Friends of the Children

Sparking generational change one story at a time
The Friends of the Children program has helped me over the last years in many different ways but has specifically helped me find myself as an individual. I’ve grown so much and just very thankful for those who helped me along the way.
– Program Youth

In the United States, there exists a wide opportunity gap for children desperate to succeed in school, but without the resources and guidance to do so. The most vulnerable students face multiple obstacles outside of school that make academic success hard to image. Many don’t have role models at home to set an example or encourage their pursuits. Without strong relationships with adults they can trust, children face barriers to social and emotional development, in addition to academic success. Without these relationships, the cycle of generational poverty persists.

The Solution

Friends of the Children works to close this opportunity gap by providing children facing the highest risks with the intentional relationships and core access to supportive adults they need to thrive emotionally and educationally. With a team of long-term, salaried, professional mentors from the local community, Friends of the Children commits to standing with their children—building confidence, helping with school, teaching emotional and social skills, and encouraging perseverance, a growth mindset, and grit—for 12.5 years of truly transformational development.

With Friends of the Children, children can unlock their creative potential in a consistent, stable, and safe setting, spending 12-16 intentional hours per month with their mentor, also called a Friend. Friends help students realize their own strengths and encourage students to find and pursue what they love. Through their time with Friends of the Children, students develop control over their lives, effectively pursue their dreams, and tap into a strong sense of purpose. Perhaps for the first time, students can articulate to their parents, peers, and teachers, “This is what I want to do”—and they do it.

Friends of the Children uniquely breaks the cycle of generational poverty in the children they mentor. Eighty-three percent of Friends’ youth graduate high school, 93 percent avoid the juvenile justice system, and, though 85 percent were born to a teen parent, 98 percent avoid early parenting. Additionally, studies have shown that for every dollar invested in Friends of the Children, the community benefits by sevenfold in saved social costs, and serving one child can save the community $900,000.

For these children, it was all a matter of finding their spark. Friends of the Children helped ignite it.

The Story

In 1992, The Campbell Institute for Children, founded by Duncan Campbell, conducted extensive research that clearly indicated the strongest single protective factor a child can have is a close, healthy, and sustained relationship with a caring adult. Recognizing the inherent resilience and potential of every child, Duncan established Friends of the Children in 1993, beginning with just three salaried, professional mentors called Friends serving 24 children. Today, they serve thousands of children across 14 locations and two countries, providing children with the support and guidance they need to become healthy and contributing members of their communities.

Stand Together Foundation Partnership

Friends of the Children is a 2017 Stand Together Foundation Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Friends of the Children receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.

Portland, OR
est. 1993
Terri Sorensen
Read bio
Terri is the national president of Friends of the Children, developing strategic direction, fundraising, expansion, and evaluation. Terri has diversified funding streams and raised over $75 million to expand and sustain the program during her tenure at Friends. Under her leadership, Friends of the Children won the 2014 Social Impact Exchange business plan competition and has launched five new sites in the past four years across the US and UK. In addition, Friends of the Children has led the field of mentoring with its rigorous evaluation: conducting a return on investment (ROI) study with the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon, securing a Social Innovation Fund sub-recipient award
Austin, TX
Boston, MA
Charlotte, NC
Chicago, IL
Cornwall, UK
New York, NY
Los Angeles, San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
Tampa, FL
Portland, Gresham, Klamath Basin, Central Oregon, OR
Success Metrics
of Friends of the Children youth graduate high school (60% had a parent that did not graduate)
avoid juvenile justice system (50% had one incarcerated parent)
avoid early parenting (85% were born to a teen parent)
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