What We Do
Mercy Home’s Friends First mentoring program matches children in need with positive adult role models. Since 1987, the program has introduced more than 1,000 children to carefully-screened and prepared mentors and is currently supporting approximately 75 active matches.
Friends First screens and trains adult volunteers who wish to mentor a child. We provide ongoing support, supervision and encouragement to matches. Through professional staff services, we help to foster the formation of significant and life-changing friendships.
In addition, Friends First offers support and referral services to families to help address the underlying challenges that impact many of our children and families.
Who We Serve
Friends First serves at-risk youth between the ages of 9 and 17 in many areas of Chicago and some nearby suburbs.
African Americans and Latinos represent over two-thirds of the children we serve. Our children are predominantly from single-parent and low-income homes. The majority of the 60 youth currently waiting to be matched with mentors are boys.
How We Make a Difference
A study conducted by Public/Private Ventures shows that children in mentoring programs similar to Friends First are less likely to skip school or start using drugs or alcohol. They are also more likely than their peers to develop a more trusting and supportive relationship with their parents.
Consistency is critical to positive mentoring. More than 60% of our current matches have continued to mentor beyond their initial one year commitment.
To ensure successful, impactful matches, Friends First staff offers support above and beyond what is provided in typical mentoring programs. This includes providing access to a licensed psychologist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our staff is on a first-name basis with every mentor and child and considers all of our families and volunteers to be part of the Mercy Home community.
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Friends First is fully accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Children and Families (COA) and is recognized for achieving the highest standards of excellence.