Friends of the Children (FOTC) is a Portland, Oregon-based international nonprofit that strives to close the opportunity gap and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty for young people ages 5 - 18+. FOTC targets children facing barriers like systemic poverty, structural racism, childhood trauma, foster care, underfunded schools, and homelessness and matches them with Friends (paid professional mentors). The Friends provide developmentally appropriate experiential teaching and modeling of healthy behaviors, directly coaching children on social-emotional skill development areas, referred to as “core assets” in the FOTC program model. At the close of this study, there were 493 youth still enrolled in FOTC at the seven participating sites across the country.
This evaluation’s three goals were to:
- Be an addition to the program’s existing body of evidence. It examined facilitators and challenges to implement the FOTC program in new sites and a new population—youth enrolled through the child welfare system or through referring partner agencies.
- Inform the development of the new quality improvement (QI) system for training, supporting and supervising program staff. This QI system will strengthen service delivery at existing sites and ensure that new sites are set up for success during launch and on-boarding.
- Add to the body of evidence about mentoring programs in general.
The evaluation includes research questions for the outcome and implementation. The research questions include:
- Outcomes study:
- Does participation in FOTC result in a decreased length of stay in foster care?
- Does participation in FOTC result in a reduced number of placements?
- Does participation in FOTC result in a faster time to permanency?
- Does FOTC participation increase the likelihood of achieving permanency?
- Does participation in FOTC reduce number of re-entries to care?
- Does participation in FOTC reduce number of removals?
- Implementation study:
- To what extent did Friends implement the FOTC program model with program participants?
- Which features of the FOTC settings appear to be associated with the successful implementation of the program model with children?
- Was the Friends’ professional development capacity building (e.g., Friend training and supervision) implemented with fidelity?
- Does participation in FOTC improve parent’s perceptions of gains in children’s socio-emotional learning and their own parenting efficacy?
- What strategies are effective in surveying caregivers of children participating in the program?
- Does participation in FOTC improve parent’s perceptions of family stability?
- Does participation in FOTC improve positive relationship building and self-management?
- Does participation in FOTC improve children’s school behavior as measured by disciplinary incidents?
- Does participation in FOTC improve grade-level academic performance as measured by reading and math proficiency on standardized tests?
- Does participation in FOTC improve school attendance as measured by absenteeism?
The evaluation found the following:
- The implementation evaluation found that program sites generally implemented the model with fidelity, with all sites, on average, achieving the targeted number of school and caregiver contacts each month. Sites struggled the most with achieving the targeted number of hours with youth due to COVID-related safety precautions.
- Findings from the caregiver survey indicate that FOTC helped caregivers strengthen family relationships and parenting and connected them to concrete supports that promoted family well-being.
- The child welfare exploratory outcomes study found that program youth (FOTC-enrolled) had a significantly decreased length of stay in foster care (an average of 399 days) compared to the comparison group (an average of 576 days).
- The school study was exploratory and limited due to challenges identifying an appropriate comparison group with administrative data. Findings confirmed those in FOTC’s randomized control trial (RCT) study namely that the program’s impacts during the early years are not demonstrable using school administrative data. Caregivers’ reports of significant youth progress on key social-emotional skills are aligned with early learning research and are more illustrative of the program’s impact at school in the elementary years.
For more information, download the full report, brief, and caregiver report.
Friends of the Children