HOW IT WORKS

The Generational Change Model

Research has shown that the single most important factor for building resiliency in children who face the highest risks is a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult.

The Model
ONE

We select the children facing the highest risks.

Our children are statistically at serious risk of continuing the cycle of poverty in their own lives.

  • 60% have parents who did not graduate high school.
  • 50% of our youth have parents who were incarcerated.
  • 85% of our youth were born to a teen parent.
TWO

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 7 years.

THREE

We commit for the long term.

We commit to every child for the long term, from kindergarten through high school graduation. 12 ½ years. No matter what.

FOUR

We focus on the complete transformation of 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 road map for each child and design activities to build life skills. We create meaningful experiences to explore each child’s unique talents and interests.

FIVE

We work in and with the child's community.

Friends spend time in each 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

We evaluate, measure, and improve.

We are in an ongoing longitudinal randomized control trial conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of Washington, Princeton University, and University of Oregon. We are also assessed annually by an independent third-party evaluator. This allows us to continue to identify ways to make our program stronger.

A Friend In Action

It isn't just a job.

We call our professional mentors "Friends" because it isn't just a job. They are forming meaningful relationships with our youth that last for years. This could look like:

  • Helping a child’s math skills by counting successful free throws
  • Helping a child find constructive outlets for stress and frustration
  • Advocating for a special education service at a child's middle school
  • Being the consistent adult in a child's life as they move from placement to placement in the foster care system

Often, the Friend is the first person the family calls when a crisis occurs.

Our Values

Our values guide us to achieve our mission. We use our values to make informed decisions and change the way the world treats and views our most vulnerable youth.

Put Children First

We intentionally serve youth who are facing the greatest obstacles. To help our youth discover their limitless potential, we foster their internal resiliency. We listen to our youth and base decisions on each youth's needs and dreams. We prioritize self-care so that we bring our best selves to our work and focus on our youth. 

Build Relationships on Love

We nurture long-term relationships from a foundation of love, acceptance, and culturally-informed practice. We don't give up easily and take a no-matter-what approach to our work. We commit for the long-term. We intentionally develop collaborative relationships over time with trust, empathy, and healthy communication. We believe that we build community through one-on-one connections that are authentic, respectful, and meaningful. 

Commit to Empowerment

We leverage personal strengths to take ownership of our futures. We build relationships within the communities of our youth and families to strengthen social networks and provide bridges to new opportunities. We consistently inspire possibility through empathy, hard work, and fun. We model all of this for our youth, families and each other. 

Pursue Goals Relentlessly

We celebrate all achievements, big and small. We are disciplined in our commitment to goals, while innovative in how we reach them. We believe that the definition of success requires intentional reflection and adjustment over time. We work together and hold ourselves accountable with data to achieve short and long-term outcomes. 

Demand Equity

We acknowledge the historical and present injustices impacting marginalized communities. We demand equity from ourselves and from our community. We insist that all people have the necessary support to achieve all of their hopes and dreams. We amplify the voices of our children, families, and communities. We bring together different experiences, skills, and backgrounds to provide opportunities to overcome personal, systemic, and institutional barriers. 

Evidence

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It makes economic sense.

The Harvard Business School Association of Oregon showed that for every $1 invested in Friends of the Children, the community benefits over $7 in saved social costs. Helping one child saves the community $900,000.

Read more about our Return on Investment

It Works

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86% of our youth graduate high school.


50% have a parent who did not complete high school.

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95% avoid the criminal justice system.


60% have a parent impacted by the criminal justice system.

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97% avoid early parenting.


85% have a parent who started parenting in their teen years.

What Others Are Saying