March 11, 2022

Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Children

Needed Federal Support Coming to Oregon Children and Families

Friends of the Children is grateful for the support of Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Congressman Blumenauer that today resulted in a federal investment of $750,000 in our professional mentors as they meet the increased mental health needs of Oregon children and families.

“We thank Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Congressman Blumenauer, for securing these funds that will directly benefit thousands of children and families in Oregon communities,” said Terri Sorensen, National CEO of Friends of the Children. “Even before the pandemic, youth and families in communities served by Friends of the Children faced barriers to accessing culturally responsive behavioral health support. The demand for salaried, professional mentors to provide increased access and engagement in mental health services is greater now than ever.”

The federal funding will support the Friends of the Children chapters in Portland, Klamath Basin, Central Oregon, and Lane County that serve youth and family members in eight metro and rural Oregon counties (Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Klamath, Deschutes, Jefferson, Crook and Lane).

Since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people have increased, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. Access to care is declining at the same time the need is rapidly increasing. Coupled with the shortage of professionals to meet increased mental health needs—especially professionals who are culturally and linguistically competent—the pandemic has worsened gaps in access to care for youth Friends of the Children serves.

Friends of the Children’s paid, professional mentors, or “Friends,” provide trauma-informed, mental health prevention and intervention support to children and families least likely to access traditional services. These supports are critical to an equitable pandemic recovery in our communities, addressing social isolation, mitigating trauma, and leveraging evidence-based approaches to meet youth and caregiver mental health and concrete support needs.

Our 1:1 professional youth mentoring has been shown to positively children’s mental health:

  • 92% of youth in the program report accomplishing something they are proud of.
  • 95% of youth made progress on social and emotional development, such as asking for help from a caring adult and practicing healthy ways to cope with stress.
  • 80% of youth in the program regularly access preventive health services.
  • 84% of youth (grades 3-12) report no thoughts of self-harm.

Said Sorensen, “This is a good day for children’s mental health in Oregon. We look forward to the day when even more children in Oregon and across the country have a Friend!”