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News

October 13, 2021

Friends of the Children opening Colorado Springs chapter, executive director announced

Community leader Judy Cara selected to lead the organization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oct. 13, 2021

CONTACT: Ariane Le Chevallier alechevallier@friendsofthechildren.org 971.201.1214

OCT. 13, 2021 (COLORADO SPRINGS, C.O.) Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children facing the greatest obstacles with a paid, professional mentor (called a Friend) for 12+ years, announced they are launching a Friends of the Children—Colorado Springs chapter and have named Colorado Springs community leader Judy Cara as the executive director. This is the 24th Friends of the Children location and the first in Colorado.

“Every child in Colorado Springs deserves the opportunity to dream big and reach their goals, but too many children face a lot of adversity that can seem impossible to overcome,” said Cara. “Joining Friends of the Children is a great honor and a tremendous opportunity to uplift and support Colorado Springs children. Now, more than ever, it’s important to introduce new resources to communities as families continue to persevere during these particularly tough times.”

In partnership with the child welfare system and CPCD, giving children a head start in El Paso County, Friends of the Children will enroll children aged 4-6—and by extension their families—who face the greatest challenges and are at risk of entry or re-entry into the foster care system. The program will focus on both front-end prevention and intervention to support safety and stability for children and families.

Each child selected is paired with a Friend whose full-time job is to spend four hours a week with each child at school, at home and in the community. Friends support youth for 12+ years, building trusting relationships through a trauma-informed lens that provides critical social, emotional and academic support.

"We are incredibly grateful to local philanthropic and business leaders for coming together and recognizing that Colorado Springs children and families who have experienced significant trauma need a consistent, caring adult – a Friend,” said Terri Sorensen, National CEO of Friends of the Children. “Our partners made this chapter possible because of their commitment to supporting children and families in achieving health and well-being. We are confident Judy is the right choice to launch and lead our efforts in Colorado Springs.”

In 2019, the El Paso County child welfare system received almost 17,000 referrals for child neglect and abuse – the second largest number of referrals in the state that year. The COVID-19 pandemic has put further stress and strain on children, families and the Colorado child protection system, reducing access to critical services when they were needed most. When children experience compounding stressors early in life, their bodies can be flooded with stress hormones, increasing their risk for later health problems like heart disease or depression. Case in point: Colorado’s youth suicide rate is rising at an alarming rate, with most youth ages 3-17 in Colorado lacking access to necessary mental health supports.

In recent years, Friends of the Children has expanded to support parents through an innovative Two-Generation (2Gen) model aimed at supporting families in achieving overall health and well-being. This approach acknowledges that it is not just children who need support, but their family, caregivers and siblings as well. A study paid for by the Annie E. Casey Foundation validated that Friends of the Children builds social capital and positively impacts outcomes for both the children and caregivers enrolled in the program. Friends provide caregivers with social support, share insights about their children, and connect them to community resources.

A third-party evaluation of Friends of the Children program graduates showed that: 92% of graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country or enter the workforce; 83% of youth obtain a high school diploma or GED; 93% remain free from juvenile justice system involvement; and 98% wait to parent until after their teen years. By comparison, the high school graduation rate for young people experiencing foster care in Colorado is just 30%.

Several notable funders and leaders in the area have been instrumental in bringing the chapter to Colorado Springs, including SCHEELS, The Norwood Foundation, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Echo Fund, Stand Together Foundation, Morgridge Family Foundation, and the Dakota Foundation. In addition, City Council Woman Yolanda Avila and County Commissioner Cami Bremer have been supportive and encouraging.

“The chance to support a program like Friends of the Children, with a promise to serve youth for over a decade at a time, is one that is so important to SCHEELS, my wife Eileen, and I,” said Steve D. Scheel, Chairman of the Board of SCHEELS and one of the lead catalytic funders in Colorado Springs. “The bonds formed within this organization are lifechanging and I look forward to seeing the impact grow as they enter into the Colorado Springs area.”

After leaving a position with the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in her native England, Cara lived in Nebraska for seven years before arriving in the Colorado Springs area. Since then, Cara has been engaged with numerous nonprofit organizations. Those affiliations include board positions with the YMCA, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Girl Scouts of Colorado, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Children’s Museum and more.

Friends of the Children, which was founded in Oregon by entrepreneur Duncan Campbell nearly 30 years ago, specializes in serving youth who have been impacted by economic instability, foster care, substance abuse, parental incarceration, mental health challenges and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that create instability.

In addition to the new Colorado Springs chapter, Friends of the Children is in 23 other locations across the country. The organization has seen tremendous growth, launching 19 new locations in the last 8 years. Friends—Colorado Springs is in the process of building a local board of directors and hiring Friends and staff. Interested candidates can visit friendsofthechildren.org/about/careers for a list of open positions.

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About Friends of the Children

Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit with the mission of impacting generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors – 12+ years, no matter what. Our successful model is now in 24 locations around the country and in Cornwall U.K. Our work has been featured in The New York Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review and CBS News. Visit friendsofthechildren.org to learn more.