Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead, a chapter of the Friends of the Children-National network, is making an impact in our local community, one youth at a time.
Founded in 2019, Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead has already connected 35 children with a “Friend,” a full-time paid and trained professional mentor who supports their mentee through their challenging life situations, starting as early as the age of four and through high school graduation.
All of the children under consideration for a mentor by Friends of the Children undergo a risk and protective factor assessment which measures the number of protective factors in the child’s life (things like being in a two-parent household and being above the poverty line) against the number of the risk factors in the child’s life (things like being in a one-parent household where substance abuse is present and the family is living below the poverty line). The Friends of the Children program is looking to work with the children facing the most challenging life situations in order to make a lasting social and economic impact on the community.
Children are ultimately enrolled in the program between the ages of four and six because Friends of the Children’s promise is to commit to 4 hours of one-on-one mentoring with each child, every week, for “12+ years, No Matter What.”
The Goal of the Program
According to Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead Executive Director John Fisher, the goals of the program are to “help guide academic success, making healthy choices, and promote social emotional development.”
To do this, the four hours spent with the children usually include two hours spent in the classroom during the school year (this can include in-class and out-of-class work depending on the child’s specific needs) and two hours outside of the classroom, which can include things as simple as a fun activity.
“We call it camouflage mentoring,” said Fisher. “During the summer, we had some boys who love to go fishing. There’s nothing in these children’s stories that would make you think that they would like fishing. They didn’t grow up around it, but it’s something that they’ve always wanted. So one of the Friends went out and bought fishing poles and took them fishing. When they’re out there casting their lines, they’re talking about how the week is going. What some of the challenges they’ve been facing are. The Friend does preparation before they go and they’re always building on what they’ve been working on.
So, if they’re working on some social-emotional development, they’re talking about the outbursts that happened at their house last week. They’ll also just work to teach them life skills. Maybe the child is in a family that is really struggling with basic cleanliness in their home and their building superintendent is starting to talk to them about eviction. Well, the Friend will start working with them on how they can start to clean up after themselves. It might make sense to the child to just leave trash on the ground, but it will help if you show them that this will also keep their home clean.”
Through improvements in academics and social/emotional development, the national Friends of the Children program has managed to make an impressive statistical impact.
- 92% of youth go on to enroll in
post-secondary education, serve
our country, or enter the workforce
- 93% of youth remain free from
juvenile justice system involvement
- 83% of youth earn a high school
diploma or a GED
- 98% of youth wait to parent until
after their teen years
And although every participant in the Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead program is in the 3rd grade or below, there has already been remarkable success for some of the children.
For every 100 Friends of the Children graduates, society gains:
- 24 more high school or college graduates
- 59 fewer teen parents
- 30 fewer people getting an early start in prison and correspondingly fewer victims of the crimes they would have committed.
*Stats compiled by The Harvard Business School Association of Oregon
“We have a kiddo that was well below where she was supposed to be for her reading level when she started in our program,” said Fisher. “Now, as of a month ago, she is a grade-level ahead of where she is supposed to be. No, we can’t take all of the credit for that, but we are definitely making a difference there.”
Who are the Friends?
Most of the Friends that are hired have a four-year degree due to the program’s high importance on academics, however, it doesn’t matter what the degree is in. Prior to starting with Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead, most of the friends have also worked for more than three years, in youth-serving work.
“We are looking for people who have intensive youth-serving experience” said Fisher. “We also want people that understand trauma. They don’t necessarily have to be trained in it when they start with us because we do a lot of that, but we want them to at least understand it and have a heart for that because, unfortunately, a lot of the children we work with have experienced some kind of a trauma.”
How Can The Community Help?
Donations are a huge component of any nonprofit’s success and Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead is no different. In fact, the average cost of supporting each child in the program through grade 12, is $150,000-180,000. And while that may seem like a lot, that investment saves, on average, over $900,000 in social costs according to The Harvard Business School Association of Oregon.
“According to the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon, for every $1 invested in our organization, $7 is returned to the community.”
If monetary donations aren’t possible for you, Friends of the Children Fargo-Moorhead will have volunteer opportunities available soon. They are also looking for qualified applicants to work full-time as Friends.
To learn more, visit friendsfargomoorhead.org.