2022 Grants Challenge

Empowering children and strengthening families for 12+ years, no matter what!

Friends of the Children - Los Angeles supports children and families impacted by the child welfare system, co-creating generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors—from kindergarten through high school completion. Our two-generation approach (2Gen) engages families as equals, working intentionally and simultaneously in the lives of children and their caregivers to combat the effects of systemic barriers like poverty and trauma, and build the life of their dreams.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Friends LA improves long-term outcomes for youth and families experiencing generational poverty and who have been impacted by LA County’s child welfare system – the largest in the country. Research shows children in foster care are more likely to be arrested as juveniles, are at a higher risk (nearly 3x) of dropping out of school, and typically achieve lower economic well-being and rates of employment after aging out of care. Children whose parents experienced foster care are at highest risk of system-entry than any other youth population, which is why we focus on enrolling children of former foster youth. We aim to break these cycles of poverty and trauma so families can move from surviving to thriving. We specifically work with young adult parents who received extended care under AB12 in South LA and with candidates for care in the Antelope Valley. Our results are profound – in the AV, 93% of our families have had no further contact with DCFS after having a Friend in their lives.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Meaningful relationships with adults are one of the strongest protective factors against the grim circumstances detailed above. Friends LA embodies this idea, engaging children and families with 1:1 professional mentorship – helping them to stay together and supporting youth to graduate high school and achieve their dreams. Friends spend 12-16 hours/month with each child in their school, homes, and community, supporting them to achieve self-identified Road Map goals in areas proven to support positive youth development: School Success, Making Good Choices, Plans and Skills for the Future, Prosocial Development, and Improved Health. Friends help develop social-emotional skills that empower youth success (Core Assets). These Core Assets are: growth mindset, relationship building, find your spark, problem-solving, self-determination, self-management, perseverance, hope, and belonging. Friends LA’s 2Gen program helps families create stable, nurturing environments that result in healthy children meeting developmental milestones. Support Friends provide include: -Serving as a liaison between caregivers and school leaders, helping to repair broken relationships and teach skills to advocate on the child’s behalf. -Helping caregivers navigate crises, connecting them to local community services to support their child’s safety. -Offering caregivers support and coaching on positive parenting techniques to promote love and forgiveness that foster healthy family relationship dynamics.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Through relationship-based support, our model centers around meeting essential needs, expanding opportunity, promoting positive health and well-being, supporting academic achievement, and eliminating structural barriers to equity by building the community power required to sustain long-term prosperity for children and families who experience or at highest risk of entry into foster care. As our holistic model provides support for the entire family, your investment will impact approximately 940 youth, caregivers, and siblings. Young adults who graduate from our program achieve three long-term programmatic outcomes: 83% of program graduates earn a high school diploma or GED—60% have parents who did not; 93% avoid the juvenile justice system—though half have parents who have been incarcerated; 98% avoid early parenting, despite 85% having been born to a teen parent; and 92% enroll in post-secondary education, enlist in the military, or find living-wage employment.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The impact of our trauma-informed, relationship-based model is immediate and profound. Our South LA location, focusing on serving the children of caregivers who were themselves in the system (AB-12 young adults and kith/kin caregivers impacted by foster care), has amazing data around the protective capacities caregivers have built in their short time in the program: -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 Friends LA is working with DCFS for continued support of our model and we are hopeful that they will recognize our services as a family restoration service that could become part of their system prevention and intervention in all LA County SPAs.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 224

Indirect Impact: 748