December 03, 2021

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation invests $3.4 million to expand Friends of the Children’s two-generation approach and study its impact

The six-year randomized controlled trial will study the generational impact of supporting entire families through 12+ years of professional mentoring


Dec. 6, 2021


Ariane Le Chevallier

DEC. 6, 2021 (PORTLAND, ORE.)Friends of the Children, the national youth-serving organization that hires and trains paid, professional mentors, announced today it received $3.4 million in grants from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The awards include a $1 million grant to study the model’s impact through a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard for research, as well as a $2.4 million grant to expand a Two-Generation (2Gen) approach to mentoring youth—and by extension their families—who have been impacted by foster care.

“With generous support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Friends of the Children can support even more parenting former foster youth as well as families impacted by foster care to achieve their aspirations and innate potential, while learning from their experiences to transform child welfare systems across the country,” said Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children. “We look forward to learning more about the impact of our Two-Generation approach, in partnership with the University of Notre Dame, through the randomized controlled trial. We are grateful to the Hilton Foundation for their partnership, guidance and support of this approach.”

The grant for the RCT will support research development and implementation to rigorously study the organization’s 2Gen approach. The RCT will be conducted in partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO). The six-year multi-site RCT will examine the impact of Friends of the Children’s 2Gen approach. Up to five Friends of the Children locations in different parts of the country will participate in the RCT, with approximately 650 caregivers who will be enrolled in the study through annual cohorts over three years.

“A randomized controlled trial is the gold standard for evidence-based practice,” said Heather Reynolds, Managing Director of LEO. “We look forward to exploring Friends of the Children’s impact on preventing child welfare system involvement, reducing the length of stay in foster care, supporting caregivers in creating family stability and improving access to family support services that increase economic mobility.”

Research funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2018 showed that the presence of a Friend in a child’s life benefits the entire family. In 2020, independent researchers from ICF surveyed caregivers about how the 2Gen approach has affected their lives and the lives of their children, with promising early results.

“Families deserve to have long-term support that is trusted and dependable,” said Liz Clark Thasiah, Foster Youth Program Officer for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “We have seen the impact Friends of the Children has made in supporting former foster youth who are parents in Los Angeles and New York City. We believe that the promise of 12+ years of mentorship is an effective tool to promote strong families and avoid foster care involvement. We are committed to deepening our understanding of how best to serve the unique needs of former foster youth who are parents through 2Gen approaches like that of Friends of the Children.”

The second grant will serve as a continued investment in the growth of the 2Gen approach to expand services and provide even more parenting former foster youth with proven, professional mentoring support. A 2018 grant from the Hilton Foundation launched the pilot that has become the Friends of the Children 2Gen approach. With that grant’s support, Friends of the Children already is serving hundreds of families in Los Angeles and New York. This 2021 grant will continue that support and build on it, expanding the number of families with a Friend and supporting the growth of Friends of the Children’s 2Gen approach nationally at each of the now 24 locations in the Friends of the Children network.

The 2Gen RCT is the second RCT to evaluate Friends of the Children’s long-term impact. The first RCT, which recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health to complete the study, was launched in 2007 to explore the progress of youth enrolled in the program and a control group over 12 years. The results of that RCT will be released in 2025.


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 The New York Times, Forbes, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and CBS News. Visit to learn more.

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping young children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. In 2018, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize will be presented to SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities), a grassroots organization based in Nairobi, Kenya that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $2.0 billion in grants, distributing $207 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2020. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $7.5 billion. For more information, please visit

About the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities

The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame exists to power service with research. LEO is a domestic poverty lab focused specifically on conducting randomized control trials (RCTs)the most rigorous method of impact evaluations. LEO helps service providers apply scientific evaluation methods to better understand and unleash effective poverty interventions. They are grounded in the belief that research serves people, not the other way around. So, they walk side-by-side with their partners to design and implement a research approach that is both rigorous and respectful of every person it involves. Then they share what they learn with others, allowing each success to inspire thousands more. Since their founding in 2012, LEO has partnered with service providers to conduct 80-plus research studies.