May 17, 2022

Working Together to Build a Stronger Village for Children

A mental health journey of healing and recovery by improving access to mental health services for youth and their caregiver

Michael, a 7-year-old enrolled in Friends of the Children – Los Angeles, is one of five children living with Grandma Regina. Before coming into their grandmother’s care, Michael and his siblings faced numerous obstacles - including poverty and homelessness - that resulted in chronic stress and trauma. In response to these experiences, Michael began exhibiting externalizing behaviors and needed a connection to mental health services.

Our Friends – paid, professional mentors - work hard to make sure youth and their caregivers have their needs met and often facilitate connection to concrete resources, including accessing mental and behavior health supports. As Michael and his grandmother began to share how Friends – Los Angeles could support them, the program worked to safeguard mental health care for the family from a wraparound team – engaged by a facilitator and a child and family specialist, among other health providers.

Creating safe spaces to process and heal is not an isolated effort at Friends of the Children. The program’s one-on-one support has not only positively impacted Michael, but also Grandma Regina. Our “no matter what” commitment to families for 12+ years creates the opportunity to ensure that children and families feel seen, heard and understood. For Michael and Grandma Regina, this includes regular check-ins and conversations grounded in scientifically validated mental health approaches.

Mental health challenges are never easy to talk about, but as Michael’s Friend James built a trusting relationship with Michael and his family, they began to share more about what they’d been through and what they needed to heal. “The courage and the resilience it took to share their experience with us and to not feel judged and to continue to open up shows the trust they have in Friends of the Children,” said James.

Through regular check-ins, James and Lora, the Friends – Los Angeles Caregiver Engagement Specialist, provide information and support that help Michael’s Grandmother better understand the therapeutic process. This allows her to better support him as he learns to cope and to discover ways in which she can contribute to his healing. She’s also able to focus on her own wellbeing, creating space for even stronger bonds between her and her grandchildren.

Michael’s Grandmother said, “Friends - Los Angeles’ willingness to be of service and to go above and beyond the call of duty has exceeded all expectations.” Grandma Regina acknowledges that it takes a village to raise her grandchildren and is grateful that Friends of the Children is part of her village. To have the Friends team to talk to and to support her has been “a breath of fresh air” says Regina.

We celebrate Friends – Los Angeles for the transformative work they are doing to build the kind of safe, supportive environments that all children deserve. Over the past year, the milestones Michael and his family have already accomplished in their mental health journey are truly inspiring. Friends of the Children is committed to protecting and prioritizing children at higher risk of mental health challenges and will continue to support Michael and Grandma Regina, no matter what.

*Names Changed for Privacy