The Generational Change Model

Research has shown that the single most important factor for building resiliency in children who face the highest risks is a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult.

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.

  • 60% have parents who did not graduate high school.
  • 50% of our youth have parents who were incarcerated.
  • 85% of our youth were born to a teen parent.

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 graduation. 12.5 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 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.

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% avoid early parenting.

Although 85% were born to a teen parent.

Our Scaling Plan

Demonstrate Impact: Chapters

We have local chapters across the country. Each chapter has a strategic growth plan to grow by 40% over the next three years.

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Embed the Model: Affiliates

Would your organization like to become a Friends of the Children affiliate? Affiliates are established organizations with strong leadership and infrastructure that want to provide salaried, professional mentors to the highest-risk children from kindergarten through graduation, 12.5 years, no matter what.

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Share What Works: Thought Leadership

We openly share our best practices with programs and policymakers in the education, criminal justice, human services, and youth development sectors. We are focused on collaborative partnerships, presentations, conferences, and key dialogues.

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What Others Are Saying