This week, the national organization Friends of the Children announced the launch of a Colorado Springs chapter. The 24th location nationwide, Friends of the Children — Colorado Springs will serve children with unique talents, varied interests and big dreams, who are also facing a lot of adversity. Friends —Colorado Springs will select children as young as 4 to support them and their families to achieve their individual goals through our proven 12+ year approach.
Each child will be paired with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend whose full-time job will be to stay with each child from as early as age 4 through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what. As part of our program, we will be implementing a Two-Generation (2Gen) approach that focuses on supporting youths and their caregivers to achieve overall health and well-being.
In partnership with the child welfare system and CPCD, giving children a head start in El Paso County, Friends of the Children will enroll children —and by extension their families — who face significant challenges and are at increased risk of entry or reentry into the foster care system. The goal is to prevent further involvement in the system by providing hope-inspiring services that mitigate trauma for the child and caregivers.
The organization joins a community of champions for children dedicated to similar goals of creating a web of support for families who live in Colorado Springs. In a time when COVID-19 has exacerbated difficult circumstances, we want to offer support to families who are facing the greatest challenges as they continue to push toward their goals.
The Friends of the Children model is distinct, courageous and proven. The model redefined the youth mentoring field by creating the first and only long-term professional mentoring program in the country.
The model works because Friends, who are paid a full-time salary to work with eight youths and families, spend four hours a week with each child at school, at home and in the community. They work to build trusting relationships with children and their families through a trauma-informed lens that is culturally informed and provides critical social-emotional and academic support.
The data-driven program has a big impact on the lives of children: 92% go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or enter the workforce; 83% of program youth receive a high school diploma or GED; 93% remain free from juvenile justice system involvement; and 98% successfully wait to become parents until after their teens.
Caregivers also report significant positive changes when a Friend is in their lives: 84% say their family relationships are stronger; 88% say their home is a more positive place to be; 92% say their Friend helped stabilize their family; and 91% say they can better support their child’s school success because of their Friend.
Friends — Colorado Springs is fortunate to have established relationships with many committed supporters in Colorado who are leveraging their networks on our behalf, particularly in the Colorado Springs community, including SCHEELS, The Norwood Foundation, Dakota Foundation, Stand Together Foundation and the Morgridge Family Foundation. It’s with these joint efforts that we can create paths for children and their families to achieve their goals.
The chance to bring a program like Friends of the Children to Colorado Springs, with a promise to serve youth for over a decade at a time, is one that we care deeply about. The bonds formed within this organization will be life-changing and we look forward to seeing the impact grow as this new chapter launches.
Learn more at friendsofthechildren.org/Colorado-Springs.
Debra Wynn is a community leader and retired educator; Noreen Landis-Tyson is the president and CEO of CPCD; Cory Tweden is the store leader of SCHEELS in Colorado Springs; all three are founding board members of Friends of the Children – Colorado Springs.