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.


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 graduate high school.

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


95% avoid the juvenile justice system.

Although 50% have parents who were incarcerated.


94% 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.