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Colorado Springs 'Friends of the Children' helps kids facing barriers

"We commit to each child for 12+ years. Each child is paired with a professional mentor that provides support to the parent, giving a holistic approach to uplifting the entire family."
Posted at 12:22 PM, Jun 12, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The latest data shows that in 2023, the El Paso County child welfare system received more than 18- thousand referrals for child neglect and abuse. Judy Cara took notice of the kids are left fighting against the systemic challenges they’re born into; Homelessness, foster care, and generational poverty. Cara wanted to make a change and now heads the only Colorado chapter of Friends of the Children

The program matches these young kids with a professional mentor to support and nurture them through their school years and beyond. Cara, Executive Director of Friends of the Children, Colorado Springs explains, “The kids are enrolled between the ages 4-6 and our mentors stay with them for 12 years or so. These are children who have faced some pretty significant challenges, including poverty.”

Cara reached out to me to spread the word and bring more resources to families who need it. So I spent the day with them to see the change this program is making in Colorado Springs. This is where I met professional mentor, Sarah Reynolds. Each week, Reynolds comes alongside the children to help with critical social, emotional and academic needs, “Knowing that I’m gonna be there, showing up in their schools whether that be helping with math or sitting in the lunchroom so they have a friend.”

The mentors not only help the kids to reach goals and build life skills, but the parents as well. “I’m a single mama, I work all the time. They ask, ‘do you need a couple hours off? You can drop off at the clubhouse or I can pick her up and make it easier on you,’” Lexie Garcia has her daughter enrolled in the program and since doing so she says she went from having trouble in school to now being student of the month three months in a row.

When things get tight at home Friends of the Children is there to help with groceries and necessities like jacket, boots and backpacks for school. The program offers families library cards, memberships to the YMCA and free tickets to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. These are all places many of the children had never been before joining the program.

A third-party evaluation of Friends of the Children program graduates showed that: 92% of graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country or enter the workforce; 83% of youth obtain a high school diploma or GED; By comparison, the high school graduation rate for young people experiencing foster care in Colorado is just 30%.

Friends of the Children is dependent on grants from local foundations and corporations, individual donors it does take significant funding. They have a really fun way you can support them coming up. Friends of the Children is doingChristmas in Juneat Scheels on Sunday Jun 23rd at 7:00 pm.

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