Barger proposes mentor pilot program in the Antelope Valley to support youth development

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – A motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn directing the Department of Mental Health to partner with Friends of the Children Los Angeles (Friends L.A.) on a pilot project in the Antelope Valley, was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors. 

The mission of Friends L.A. is to identify at-risk youth and dedicate resources to them for their entire childhood to break the cycles of child welfare and juvenile justice systems involvement. The program does this by matching youth and their parents with a full-time professional mentor known as a friend, which helps them navigate resources and support from kindergarten through high school graduation.

“The pilot program we adopted today will support the development of a professional mentoring model that will enhance support for children in the Antelope Valley who are most at risk for abuse or neglect,” said Supervisor Barger. 

Data from the national Friends of the Children program demonstrates that youth in foster care paired with a mentor have shorter lengths of stay and re-enter care less often than youth without one.  Families and caregivers of youth in the program report feeling better connected to resources, improved skills as advocates and parents, and stronger relationships with their children and their communities.

Of youth in the program, 83% graduate from high school (even though 60% of their parents didn’t); 93% of youth avoid the juvenile justice system (even though more than 50% have a parent who was impacted by the criminal justice system); and 98% of youth avoid parenting as teens (even though 85% were born to a teen parent themselves).

The Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Mental Health will report back to the Board in 60 days with a comprehensive update on their progress.

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