May 20, 2024

Friends of the Children – Utah: Preventing Entry into Foster Care

Friends of the Children’s paid, professional mentors – called Friends – work hard to make sure that youth in foster care, or at-risk of foster care, and their caregivers have their needs met. Friends, like Will from Friends of the Children - Utah, are committed to providing no matter what support to the youth and families they walk alongside every day.

For more than 3 years, Will has been paired with 8-year-old Dan*. Dan loves playing Roblox and finding games that challenge him. He is bright, sociable, and curious and is always excited to hang out and try new things with his Friend. Every time Will picks up Dan, his favorite thing to ask is “so what are we going to do today?”

Since joining the program, Dan has experienced a great deal of transition in his family life and struggled with behaviors at school as a result. Initially, Dan was living with his biological mom who was experiencing housing instability. They moved from motel room to motel room but knew they would soon be facing homelessness. At that time, Dan was placed with his aunt to care for him.

The stress of changing homes, changing caregivers, and changing his daily routines further impacted Dan’s success in school and his behaviors. He became withdrawn, struggled to communicate his emotions, and began to lose interest in the things he enjoys.

Unfortunately, his aunt was then diagnosed with some major medical challenges that prevented her from continuing to provide care and maintaining custody of him. Once again Dan would be faced with a changing home life. The Department of Child and Family Services became involved to talk about Dan’s next transition and to navigate care. With the support of the entire Friends – Utah team, Will and Family Engagement Coordinator (FEC) Maddy came together with his family to create a plan to reunite Dan with his biological mother and get their entire family established in positive routines and consistent support.

At Friends of the Children, our paid, professional mentors average five contacts each month with caregivers and facilitate connection to concrete resources in times of need. 92% of caregivers in our program report that Friends connected them to resources that stabilized their families. Thanks to Will and Maddy, the family accessed the necessary resources and determined a plan to keep Dan out of foster care.

Dan’s mom has found stable housing and a job just outside of the Salt Lake City area. Dan is thriving with his mother, and his Friend has seen an increase in his self-esteem and a decrease in the challenging behaviors occurring in school. Will says, “I have always told Dan, ‘anywhere you are, I'll go to pick you up.’ His mom has reached out for support, and we have helped as best we can, providing access and information about resources. Our pledge is no matter what and I try to do everything I can to show Dan and his family that Friends of the Children really means that.”

Ultimately, Friends of the Children wants all parents to have the supports they need to be the parents they want to be, and for all kids to get to be kids – living safely at home with their families. Thank you to our incredible chapters across the national network working along the child and family well-being continuum to ensure that our model is serving the children and families who need us most. To learn more about Friends of the Children’s work in foster care, please click here.

*Youth name changed to protect privacy