December 14, 2021
Antelope Valley program aiming to prevent child welfare system involvement by supporting entire families showing signs of success
L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger marks two-year anniversary with visit to Friends of the Children-Los Angeles
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 14, 2021
Ariane Le Chevallier
ANTELOPE VALLEY, CALIF. - Yesterday, L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger visited Friends of the Children-Los Angeles’s Antelope Valley office to mark the two-year anniversary of the program’s launch, and to learn more about the program’s efforts to support children and families through a long-term, professional Two-Generation (2Gen) mentoring program. Preliminary Friends LA data shows that 93% of families who were previously at risk of involvement with the child welfare system have had no contact with the system since entering the program.
“We know that with the right support, children and families can thrive,” said Supervisor Barger. “It’s exciting to see this program’s progress in such a short period of time. Being a parent is hard. When you add poverty and the ongoing pandemic, it makes it even that much harder. Friends of the Children builds long lasting, one-on-one relationships with both parents and their children to ensure they have the support and resources they need. It’s those relationships that make a world of difference.”
Friends LA is currently serving nearly 200 parents and children in Antelope Valley. The program provides each child with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend. This Friend is a consistent, 2Gen support system that stays with each child--and by extension their family--from as early as age 4 through high school graduation - 12+ years, no matter what. Children and families are referred to the program because they are identified as being at high risk of involvement with the child welfare system.
“Friends of the Children provides a consistent, long-term, caring adult to children who need it,” said Jonathan E. Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. “This program is part of our prevention service continuum, engineered to protect and support the mental health and well-being of L.A. County children and families.”
In 2019, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a motion to protect and prevent children in the Antelope Valley from entering the L.A. County child welfare system. As part of that motion, Friends LA received a three-year award and $2.1 million contract with the L.A. Department of Mental Health. The grant allowed Friends LA to open the Antelope Valley office. This program directly addresses a 2015 report showing that Antelope Valley had the highest rate of maltreatment for children ages 0-5 in the county. It also reflects the commitment of L.A. County offices to work across silos to invest in strengthening families and improving child well-being in the Antelope Valley.
“What we’ve seen over the past two years is that the relationship between a Friend, a child and a parent provides a level of stability, consistency and trust that allows families to navigate tough circumstances, access resources and provide critical emotional support between a parent and their child,” said Jorie Das, interim executive director of Friends LA. “This work would not have been possible without Supervisor Barger’s support. The timing also could not have been better, as parents have had to deal with the trauma of the pandemic. We feel a sense of belonging in--and a deep responsibility to--this community as a result of the County’s support.”
During the visit, Friends LA staff shared the story of Jessica (name changed to protect privacy) and her daughter, who has been part of Friends LA since August of 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Jessica’s job was negatively impacted, it was difficult and emotionally draining. Jessica took the opportunity to reflect on her passions and ultimately decided to pursue her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher. Program staff encouraged Jessica to follow her dreams and assisted her in enrolling in her first six credits of classes at a local community college. Jessica also reports that her daughter is becoming more committed to reading as she watches Jessica study for her classes.
“We are working to reduce the impact of the institutional barriers to create a space where every child has the opportunity to achieve their dreams, and every parent has the opportunity to be the parent they know they can be. We believe that our support of Friends LA will strengthen the social fabric of the community to make this possible,” said Supervisor Barger.
Earlier this year, Friends of the Children’s national office released a caregiver study (which included Friends LA families), which showed that:
- 92% said Friends connected them to concrete supports that enrich and stabilize their family.
- 88% said their child’s behavior had improved, making their home a more positive place.
- 91% said Friends helped them support their child’s school success.
- 86% said Friends supported them to better understand their child’s needs and strengths.
Learn more about Friends LA’s efforts to support children and families for 12+ years through its 2Gen approach at friendsla.org.
View video of the Friends LA program featuring Supervisor Barger here.
About Friends of the Children-Los Angeles
Friends of the Children-Los Angeles empowers children and families affected by foster care through long-term relationships with a paid, professional mentor for 12+ years, no matter what. Friends LA currently works in service to children and families throughout LA County, with a focus on Service Planning Areas 1, 4, 6, and 8.