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Systemic barriers negatively affect youth of color and perpetuate the cycles of generational poverty

Youth enrolled in Friends of the Children – Seattle have great potential, but they face immense barriers by no fault of their own. Most have experienced multiple transitions and almost half (40%) have lived with relatives or in foster care. For every child we are able to enroll in Friends of the Children there are many more youth in South Seattle we are unable to serve.

As a result of these systemic barriers, our youth have experienced one or more of the following: poverty; moved two or more times; attended two or more schools; changed caregivers; lived in foster care or with relatives; faced home and food insecurity; and experienced parents who have been incarcerated. These risk factors lead to a higher threat of school failure, involvement with the juvenile justice system, and teen parenting.

Research shows that youth have a better chance at positive adulthood when they don't interact with the juvenile legal system. Yet, the youth of color enrolled in our program disproportionately experience harsher disciplinary actions than their white counterparts beginning in kindergarten. When kids are not in school they aren’t learning.

According to Communitiescount.org, in Seattle’s neighborhoods, adolescent birth rates rose as poverty increased. Which means, according to the same website, that teen girls living in neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates were more than 11 times more likely to give birth than those living in neighborhoods with the lowest poverty levels. When our youth are having children at a young age the chances of them graduating high school prepared for success are minimal.

Having a professional mentor changes this equation for every child enrolled in Friends of the Children.