From The Executive Director

As we try to keep things normalized for the children and young people we serve, we recognize this time is anything but normal. Thank you for helping Friends of Children do its work in a time of great constraints. You help us make this vital work- especially during critical times - possible. Thanks for lifting us up so that we can do the same for them.

The concept of a safety net is one that many of us grapple with during this unprecedented time of challenge created by Covid-19. Friends of Children is observing dramatic change in the lives of foster care alumni being supported by our FOCUS program . The young people FOCUS serves (who have aged out of foster care) know trauma, crisis and uncertainty all too well. Their past suffering is compounded today by the isolation caused by the necessity of social distancing.

FOCUS continues to be on the front lines connecting with young people to break through isolation and to make certain we understand their emergency needs. Although restricted in having direct contact, FOCUS volunteers are stepping up their efforts to connect and consistently checking in with our young adults. Staff is reaching out to other providers through phone and virtual methods to offer support and maintain the most current information on resources.

This crisis period underscores just how fragile a safety net there is for youth aging out of foster care, and has shed a powerful light on how poorly prepared our child welfare system is to take care of children and young people. Our young people have been living paycheck to paycheck, and do not have family to support them in a time of financial and other hardships. We have been connecting with every young person in our program to provide emotional support and to connect them to critical and valuable resources. 

Here are some ways young people are being affected. 

  • One young person in her senior college year will not have a graduation. She had an on campus job that has abruptly ended. She continues to stay in her dorm room for a while until she finds alternative housing. Already accepted for a paid internship, she had to give it up as it can’t be done remotely. She has applied to an MSW program but that, too, seems up in the air. Her mentor is working alongside her to help her find housing. FOCUS staff is helping her access financial and other resources. 

  • Several of our young people are concerned that they can't pay for their utilities, rent, car insurance or food now that they are without a job. FOCUS is connecting to community resources and is tapping into Friends of Children’s Foster Dignity funds. But these resources are running extremely low.

  • The young people we serve are experiencing heightened anxiety due to their lack of a safety net. We are grateful to be in a partnership program with GRITX, developed by the University of California at San Francisco, that provides self-guided online exercises to youth who are managing strong feelings, anxiety and more.

Throughout, our mission remains the same. We continue to advocate for children and young people in, and aging out of foster care systems to promote their long-term well being. We are connecting with our volunteers and colleagues to make sure our net of safety is broadly cast. Friends of Children has always done whatever it takes to help young people thrive. In this crisis, we are doing everything we can to help young people survive . We need your help! Please contribute to Friends of Children and help us assist young people with basic needs.  

  • Rent
  • Car Insurance
  • Groceries
  • Housing Arrangements 
  • Utility Bills
  • Phone Bills
  • Household Supplies
  • Personal Care Supplies 

Thank you for supporting Friends of Children in these uncertain times! The need has never been greater.

Best to you always, 


Jane Lyons
Executive Director

Why have we created the FOCUS program? Because all emerging adults need a safety net, and kids exiting the child welfare system without family support don’t have one. Why is our model working? Because we meet young people where they are; we help them identify what they need and how to access supports; we teach them skills; and all of this is in the context of practicing trust building and healthy relationships. It is making an impact in the lives of young people.
In this third year of piloting FOCUS, we've made so many important connections to young adults who have aged out of the foster care system and to a growing list of partner organizations. We are so happy to watch this program grow! Currently, 30 young people have connected to FOCUS through mentorships, life skills and well being workshops, community engagement events, and accessing emergency funds. Our time with these amazing young people has underscored how foster care experience has created challenges in many ways that FOCUS helps surmount. They have incredible promise and many are well on their way to realizing this!
As we continue to grow, it’s crucial to assist young adult participants beyond basic needs and personal development. In the future, we will have opportunities to create events that underscore the community at FOCUS and to increase their social capital even more. 
You can apply to be a FOCUS participant or volunteer here . You can also contact FOCUS Program Coordinator Brianna Owen at 413-586-0011, ext. 104 to learn more about this program.
FOCUS participants recently had an opportunity to attend the MLK Legacy Day at Babson College. Steve Pemberton served as a keynote speaker and is the author of the book “A Chance In The World,” his personal memoir reflecting difficult challenges and his resilience in overcoming them as he grew up in the foster care system in Massachusetts. Pemberton spent time before the event meeting with FOCUS youth, and ensured that each participant would receive a copy of his book with his autograph.

Sergio had this to say about meeting Steve Pemberton: "At first I didn’t know who Steve Pemberton was, but I was interested in meeting him because I had been told he’s had experiences living in foster care before. When I shook his hand and briefly spoke with him, I admired how humble he is to be the person he grew up to be. After hearing him tell all of these memories and experiences he’s lived out, I felt it deep down inside. It was a pleasure to attend the event and meet someone who’s shared similar experiences as me through the foster care system. I will never forget that feeling and I praise Steve for enduring the challenges he faced that made him the great man he is today."
Friends of Children shares critical and important resources for foster children in the foster care system and those aged out of it. These resource connections are provided by staff and dedicated volunteers through our Foster Dignity, FOCUS, and CASA programs. You can call upon us anytime when you need help with getting connected to a resource for basic needs, personal development, or to help you reach your ambitions! Contact us here .
One helpful resource is The Answer Book for young people in foster care or aged out of foster care. There is much information in this booklet at the MassGov site, including information on transportation, housing, employment, immigration, and The Foster Care bill of rights. 
Here is a sampling of helpful information and resources: 

  • Knowing your rights when in or aging out of the foster care systems
  • Learning about action plans and service plans
  • Help with physical and mental health resources
  • Creating lifelong connections with caring adults
  • Transportation advice

You can access the booklet here .
Friends of Children will be sharing news about our work on a monthly basis. This month's issue is dedicated to the needs of young people in our FOCUS program. In April, our attention will turn to the work of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Friends of Children is also underscoring the need of our community to connect by launching Facebook groups for our volunteers and Instagram for FOCUS youth. We are doing everything we can to bring support to children, families and young adults in this challenging time.