Building a foundation for a long-term relationship.
Every Spring, we select a new group of kindergarten youth for enrollment into our program at Friends of the Children–Portland and, this year, we are ecstatic to welcome 29 kindergartners!
The selection process begins with eight-weeks of intensive observations at local elementary schools in the Portland region. Our Friends are fully involved and extensively review each youth's risk factors, conduct teacher interviews, and perform classroom observations in high-need neighborhoods. Towards the final few weeks of our classroom observations, schools began closing and shifting to distance learning due to COVID 19. This posed challenges to our selection process, but as with all of our program services during period, we adapted to the circumstances.
The eight-week in-depth selection process helps us to determine which youth can benefit the most from having a Friend; however, we always identify more youth who qualify for our program than we can serve. If we had unlimited financial resources, we could match all these youth with a Friend, but unfortunately, we do not have unlimited resources. Each of these kindergarteners have already experienced significant early trauma and systemic barriers. In the United States, 45 percent of children have experienced at least one traumatic event, compared to 100 percent of the youth in the Friends of the Children–Portland program. 86 percent of our program youth report having at least three adverse experiences, and over 50 percent experience a confluence of six or more.
Given those circumstances, a Friend's primary objective is to guide youth into developing essential social and emotional assets they need to build resilience through difficult life circumstances. Newly enrolled kindergarteners will be matched with their new Friend over the summer to begin building a foundation for their long-term relationship. Friends will be meeting weekly with their youth and focus on forming strong bonds with their new mentees and their families, and advocate for each child within the school and social service systems. Once strong relationships are created, Friends then proceed to address the many barriers that block our youth's school success, emotional development and overall well-being.
As we move through summer, Friends will be connecting with our new kindergarten class with social distancing guidelines still in place – the safety of our youth and staff are always a priority. Building these new relationships will be challenging; our Friends will find creative and innovative ways to welcome the new youth and begin building a foundation that will last the next twelve years and beyond.
In our 27 years of service, we are thrilled that our program has grown to serve over 500 children and empower them with the tools they need to lead healthy lives and reach their full potential. Contact us if you would like more information on our program or would like to get involved. Your help makes the difference!