Friends of the Children - National Office

Friends of the Children. Defying the odds of generational poverty Highly Ranked

Lead Organization

Friends of the Children - National Office

Portland, Oregon, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

In 2018, one in five U.S. children lived in poverty. Extreme obstacles – generational school failure, parental substance use, incarceration, violence in the home and community, and teen pregnancy – create a cycle where children fail within education, behavioral health and foster care systems, and frequently land in the justice system. We provide these children with intensive, individualized guidance from full-time, salaried professional mentors (Friends) for 12.5 years, from Kindergarten - graduation. Friends of the Children (FOTC) is the solution to breaking the cycle of poverty and intergenerational repetition of low educational attainment, teen parenting, and criminality. FOTC empowers youth to move beyond their circumstances to become healthy, productive citizens. 100&Change will support FOTC growth by establishing 25 new chapters in highest-need communities. 1:1 national and local matching funds will support long-term sustainability. Every $1 invested in FOTC returns $7 to the community. The expansion ROI is $700 million.

Problem Statement

Children living in poverty are highly likely to be exposed to violence and psychological trauma, both at home and in the surrounding community. All too often, these children experience the cumulative effect of multiple risk factors for future juvenile justice system involvement, including single and/or teen parenthood, low parental education, residential mobility, and parental strain. Strong, frequent or prolonged adversity (such as exposure to violence or the accumulated impacts of poverty) often induces a dangerous or toxic stress response in the brain that can lead to impairments in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental well-being later in life. Toxic stress and adversity in the early years develop into a lifetime of consequences for the individual child and his/her community from low educational attainment and poor health, to criminality, violence and increased risk of victimization. The children who qualify for FOTC are the highest-risk youth whose exposure to multiple, compounding risk factors and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has already begun to manifest in behavioral and other challenges in kindergarten. FOTC youth are experiencing abuse and neglect and are at a high risk of engaging in delinquent behavior later in life. Out of 12 risk indicators (e.g. neglect, parental substance use, or parental incarceration) 85% of our youth experience 3 or more in their lifetime and over half experience 6 or more.Traditional youth-serving organizations struggle to adequately support the most vulnerable children. FOTC's commitment to 1-on-1, long-term relationships meets the needs of these children, empowering them to make generational change.

Solution Overview

We are relentless so they will be resilient.We provide children facing the highest risks with intensive, individualized guidance from full-time, highly trained, salaried mentors we call Friends. For 12.5 years, kindergarten-graduation, each youth spends 16 hrs/month with their Friend. We are the solution to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. 100&Change will support FOTC to expand to 25 new chapters, serving thousands of children in geographically diverse, high-need communities around the world where need is greatest. These children will be on track to achieve our long term outcomes; and, successful evaluation and increased recognition will enable further investment and scaling. Our model empowers youth throughout their entire lives, and creates benefits that last generations. An ROI study done by the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon shows that through reduced social expenditures, increased tax revenues, higher wages, and lower victim costs of crime, every $1 invested in Friends saves $7 for society. Many of our children navigate a complex web of uncoordinated, short-term government and community-based programs. Our model responds to research showing that for these kids, short-term, volunteer programs are largely ineffective and even counter-productive. We take mentorship out of the volunteer realm and provide highly trained, professional mentors, called Friends. Several Friends have been with us for 20 years; the average tenure is over 5 years. There are no other professional mentoring programs in the country that select only the highest-risk children and make an unconditional, 12.5 year commitment. No matter what.We are defying the odds.

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Project Funders

  • Social Innovation Fund
  • The Ballmer Group 2009 - Ongoing

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