Friends of the Children is launching a new chapter in Lane County (Friends–Lane County) that will pair children facing the greatest obstacles with a paid, professional mentor (called a Friend) for 12+ years, no matter what. Each child selected is paired with a Friend whose full-time job is to spend four hours a week with each child at school, at home and in the community. Friends will support youth—and their families—for 12+ years, building trusting relationships through a trauma-informed lens that provides critical social, emotional and academic support.
Friends of Children partners with community organizations and agencies to identify youth and families who might benefit from additional supports and engages in a rigorous process to identify the families facing the most significant challenges. In Lane County, the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) will be a key initial partner for Friends–Lane County – with a collective aim of helping reduce the number of youth placed in foster care. In addition to DHS, Friends–Lane County will work with existing organization’s in Lane County to identify the best ways to bolster the continuum of care available in the community, particularly as children transition from early childhood programs to kindergarten.
Because families supported by Friends are consistently able to break intergenerational cycles of poverty, despite the odds they are facing, Friends–Lane County hopes to play an important role in advancing racial equity in the community. In addition to dedicating significant resources to help families facing institutional and social hurdles persevere, Friends support caregivers and youth to advocate within systems and advance change at the individual and systemic levels.
Each child enrolled in the Friends–Lane County program will be paired with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend. For 12+ years, from ages 4 to 6 to high school graduation, Friends work with their youth in schools, at home, and in the community for 3-4 hours each week to build skills like problem-solving, perseverance, and self-management. These skills empower youth to pursue and achieve their goals in school and in life. Simultaneously, leveraging our two-generation approach, Friends will empower parents and caregivers to build their own skills as parents, advocate for themselves and their children, and increase connectedness to community resources that improve family stability.
Friends–Lane County has hired Matt Springer as Executive Director. Matt brings 22 years of social services and nonprofit experience to his new role. He has held numerous positions at Northwest Youth Corps, most recently as Program Director, and has held previous roles at Looking Glass and the UO’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement in Eugene. Prior to returning to Lane County in 2017, Matt was instrumental in bringing sweeping changes in the higher education system in Montana. He earned a master’s degree in public policy and a certificate in nonprofit management at the University of Oregon.