Giving Compass' Take:

• The Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals early results of a study on mentoring for foster families. The program has already produced benefits for children. 

• How can your community build a sustainable mentoring program for foster families? What forms of support do families most need? 

• Learn about the importance of permanent families for foster children

The nonprofit Friends of the Children, which receives support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, aims to break the cycle of generational poverty by pairing professional mentors with kids who are involved in the child welfare system. Implemented at 15 sites nationwide, the Friends of the Children model is rooted in research that indicates stable relationships with caring adults can pave the way for children to develop socially, emotionally and, even, cognitively.

A pilot adaptation has taken the program’s support a step further — extending its reach to caregivers — and it’s an approach that seems to be working, according to a yearlong evaluation by the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group.

This information helped researchers understand how Friends functioned in the families’ lives and the three types of support that the families found most valuable. These were:

  • Connecting the entire family to resources such as counseling, transportation assistance and material resources such as food and clothing;
  • Empowering caregiver participation in school-related activities, such as supporting special needs and navigating individualized education planning; and
  • Supporting youth to self-regulate and build positive relationships while also helping caregivers to navigate behavioral challenges.

The study’s influence is already apparent. Its results have helped shape the organization’s next two-generation initiative — an effort focused on young parents who have experienced foster care and their children, according to Susan Walsh, Friends of the Children’s director of research.

Read the full article about mentorship for foster families at The Annie E. Casey Foundation.