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January 23, 2020

Meet Janie from Friends of the Children–Los Angeles

Janie supports youth and families in our Two-Generation program and received a 2019 Veronica Award

For National Mentoring Month, we’re excited to celebrate and recognize Janie Escalle, a Friend from our Friends of the Children–Los Angeles chapter, who received a Superstar Friend Award in 2019. As a result of her hard work and dedication, Janie is one of the 2019 Veronica Award recipients from the Superstar Foundation. This award is given to individuals who use data to succeed in fields that revolve around social service.

At a young age, Janie always knew she enjoyed helping and taking care of others. As a teenager, she was a babysitter for her neighbors’ children. In high school, she volunteered at hospitals with postpartum patients. Then in college, she was an intern for organizations and foundations that worked with youth who were placed in foster care. All of these experiences ultimately led her to pursue a master’s degree in social work and working as a social worker for a short period of time. Although Janie knew that she was making an impact with her work, she wasn’t necessarily doing it in the way that she had hoped. As a social worker, she moved from case-to-case, child-to-child very quickly. This meant not having an opportunity to interact, build and nurture relationships with the children. When Janie found out about the opportunity to become a Friend for Friends–L.A., she knew this was exactly what she wanted to do.

Janie started working at Friends of the Children in June of 2018 and has been excelling at her position as a Friend ever since. Growing up, Janie valued the support and mentorship she had from friends, family and community members. Janie said, “I am grateful for the village that it took to raise me, and in recognizing that I want to push it forward.” Janie’s colleagues have stated that “Janie is constantly recognized by caregivers and school staff for the work she does with her youth and the progress made by her youth. She takes her role as a Friend seriously, and it’s evident through her work with her youth and families.”

A typical week for Janie is almost never the same. Janie splits her time evenly, spending half of her time with her youth at school and the other half outside of school. During school, she emphasizes building relationships with her youth’s teachers and peers in order to best support them academically. Outside of school, Janie helps youth Find Their Spark while keeping a focus on education. Some of the activities she does with her youth include trips to the museum to see exhibits, or a visit to the veterinarian’s office to empower a child who has an interest in working with animals.

Janie not only works with youth but also with parents and caregivers under our Two-Generation (2Gen) approach that we have piloted in Los Angeles and New York. Janie spends time with the youth’s caregiver in order to help understand the needs of both the family and the child. The time spent with families allows Janie and the caregiver to plan out their child’s future. Janie’s path to becoming a successful Friend has not always been easy. There was a time where a youth’s caregiver did not trust Janie at all. The caregiver would limit the amount of time Janie could spend with the youth. Although it was difficult at first, Janie was determined and leaned into one of our values: Building Relationships on Love. Janie made sure to show the youth and caregiver that she would be there consistently to provide them both support. Some of the ways Janie shows her support is by attending youth’s awards ceremonies, watching the youth while the parent sought employment, picking the youth up from school, being present during a crisis and even helping plan regular trips to the doctor. Janie said, “Many of our families aren’t used to people being consistent in their life, and by being consistent, it establishes trust.”

Having a background in social and emotional development within children has allowed Janie to work with diverse populations. “Breaking the mold opens doors to what these children might have never seen or experienced,” said Janie. Throughout her experience thus far, she has learned that patience and flexibility are a must. Figuring out what works best for the youth, learning to be patient with the youth and being flexible is crucial for success. She also said she knows that it is ok not to get something right the first time. With strong long-term relationships, both Janie and her youth are able to learn and grow together. Youth in the program are learning self-confidence and self- love, which is something that Janie strives for in all children. “I want to believe in my youth so much, so that they can also believe in themselves.”

Thank you, Janie, for all your hard work and congratulations on being a Veronica Award recipient!