June 20, 2022

U.S. Surgeon General Applauds Friends of the Children’s Commitment to Youth Mental Health

Friends of the Children is recognized for ongoing efforts to expand the training and clinical support for paid, professional mentors

For nearly 30 years, the Friends of the Children professional mentoring model has specialized in serving children and families who have experienced significant adversity and face systemic obstacles. As the COVID-19 pandemic began, it posed a new challenge to supporting and protecting the health and well-being of the youth and families we serve. The pandemic has had unprecedented impacts on youth mental health and has exacerbated mental health challenges that already existed. In response, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory in December 2021 as a national call to action to safeguard and enhance youth mental health across the country.

At the Youth Mental Wellness Now! Summit on June 14th in Los Angeles, Friends of the Children was one of 30 entities applauded by the Surgeon General for our pledge to address the country’s youth mental health crisis – both across our national network and in Los Angeles. In tandem with the Surgeon General’s visit to the summit, the Los Angeles Times published an article about the cross-sector commitments to enhance and protect youth mental health and recognized Friends of the Children’s ongoing efforts to expand the training and clinical support for our Friends - paid, professional mentors.

“Friends of the Children remains committed to expanding the continuum of support through paid, professional mentoring – for 12+ years, no matter what. This can both increase the number of youth receiving evidence-based mental health and trauma mitigation services and also reduce the burden on existing systems of care,” said Terri Sorenson, CEO of Friends of the Children. “We thank Dr. Murthy for issuing the Surgeon General’s Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health, so others may join us to swiftly make substantial structural changes in how mental health services are provided."

Across our network, Friends of the Children is committed to expanding access and reducing barriers to mental health services for the youth we serve. We do this by:

  • IMPROVING ACCESS and reducing barriers to mental health services by destigmatizing mental health care, making direct connections to culturally-responsive providers, and providing transportation.
  • INCREASING ENGAGEMENT in mental health services by practicing skills outside the therapeutic context – at home, at school, and in the community; and supporting caregivers to do the same.
  • EXPANDING CAPACITY by working with clinicians to provide trauma-informed, evidence-based mental health interventions that meet the needs of youth who might not otherwise access counseling or therapeutic supports.

Friends of the Children’s commitment to improving the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults continues to evolve and expand as our program reaches new communities. As we grow our partnerships with Tribal communities and in response to the high prevalence of mental health challenges among Native youth, we are developing research-informed and culturally attuned adaptations of program materials and approaches. This will allow us to ensure that our services are grounded in the diversity of language, traditions, values, and strengths of Native communities. We are also integrating mental health and healing supports unique to Native communities into the training for our paid, professional mentors (Friends) and program staff.

The pandemic’s negative impacts have most heavily affected those who were vulnerable to begin with, which is why our sites like Friends of the Children – Los Angeles (Friends – LA) are working at the intersection of child welfare and mental health in the Antelope Valley. Friends – LA is expanding its training and clinical support for their Friends to increase the number of children and young people impacted by the child welfare system receiving evidence-based mental health and trauma mitigation services.

"Of all his accolades and roles, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has proudly continued to serve as a mental health change agent for youth and their families. His inspirational work has nationally impacted countless lives and under-served populations through his compassion, transparency, and awareness. Friends - LA commends his efforts in continuing to Put Children First." - Executive Director of Friends - LA, Jorie Das

Friends of the Children is honored to answer the call of the U.S. Surgeon General and is proud to be a part of the national efforts to enhance, support, and protect the mental health of young people across the country.

To learn more about the work happening at Friends – LA, please visit: