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May 03, 2021

Friends of the Children works to change the way people view and treat youth and families impacted by foster care

Youth advocate and World Champion gymnast Simone Biles proudly supports the organization and their #FosterOurFuture campaign in honor of National Foster Care Month

MAY 3, 2021 (PORTLAND, ORE.) – Friends of the Children is teaming up with youth advocate and World Champion gymnast Simone Biles this May as part of National Foster Care Month to help change the way people view and treat youth and families impacted by foster care.

Friends of the Children is a rising, sought-after foster care prevention and intervention model in communities across the country that is serving youth in—or at risk of— foster care. As part of National Foster Care Month, Friends of the Children is launching the #FosterOurFuture campaign that will be featured on hundreds of billboards in more than 30 cities across the country through a strategic partnership with outdoor advertising technology and managed services company Billups. In addition, Friends of the Children is hosting a virtual panel discussion with FrameWorks Institute and BMe Community during National Foster Care Month on May 20 titled, The Power of Narratives to Change Systems: A New Story for Foster Care.

“We need to change the narrative about children and parents impacted by foster care,” said Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children. “We can choose to define them by their aspirations and assets, rather than perceived deficits and obstacles. You don’t have to look far to see the harmful narratives associated with children and families who have been impacted by foster care. It’s in storylines of movies. It’s in the news. It’s everywhere. Oftentimes parents are portrayed as the villain when in fact it is the inequitable systems that have caused the harm. By changing the narrative, we can also change the systems and hold them accountable.”

By building long-term, trusting, one-on-one relationships with each child, Friends empower youth in foster care—and their families—by providing consistency, stability and support to navigate the foster care system. A report released in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families showed that more than 250,000 children entered foster care and more than 672,000 children spent at least one day in care in 2019.

“The support and encouragement I received after my foster care experience allowed me to thrive and see myself for all that I could be,” said Biles. “It gave me the confidence to pursue my passion for gymnastics, and now, for education. Every child who experiences foster care deserves to have a caring adult in their life, and Friends of the Children can help provide that. My hope is that all children will see that they, too, can pursue their hopes and dreams.”

About 40% of youth in Friends of the Children—an organization that hires and trains paid, professional mentors called Friends who stay with each child for 12+ years—are in or have experienced foster care. Recent findings from an ICF evaluation of Friends of the Children’s model showed that children in the program experienced significantly shorter lengths of stay in care than a comparison group of children.

The organization also focuses on changing systems—especially education, foster care and juvenile justice—which aren’t working for many of the families in their program, and particularly youth impacted by foster care. About one-third of children in foster care in 2019 were Black—a statistic that demonstrates the disproportionate impact the child welfare system has on Black communities.

“These statistics are alarming, my heart breaks as I know we can do better,” added Biles. “Our next generation of leaders need all of us to step up and truly address these inequitable systems. When we invest in children – especially those of us impacted by foster care – we are also investing in our communities and collective futures.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation funded a study conducted by the University of Washington and Washington State University of Friends of the Children which showed that the model is a promising solution for child welfare-impacted families.

“There are so many people in our communities who have experienced foster care—including youth in Friends of the Children—who go on to become leaders in their communities like World Champion athlete and thought leader Simone Biles,” said Benjamin Carlton, chief equity officer of Friends of the Children. “There are so many false narratives about people who have experienced foster care, especially from those who haven’t experienced it first hand. We can seek to understand the effects and impacts of the foster care experience, while also pushing more authentic narratives.”

Credentialed members of the media can RSVP to the panel discussion by emailing Ariane Le Chevallier at alechevallier@friendsofthechildren.org.

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Media Inquiries Contact: Ariane Le Chevallier 971.201.1214

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