By: AIF Staff
Earlier this year, AIF President and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced 7 non-profit organizations across the country would receive financial support and strategic assistance from the American Idea Foundation in 2023 as they continue their amazing work of expanding economic opportunities and reducing poverty in their communities.
Ryan’s goal in providing this support is to help front-line organizations identify, test, and evaluate promising interventions and solutions so that their true impact can be measured and so their solutions can be scaled (if and when the results merit).
The hope is by having more evidence and better evidence and by incorporating evidentiary findings into their programming, these non-profits and the federal government can do more to help individuals in need. A commitment to using evidence and data to solve problems is one of the main characteristics that the American Idea Foundation looks for when partnering with organizations, and it’s why the Foundation is excited to support Friends of the Children in the year ahead.
Friends of the Children is a national non-profit organization, operating in 33 different communities, that selects and invites youth – all of whom have unique talents, interests and dreams, and face multiple systemic obstacles – to be paired with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend. The organization hires and trains Friends to support youth from as early as age 4 through high school graduation. They are a long-term intervention and the Friends’ full-time job is to empower and support youths and their caregivers.
Friends of the Children revolutionized the youth mentoring field by creating the first and only long-term professional mentoring program in the country. Each child gets a dedicated, one-on-one Friend who listens to their hopes and dreams. Friends spend a minimum of 14 to 16 intentional hours per month with each child. They encourage their child to set – and achieve – specific goals. Friends also create meaningful experiences that empower youth to build life skills and make healthy choices while exploring the child’s diverse talents and interests.
The Friends of the Children model is centered around nine Core Assets that ensure the social and emotional development of youths. These Assets include: Growth Mindset, Hope, Belonging, Problem Solving, Self-Management, Self Determination, Perseverance, Finding your Spark, and Positive Relationship building.
The Friends of the Children 2022 Annual Report shows that while they are about developing lasting, long-term relationships that benefit our youth, they are also focused on data and evidence. Friends of the Children is regularly collecting data and conducting research and evaluations to drive improvements. They are currently engaged in a longitudinal RCT with NYU and the University of Washington to study the program’s impact. The longitudinal study, currently in its 15th year, is the longest-running youth mentoring RCT in the country and will be completed in 2026.
In the upcoming year, the American Idea Foundation will help support Friends of the Children’s existing research and evaluation and also help fund its 2nd-generation longitudinal study. This research aims to maximize the effectiveness of Friends of the Children’s work in terms of child welfare and self-sufficiency. For decades, Friends of the Children has been a leader in using evidence to evaluate the impact of their program. They are making an enormous difference across the country and the American Idea Foundation is proud to assist them in bettering more children’s lives.