January 23, 2020

National Mentoring Month Statement from CEO Terri Sorensen

PORTLAND, Ore.—As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, Friends of the Children continues to stand out as a promising mentoring model that can both prevent and lessen the impact of childhood trauma. Below is a statement from our CEO Terri Sorensen:

Above: A ten-screen display in Times Square features Friends of the Children during National Mentoring Month. Billboards were donated by Branded Cities and secured through a partnership with outdoor advertising company Billups. Digital billboards are also displaying in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles, New York City, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. Photo credit: Matthew Sorensen.

"A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the practice of mentoring as a critical strategy for both preventing and mitigating the effects of childhood trauma. Friends of the Children's model was created more than 25 years ago to address a gap in mentoring services for youth who face the greatest obstacles.

Our mentoring model is now being sought after as communities and systems across the country are recognizing that children who experienced significant trauma need more individualized and long-term support.

Friends of the Children partners with community organizations, schools, and foster care systems to identify children as young as age 4. Each child is paired with a professional mentor (called a Friend) whose full-time job is to spend three to four hours a week over 12+ years with each child. Friends receive extensive trauma-informed care training, so they are able to recognize trauma and provide culturally responsive support that helps youth heal and build resilience.

Friends take a whole-child approach, building trusting relationships with their youth's families and caregivers, understanding the unique barriers, and empowering youth to pursue their talents and gifts. Our Friends stay, on average, about five years, which provides a lot of consistency and helps build trust with our youth, which can take time for children with a history of trauma.

Looking at the bigger picture, child welfare, juvenile justice, education and other systems need to actively seek out youth mentoring programs and integrate them into a continuum of care–starting at a very young age–so that children and families have the support needed to both prevent and lessen the impact of trauma.

We hope that as more communities nationwide recognize the impact trauma can have on a child's overall health and well-being, that Friends of the Children and other youth mentoring organizations are sought after as a promising solution. We're so pleased to share that Friends of the Children is now in 21 locations, having launched 16 in the past seven years. We will not stop until every child who needs a Friend has one."