Friends of the Children, a nonprofit that provides paid, intensively trained mentors to at-risk youth for more than a decade-long stints, has just named an executive director for their new Los Angeles affiliate.
The hire, Thomas G. Lee, has previously worked with foster youth in Los Angeles County. Most recently, he ran the Los Angeles Youth Collaborative, a project of the legal aid group Alliance for Children’s Rights that is dedicated to coordinating other public, private and nonprofit entities to provide training, employment and other opportunities to foster youth between ages 16 to 24.
Prior to running the Collaborative, Lee was a director at Hillsides Youth Moving On, where he helped provide a wider range of services to foster youth, including housing and mental health support. He also spent seven years as an English and literature teacher in Los Angeles-area high schools.
The new Los Angeles chapter of Friends of the Children will be notable for its emphasis on the population most at-risk of entering the foster care system: The children of parents who aged out of foster care themselves without ever finding a permanent adoptive home. Each child between ages 4 and 6 will be paired with mentors who will also have had experience with that system.
Friends has received much high-profile support since announcing their Los Angeles branch last fall, including financial contributions from Ballmer Group, ALL WAYS UP Foundation, Pritzker Foster Care Initiative, Russell Wilson and Ciara’s Why Not You Foundation, Premier Gives Back Foundation, ZÜM Media, and philanthropists Greg and Michele Goodwin and Byron and Cynthia Grant.
“This opportunity is a culmination of all of my work in the nonprofit and education space, where I can to bring all of those skillsets to bear,” said Lee in a release. “Los Angeles is primed for this program and can serve as a deep layer of support that compliments all the other great work happening throughout L.A. County.
The group is also about to get a promotional boost on PBS this month, thanks to a profile spot on the Sam Waterston*-hosted documentary show Visionaries. Friends’ commitment to provide trained, paid mentors for 12-and-a-half years distinguishes it from Big Brothers, Big Sisters and other models that commit volunteer mentors for shorter stretches.
Each Friends employee — who are often former teachers, social workers or group home counselors — works with eight kids, spending 16 hours per month on emotional and social development, schoolwork or extracurricular activities with each child.
Click here to read The Imprint‘s interview with CEO Terri Sorensen about Friends’ ambitious expansion plans for the coming years.
CORRECTION: April 13, 2018. A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Alan Alda as the host of Visionaries. Sam Waterston is the host.