A National Foster Care Month Message

In celebration of Foster Care Month, we interviewed Yogesh (Yogi) Malik, Friends of Children Board member. Yogi, who is a Premier Banker at Greenfield Savings Bank, is on our Board of Directors and has been of great service to Friends of Children. He has also contributed to all of our operational and programmatic efforts. Thank you to Yogi, our Board of Directors, and all of our dedicated volunteers. With you, we are able to have a great impact on the lives of children and young adults in the foster care system across the state of Massachusetts! Here is the interview with Friends of Children staff member, Christine Dutton, Operations and Marketing Director.

Christine: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your interests. 

Yogi: I’m originally from Greenfield, Massachusetts. I received my undergraduate degree from Bentley University in finance, and an MBA from UMASS Amherst. I am grateful for my family, my mom, sister, brother, my wonderful wife, and our baby on the way. My hobbies include gardening, biking, working out, and reading.
Christine: What inspired you to join the board of Directors of Friends of Children? And, how do you continue to gain inspiration to support our mission?

Yogi: English isn’t my first language, and I am the first generation in my family to receive a college degree. One of the reasons I am where I am today is because of Upward Bound. Upward Bound is a nonprofit which helps first generation college students/low-income families, and I was fortunate to have their support. They helped me to meet the challenges of English as my second language and being a first generation college student.
Because I was supported as a young person, I felt a strong need to give back to my community. I looked at many opportunities, and I was greatly compelled by the work of Friends of Children. I was inspired to give back due to my personal experience of hardships, and I continue to receive inspiration by witnessing the work performed by Friends of Children.
Christine: Tell me about the other ways that you have served as a volunteer at Friends of Children.
Yogi: I am happy to chip in wherever needed. I have participated in events, and especially enjoyed volunteering at the Bridge of Flowers 10k race in Shelburne Falls. It was great to see the whole community come together for a fun, well‐loved event that supports small nonprofits in the Pioneer Valley! I also helped out at the art auction and the John Scibak champion event. I create awareness about Friends of Children through social media and help with fundraising efforts. Currently I am working together with a young adult in the FOCUS Membership Program on their financial plan.

Christine: Why is supporting foster children something you feel compelled to do?  

Yogi: Supporting people while they are young has a much greater impact on their lives. Sometimes early intervention with positive reinforcement can help with avoiding many problems with safety, personal growth, and well‐being. Building positive relationships is something we learn from our families at a young age. Many children who are neglected or abused suffer from not feeling the love and attachment of a parent. They also have difficulty with building other relationships later in life. Children suffer many consequences from not receiving the care and support that all children deserve. I am also very concerned that children without a stable family have poor academic performance which contributes to reducing the possibility of a successful life as an adult.
Christine: What does a child need in their life to have a strong sense of well‐being and a good chance at success?
The answers for this question are bottomless. You can go as deep as you are willing to dig. Some of the most essential needs for a child are love, care, support, and a sense of belonging, all of which comes from a family. Success is as one sees it. I personally believe that children with a lack of social capital and social resources are at a huge disadvantage, and we must do whatever we can to even the playing field.
Christine: What can you say about the impact of Friends of Children and the people we serve?
The impact made by Friends of children is enormous in terms of helping children feel
safe, and feel a sense of belonging and community. In fact, some children have told
me that “they are successful because of FOC,” or “they couldn’t imagine life without Friends of Children.” Another young adult shared with me that they would have not gotten an apartment if it was not for Friends of children. The staff works so hard and wisely, and are continuing on their journey to make an even bigger difference in the lives of children.
Christine: What are some of the most important issues to address to improve upon the child welfare system?
The issues have always been the same. There is a lack of basic needs and support for children.
This begs another question: who do the children need? We all need shelter, food, clothing and water. But, we have other needs that are only met from the care of another person, such as love, care, support, and teaching. I’m really proud of the work that Friends of Children does through their FOCUS Membership program. This program creates community, and shares benefits and resources. And, it also connects young adults aged out of foster care with opportunities for social networking, new relationships, trust building, and mentoring. There is a staggering need for young people to gain these important life‐changing supports to better succeed at education and in the workplace. 

Again, thank you to Yogi, and to all of the dedicated Friends of Children volunteers who make our work advocating and supporting children possible!