July 21, 2020

Friends of the Children Opening Lane County Chapter, Executive Director Announced

Eugene resident Matt Springer tapped to lead the organization.

July 21, 2020

EUGENE, Ore. – Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children facing the greatest obstacles with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend for 12+ years, announced today they are launching a Friends of the Children–Lane County chapter and have named Eugene resident Matt Springer as the executive director. This is the fifth location in Oregon, with other locations in Portland, Gresham, Central Oregon and the Klamath Basin.

“Every child in Lane County deserves the opportunity to dream big and reach their goals, but too many children are facing challenges – like neglect, racism, abuse and poverty – that can seem impossible to overcome,” said Springer, Friends–Lane County executive director. “By adding this incredible opportunity of long-term, professional mentoring, I am really confident that the youth and families experiencing the greatest adversity in our community will break these cycles of hardship for good.”

Friends–Lane County will initially begin selecting children in Lane County, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) and Lane County schools, including Eugene 4J School District’s Caesar Chavez Elementary School. Each child selected is paired with a Friend whose full-time job is to spend four hours a week with each child, which will initially happen virtually as a result of the pandemic. Friends will support youth—and by extension, their families—for 12+ years, building trusting relationships through a trauma-informed lens that provides critical social, emotional and academic support.

“Duck fans understand, better than most, that regardless of the odds, you’re never out of the game,” said Joey Harrington, University of Oregon football star and former Detroit Lions quarterback. “The value of perseverance and overcoming adversity is something I was fortunate enough to learn from great mentors, teammates and coaches. Helping grow that same skillset with kids facing significant challenges is one way I can help Friends of the Children.”

Friends of the Children, which was founded by Oregon philanthropist and University of Oregon alumni Duncan Campbell in 1993, specializes in serving youth who have been impacted by economic instability, foster care, racism, substance abuse, parental incarceration, and other traumatic events that create instability. In recent years, the organization has expanded to support parents through an innovative Two-Generation (2Gen) model aimed at supporting families in achieving overall health and well-being.

“We are honored to join with partners to support Friends of the Children as it opens the much anticipated Lane County chapter,” said Amy Tykeson, managing trustee of the Tykeson Family Foundation. “Friends has positively impacted outcomes for children and their parents in cities across the country. This proven, successful program will help transform the lives of youth who are most deserving of support in Lane County.”

Research funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed that the presence of a Friend in a child’s life benefits the entire family. Another recent CDC report called out the practice of mentoring as a promising strategy for preventing and lessening the harm from childhood trauma. A third-party evaluation of Friends of the Children program graduates showed that:

  • 92% of graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country or enter the workforce
  • 83% of youth obtain a high school diploma or GED
  • 93% remain free from juvenile justice system involvement
  • 98% wait to parent until after their teen years

While Lane County has a disproportionate number of children in foster care compared to the state, DHS has decreased the number of children in care from about 1,100 to 820 currently. That said, 30 to 35 children continue to enter care in Lane County each month. DHS would like to decrease this rate in partnership with organizations like Friends of the Children so that children can safely remain with their families.

Several high-profile funders and leaders in the area have been instrumental in bringing the chapter to Lane County, including football star Joey Harrington, Oregon Community Foundation, Tykeson Family Foundation and Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow.

"We are incredibly grateful to local philanthropic and business leaders for coming together and recognizing that Lane County children who have experienced a lot of trauma need more support,” said Susan Walsh, a former Eugene youth mentoring leader and director of Research and Strategic Impact at Friends of the Children’s national office. “Our partners made this chapter possible because of their commitment to supporting children and families to achieve health and well-being. We are confident Matt is the right choice to launch and lead the chapter, growing its impact now and in the future.”

Springer brings 22 years of social services and nonprofit experience to his new role. Prior to joining the organization, he was the program director for Northwest Youth Corps. He has served in various nonprofit agency roles at organizations and was instrumental in bringing sweeping changes in the higher education system in Montana prior to returning to Eugene in 2017. Springer earned a master’s degree in public policy and a certificate in nonprofit management at the University of Oregon.

In addition to the new Lane County chapter, Friends of the Children is in 21 other locations. The organization has seen tremendous growth, launching 17 new locations in just seven years. Friends–Lane County is in the process of building a local board of directors and hiring Friends and staff. Interested candidates can visit Friends–Lane County's website for a list of open positions.