Now in 15 locations across the U.S. and in the United Kingdom, Friends of the Children’s innovative social change model has gained national recognition and is quickly expanding across the country. The organization pairs children facing the highest risks with a salaried, professional mentor, called a Friend, from kindergarten through high school graduation—12 ½ years, no matter what.
Filmed in Portland, Ore. and Seattle, the episode takes viewers through the founding of the organization 25 years ago to current day and features stories of Portland and Seattle program graduates whose life trajectories changed significantly because of their Friend. Friends of the Children will host a Facebook LIVE watch party of the episode on Wednesday, April 11 followed by a Q&A with Friends President Terri Sorensen.
Friends Founder Duncan Campbell, a successful Oregon timberland investor, entrepreneur and social innovator, launched Friends of the Children 25 years ago with the premise that he wanted to give other youth a happier and safer childhood than he had.
Counteracting Childhood Trauma
Friends of the Children’s evidence-based model has been hailed as an innovative early intervention and prevention solution that moves families, and particularly youth in foster care, out of poverty, and counteracts the long-term, devastating effects of childhood trauma, also referred to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
The combination of the long-term commitment, the salaried, professional mentor approach, and 25 years of evidence-based outcomes has set the organization apart from other more traditional mentoring organizations and programs. Evaluations on youth who complete the Friends of the Children program show that:
- 83% graduate from high school, although 60% had parents who did not graduate high school
- 93% avoid the juvenile justice system, although 50% had parents who were incarcerated
- 98% avoid early parenting, although 85% were born to a teen parent
25 cities by 2025
In the past year, Friends of the Children has gained nationwide recognition with the ambitious goal of expanding to 25 cities by 2025. Currently in 15 locations across the U.S. and the United Kingdom, Friends launched six new sites in the last 18 months. They are also planning to launch four chapters in the next year in Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Vancouver, Wash.
Their work in the social innovation space has caught the attention of corporate, nonprofit, and foundation leaders across the country, including Ballmer Group, King Philanthropies, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, AT&T, Stand Together, Cambia Health Foundation and Results for America.
Viewers may watch The Visionaries with Sam Waterston online or on TV can go to friendsofthechildren.org/visionaries. Distributed through an ACCESS Offer through National Educational Telecommunications Association, The Visionaries is airing on PBS stations across the country. PBS affiliate WGBY in Springfield, MA, is the presenting station.