were off of school and going out to play and he said, “I don’t even want to play, I am just so excited that my mentors are coming soon.”

Sarah says the goal is to provide what amounts to extended families for the children, and contribute to a positive outcome for their time in treatment: “One caring adult for a kid in need can have a tremendous impact.”

To find out more about the mentoring program, contact Sarah Whiteford at, or Lori Klein at

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Director of Communications at KidsPeace. 800-25-PEACE, ext. 7797 |