Children selected for program will be paired with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend from kindergarten through high school graduation.
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to approve an important motion to protect and prevent children in the Antelope Valley from entering the Los Angeles County foster care system, the largest foster care system in the country. The motion was approved to award a three-year, $2.1 million contract to Friends of the Children–Los Angeles (Friends–L.A.).
“We are thrilled and humbled at this opportunity to be able to provide a Friend–a salaried, professional mentor–to children in the Antelope Valley who need it the most,” said Thomas Lee, executive director of Friends–L.A. “Research has shown that having a stable, caring adult in a child’s life–particularly children facing the greatest obstacles–benefits not only the child but the entire family. The trusting, long-term relationship that children selected for our program will build, through one on one support from kindergarten through high school graduation, will empower families with the resources and support needed to thrive, and remain free from involvement in the foster care system.”
Friends–L.A. will work with partner agencies to select Antelope Valley children at risk of entering the foster care system and pair them with a "Friend" who will stay with them for 12+ years, no matter what. The organization will begin serving children in the Antelope Valley beginning July 1, 2019. Friends–L.A. is planning to eventually serve children throughout all of L.A. County.
Jonathan E. Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, advocated for bringing the model to L.A. County as a promising, outside-the-box solution for children at risk of entering or experiencing foster care.
"We know that children who have been involved in foster care, through no fault of their own, experience significant trauma that can have a devastating and lifelong mental health impact," said Dr. Sherin. "Friends of the Children provides a consistent, long-term, caring adult to children who need it. This program will now become part of our prevention service continuum, engineered to protect and support the mental health and wellbeing of L.A. County children and families. We are thrilled to partner with Friends–L.A. and thank the many people, organizations and advocacy efforts that have made the announcement possible."
In addition to providing long-term support to children, families and caregivers of youth in the Friends–L.A. program will benefit. Current parents and caregivers of program participants in the program report feeling better connected to resources, improved skills as advocates and parents, and stronger relationships with their children and their communities. These positive experiences will provide critical protective factors that can prevent involvement in foster care.
Friends–L.A. is a chapter of the national organization Friends of the Children, which created the innovative relationship-based and evidence-based model in 1993 for children facing the greatest obstacles. With 25+ years of data and positive outcomes, the model has shown to be incredibly effective, with 93 percent of program youth remaining free from involvement in the juvenile justice system, 98 percent successfully delaying parenting until after their teen years and 83 percent graduating high school.
The organization has expanded to 17 other locations around the country and in the U.K. and has received national recognition as a promising early intervention and prevention model, particularly for families impacted by or at risk of entering foster care.