Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children facing the greatest obstacles with a salaried, professional mentor (called a Friend) for 12+ years, announced today that they are launching the Friends of the Children—Fargo-Moorhead chapter and have named Fargo-Moorhead area resident John Fisher as the executive director.
“I am thrilled and honored at the opportunity to lead efforts in launching this chapter of Friends of the Children,” said Fisher. “I know from my previous youth advocacy work in the community that this early intervention and prevention model can ensure that our children facing the toughest challenges have more choices and more opportunities as they enter adulthood.”
Friends—Fargo-Moorhead will partner with several community organizations to identify and select children ages 4-6 years for enrollment in the program. Each child will be paired with a Friend who will spend 3-4 hours a week one-on-one with each child from kindergarten through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what.
Funding for the Fargo-Moorhead chapter came through a catalytic $850,000 investment through the Stand Together Foundation, as well as support from other Fargo area residents including Sandra Roers, Elieen Scheels, Tracey Frei and Karen Kline.
“I am so pleased to be part of the efforts to bring a Friends of the Children chapter to our community,” said Fargo resident and Friends—Fargo-Moorhead board chair Sandra Roers. “When I learned about the model, I knew that this could make a tremendous difference in the lives of children in our community. I want to do everything I can to make this program successful for Fargo youth.”
Over the course of their 12 ½ years in the program, youth selected for Friends—Fargo-Moorhead will have a consistent, caring adult by their side to navigate tremendous transitions and develop core assets like hope and perseverance to overcome obstacles. A third party evaluation of Friends of the Children program graduates showed that:
- 83% of program youth receive a high school diploma or GED
- 93% remain free from involvement in the juvenile justice system
- 98% successfully delay parenting until after their teen years
- 92% of graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, enlist in the military or find employment
In both North Dakota and Minnesota, the number of youth experiencing foster care is increasing. On any given day in Fargo-Moorhead, at least 50 children ages 4-6 are in foster care. Parental substance abuse is now the leading reason for a child's placement in foster care in North Dakota and Minnesota. Additionally, 1 in 5 people who are homeless in Fargo and Moorhead are children. Nearly all homeless youth (95%) and three-quarters of homeless adults (74%) in Fargo-Moorhead have experienced some type of adverse childhood experience such as abuse, neglect, or out-of-home placement.
“Our goal is to strengthen communities in Fargo and across the country by investing in organizations led by social entrepreneurs that break barriers for individuals in poverty so that they can realize their full potential,” said Evan Feinberg, executive director of the Stand Together Foundation. “We have vetted more than 2,000 non-profit organizations, including Friends of the Children. We know that their innovative approach will empower Fargo area families to break the cycle of generational poverty.”
“We have seen the impact a Friend can have on a child’s life for more than 25 years” said Terri Sorensen, national CEO of Friends of the Children. “We are grateful that we can provide that to Fargo-Moorhead youth and we are confident that John is the right leader.”
The organization is in the process of building a local board of directors and hiring program staff. Interested candidates can visit friendsfargomoorhead.org for a list of open positions.