November 08, 2018

Medina Foundation Invests $500,000 to Bring Friends of the Children Chapter to Tacoma Area

Chapter will connect youth facing the greatest obstacles with a salaried, professional mentor for 12+ years.

Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children who face multiple systemic obstacles with a salaried, professional mentor called a Friend for 12+ years, announced today that through a catalytic $500,000 investment from the Medina Foundation, they will launch a campaign to bring its courageous and unique model to the Tacoma area.

“Bringing a new chapter of Friends of the Children to Tacoma is a unique undertaking for the Medina Foundation Trustees,” said Gail Gant, Board of Trustees President of the Medina Foundation and longtime Tacoma resident. “We believe so strongly in the efficacy of this model that we want to make this happen. Providing children at a young age with a consistent, caring adult has shown to lift families out of poverty, not only in Seattle but across the country. A Friends of the Children chapter is an ideal way to make a deep, long-term impact.”

The Medina Foundation is a family foundation with more than 70 years of grantmaking experience in the Pierce County community. They work to foster positive change in the Greater Puget Sound area. After funding the Seattle chapter over the past 12 years, the Trustees of the foundation saw the success of that chapter firsthand and saw a critical need to expand the Friends model to the Tacoma area.

Friends of the Children selects youth ages 4 to 6 years from high-poverty schools and the foster care system and pairs them with a Friend from kindergarten through graduation. Over the course of their 12+ years in the program, youth have a champion by their side to navigate tremendous transitions and develop core assets like hope and perseverance to overcome barriers. It’s hard to ignore the outcomes:

  • 83% of program youth 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.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, the number of children in Washington State who are living apart from their families has increased 11.9 percent in comparison to the number of children in out-of-home care in 2011. In Pierce County alone, on any given day, there are almost 1,500 children in foster care. Of the almost 29,000 youth enrolled in Tacoma Public Schools, almost 64 percent live in poverty and almost half are on free- or reduced-price lunch.

“The Medina Foundation has a long-standing track record of investing in organizations that approach tough problems with innovative ideas and solutions,” said Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children. “We are so proud to partner with them to make the Friends of the Children–Tacoma chapter a reality.”

The Medina Foundation pledged to invest $500,000 of the $1.5 million needed to sustain a chapter. With the support of the foundation, the Friends of the Children national team has a goal of raising an additional $1 million by September of 2019 from the Pierce County community.

“After opening six new chapters in the last year, we have learned a lot about the power of a local champion in the community and the critical need to ensure the opening of a site is driven by the needs of that community,” said Sorensen. “We look forward to listening and learning about the needs in Pierce County to determine how we can best support these children and guarantee the long-term success of a chapter.”