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.


Our values guide us to achieve our mission. Each value applies not only to our youth, Friends, and program teams, but also applies to all Friends of the Children employees, volunteers, and partners. We use our values to make informed decisions; to hire, coach, and manage; and most importantly, we use our values to change the way the world treats and views our most vulnerable youth.

Organizational Values



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


Friends of the Children has developed nine research-based Core Assets, which are specific qualities we focus on to ensure the social and emotional development of our youth. With our nine Core Assets in place, we believe our youth will enter adulthood with a solid foundation for future success. Following are the core assets we believe will help our youth achieve that.

Core Assets



I love learning and know that my abilities will improve through dedication and effort. We believe our knowledge and competence in all areas of life grow with effort and that our work has personal value.



I get along well with others and am able to find people to support me. We have the ability to communicate effectively and discern how to engage and collaborate in healthy, supportive relationships for diverse purposes in all areas of our lives.



I use creativity to explore my passions. We use our imagination, curiosity, and creativity to generate ideas and discover our strengths and passions.



I know how to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision. We self-reflect and breakdown problems or issues into manageable parts, determining different strategies to achieve a solution and make a decision.



I believe in myself and am able to set goals and achieve them. We are committed to achieving our goals over time, by setting short and long-term goals, and managing challenges.



I know how to manage my feelings and take care of myself in a healthy way. We are able to identify, reflect on, and manage our emotions; we are committed to continual self-care.



I work hard through challenges and finish what I start. We can persist to the best of our ability despite distractions, obstacles, or setbacks.



When I have tough times, I believe it can get better. We understand difficulties within a situation and believe it will improve.



I understand who I am, have a place where I feel accepted, and know that my contributions count. We value our own identity, culture and beliefs, knowing that our community needs and appreciates our participation.

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


91% of our youth receive their high school diploma or GED


95% of our youth remain free from involvement in the juvenile justice system


94% of our youth wait to parent until after their teen years

The Power of One Expansion Project

We are excited to launch our new Power of One Expansion Project, which looks to DOUBLE the number of youth we serve over the next 5 years. With $4.55 Million already raised towards our $16 Million goal, we are off to a strong start, thanks to our generous supports!