2023 Grants Challenge

1:1 mentoring for 12+ years, no matter what!

Friends LA 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

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 exists to improve 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. Friends LA is intent on helping youth break free of child welfare and justice systems by constructing a supportive network around their families, helping them build knowledge and skills, connecting them to resources, by providing 12+ years of professional mentoring services.

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 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.

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?

To ensure each child is on track to graduate from high school with the skills and resilience to succeed in life, we measure intermediate progress towards the following outcomes: 85% of youth will make progress toward their self-identified School Success roadmap goal; 90% of youth will achieve indicators in 7 of 9 Core Assets; and 90% of caregivers will engage with their child's Friend twice monthly. Friends record every interaction in our Efforts to Outcomes database. Data is reported monthly, quarterly, and annually so that Friends can adjust based on youth progress. Our impact is significant. In 2020, researchers from ICF found of parents supported by Friends LA's 2Gen approach: 92% reported their Friend helped them to strengthen their relationships with school teachers & staff. 88% reported their Friend helped them work with systems like education or child welfare. 86% reported their Friend helped them to strengthen their family's relationships with their community.

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

Direct Impact: 240

Indirect Impact: 1,128