The Friends Model

Our model is courageous, unique, and proven. We provide each child with a salaried, professional mentor who we call a Friend, from kindergarten through graduation. At least 12 1/2 years. No matter what. 

Moving mentoring out of the volunteer realm ensures the quality, consistency, and commitment needed to help children create new stories and break the cycle of poverty.

The Model

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 only person the family calls when a crisis occurs.



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


83% of our youth graduate high school.

Although 60% have parents who did not complete high school.


93% avoid the juvenile justice system.

Although 50% have parents who were incarcerated.


98% have avoided early parenting.

Although 85% were born to a teen parent.

Our Growth Plan

We have an exciting plan to maintain our high quality of service and grow to reach more youth in our community. The national growth plan is based on our strategic plan and the growth goals from other sites across our network.