"We were pleased to learn that the number of children in foster care went down for the first time since 2011, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unfortunately, the report also showed that more than 72,000 children between the ages of 4 to 6—the age at which children enroll in Friends of the Children—entered foster care. That is 72,000 children too many.
Research has consistently shown that families who become involved in the foster care system face some of the most heartbreaking and negative life outcomes. Every child who enters foster care has experienced some form of trauma, either through neglect or abuse. When they can’t stay safely at home, they are then re-traumatized by the separation from their families and the instability that is inherent in the foster care system. Adverse childhood experiences like these that cause toxic stress can lead to poor overall mental and physical health outcomes.
This is a solvable problem. We—the public, private and nonprofit sectors—need to come together to invest in and offer up innovative solutions that can prevent involvement in foster care altogether. If we can intervene early and provide long-term, intensive support for youth and families at risk, we will continue to see these numbers, and the social costs, decrease.
Friends of the Children invest in salaried, professional mentors that are paired with children ages 4 to 6 who face the greatest obstacles in life. We commit to each child for 12+ years, no matter what. Our model, which has been independently evaluated and is in its twelfth year of a randomized controlled trial, is showing promise in the development of critical protective factors that help youth and families achieve stability and access critical resources.
Child welfare agencies around the country are beginning to invest in promising solutions—like Friends of the Children’s model—that are taking a Two-Generation (2Gen) approach to support not only children but their parents/caregivers. In Los Angeles County, the largest foster care system in the country, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health awarded a three-year, $2.1 million contract to Friends of the Children–Los Angeles, with the goal of providing critical supports to youth and families so that they never have to experience foster care and can achieve well-being.
We’re already seeing the impact of the 2Gen approach: a mental health provider in Los Angeles recently shared that she was able to close a family’s case due to the presence of the Friend in the child’s life. We need more stories like this. L.A. County is leading the way in realizing that a prevention and early intervention strategy will better protect children—and save social costs.
There are many promising solutions out there. We need everyone to come to the table so that no child ever has to experience foster care.
Children are our most precious human resource. We want to ensure that
every child who needs a Friend has one."