October 21, 2019

Letter to the Editor in Fargo's InForum

"Professional mentoring program offers hope for F-M area youth."

Our Executive Director, John Fisher, and Board Chair, Sandra Roers, collaborated to write an op-ed that appeared in Fargo's InForum. Read the full letter below:

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that we want every child to have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their economic status. But too often, children who are born into poverty get stuck in a cycle that can be too hard to break free from.

Research has shown that a family’s economic status is a major predictor of how well a child will do in life. Children born into poverty are at a much greater risk for being impacted by homelessness, the foster care system, teen parenting, generational poverty, hunger, inadequate education and the criminal justice system.

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 to 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 here are children. Nearly all homeless youth (95 percent) and three-quarters of homeless adults (74 percent) have experienced some type of adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect or out-of-home placement.

Children in our community are facing great obstacles through no fault of their own. Parents and children need more support in order to break the cycle of generational poverty. This is why we are so thrilled to share that, due in large part to a catalytic $850,000 investment from the Stand Together Foundation; we are launching a new chapter of Friends of the Children in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Friends of the Children is a national organization that invests in salaried, professional mentors (called Friends) who stay with each child enrolled in the program from kindergarten through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what. Friends will spend 3 to 4 hours a week with each child, teaching them the skills needed to do well in school, build healthy relationships and enter adulthood prepared to succeed. In partnership with several community organizations, we will begin identifying and selecting children ages 4 to 6, who we believe can thrive with the support of a Friend.

A Return on Investment study conducted by the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon showed that for every $1 invested in the program, it returns $7 to the community. Investing in one child saves the community $900,000. In addition, a third-party evaluation of program graduates also showed that:

  • 83% of program youth graduate with a high school diploma or a GED;
  • 93% remain free from juvenile justice system involvement;
  • 98% wait until after their teen years to become parents; and
  • 92% go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country or find employment.

The Stand Together Foundation, which has vetted more than 2,000 nonprofit organizations to create a network of 140+ high-impact, high-performing nonprofit organizations, chose to invest in Friends of the Children because the data-driven model has shown to break the cycle of generational poverty.

Right now, there are thousands of children in the F-M community who could thrive with the support of a Friend–a consistent, caring adult. If we could give every one of these amazing children someone to walk by their side into adulthood, it would provide more hope for youth facing the greatest obstacles. That is what we intend to do.