Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit that is breaking the cycle of generational poverty by giving children facing the greatest obstacles the ability to create a new story. We do this by providing the most vulnerable children with a long-term, salaried, professional mentor, called a Friend, from kindergarten through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what.
Entrepreneur Duncan. Campbell's own troubled youth provided the impetus for founding Friends of the Children in 1993. We began with 3 salaried mentors (called Friends) serving 24 children in Portland. Today Friends reached thousands of children in over 540 schools across the nation. Our successful model is in 22 locations.
Our children have a high degree of vulnerability to school failure, gang and drug involvement and teen pregnancy. Many of our children have faced poverty, homelessness, neglect, abuse, foster care, parental incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. We work with our children 12+ years – from kindergarten through graduation and entry to post-secondary education and the workforce.
Friends are full-time, salaried professionals who spend 3-4 hours per week with each of their children, teaching valuable life skills, instilling positive behaviors, and helping them grow into responsible adults.
Research has shown that the most important factor for building resiliency in children who face the greatest obstacles is a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult. Here are the six elements of our model:
One: Children facing the greatest obstacles
We select the children who are facing the greatest obstacles. Our children are statistically at risk of continuing the cycle of poverty in their own lives. 50% have parents who did not have the support necessary to graduate high school. 60% have parents who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. 85% have parents who started parenting during their teen years.
Two: Professional Mentors (Friends)
We employ and train salaried, professional mentors called Friends. Moving mentorship out of the volunteer realm is a key component to getting the quality, consistency and commitment that our children need. Several of our Friends have been with us for 20 years; the average tenure is over 5 years.
Three: Commit to the long haul
We commit to every child for the long term, from kindergarten through high school graduation. 12+ years, no matter what.
Four: Individualized and intentional
We focus on the growth potential for each child. Each child gets a dedicated, one-on-one Friend who spends a minimum of 16 intentional hours per month with them. We develop a roadmap for each child and design activities to build life skills. We create meaningful experiences to explore each child's unique talents and interests.
Five: Home, School, Community
We work in and with the child's community. Friends spend time in each's child's home, school, neighborhood, and community. They are able to provide continuity in these often unstable environments and to serve as a link between the different facets of the child's life. This means we advocate for children at their school and become someone their family trusts in emergencies.
Six: Evaluate, Measure, Improve
We evaluate, measure, and improve. We are in an ongoing longitudinal randomized controlled trial conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of Washington, Princeton University, and the University of Oregon. We are also assessed annually be an independent third-party evaluator. This allows us to continue to identify ways to make our program stronger.
Third-party evaluation of program graduates shows that:
• 83% of our youth graduate with a high school diploma or a GED;
• 93% remain free from juvenile justice system involvement;
• 98% wait until after their teen years to become parents; and
• 92% go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or enter the workforce.