United Friends of the Children is dedicated to the premise that foster youth deserve a successful adulthood.
Through our Housing and Education Programs, foster youth are provided with the opportunity to graduate from high school, attend and graduate from college, get a job, find housing and have a support system that moves them gradually towards independence.
Our goal is that the youth in our programs not only survive, but that they thrive.
United Friends of the Children has been changing the lives of foster youth since 1979.
Early advocacy efforts helped establish the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and the Foster Care Independence Act. Innovations in direct services span from co-founding the first transitional housing program in the nation to the creating an 11-year education support continuum that follows foster youth from the seventh grade through the completion of a bachelor’s degree.
In 1990, the organization created its College Sponsorship Program – providing college bound former foster youth with five years of financial and other support toward graduation. The program has evolved over the years in depth and approach, and is currently serving 183 young people at colleges and universities across the country. On average, 70% percent of youth graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
In 2001, UFC committed to a new strategic vision: “To be the preeminent foster care organization in Southern California recognized for its impact, both locally and beyond, in bettering the lives of foster children and empowering emancipated young adults.” It was agreed that in order to fulfill that vision, UFC should offer a comprehensive transitional living program in its existing housing facilities, supported by full-time UFC-employed social workers. It was further agreed that housing would be the anchor around which additional services like employment, counseling, and life skills would be offered. In addition, the plan expressed a desire to develop upstream interventions (i.e., College Readiness) leading to systemic change.
In 2002, UFC successfully implemented Pathways, a service-enriched transitional housing program which currently serves approximately 113 youth per year in seven facilities totaling 85 beds and an ever growing group of over 300 active alumni. UFC is in contact with 76% of all former program participants, 83% of whom are in stable housing and 64% of whom are employed.
In 2003, UFC launched the College Readiness program which was designed to ensure that foster youth in grades 7-12 had the skills and support to graduate from high school and go to college. There are currently 325 Readiness students in grades 7-12 with another 100 expected to join this fiscal year. Thus far we have had three senior classes graduate with the following outcomes: 97% earned a high school diploma and 97% went on to college with a full 67% gaining admission to a four-year college. Fifty percent of current Readiness students apply to and are accepted into UFC’s College Sponsorship Program, thus the 11-year continuum of support previously mentioned.
At the core of each UFC program is the belief that the best way to make a difference in the lives of foster youth is to provide a reliable relationship over time. Therefore, all of UFC’s programs focus on consistency. Our commitment to College Readiness students is for six years; College Sponsorship participants can count on our support for up to five years; Pathways participants can spend 18 to 24 months in program housing but the relationship is extended many years beyond that through our alumni program and in our permanent housing partnership at Casa Dominguez.
UFC uses its knowledge and experience to influence policy decisions, particularly at the regional level and is a frequent resource to others in Los Angeles and across the country, sharing program models, information and expertise. UFC staff members are also engaged in a very important, if less visible, form of advocacy every day, as they help youth navigate through the different systems that impact their lives (dependency, judicial, school, work, family etc.).