National Center of Excellence

March 12, 2024

Oregon Congressional Leaders Invest in National Center of Excellence for Paid Professional Mentoring

Photo (from left to right): Friends - Portland Executive Director Traci Rossi, Friends of the Children graduate Freddi McCullers, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, Friends - National CEO Terri Sorensen, and Friends - National Board Chair Stephen Graham at Friends of the Children's 30th Anniversary Reception in Washington, D.C honoring Rep. Blumenauer with the Champion for Children Award.

This week Friends of the Children celebrates the receipt of $850,000 of federal funding in Congressionally Directed Spending in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024. U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) advocated for the funds, which will support the creation of a National Center of Excellence for Paid, Professional Mentoring in Portland, Ore.

The National Center of Excellence for Paid, Professional Mentoring will be located in Portland’s historic Albina neighborhood. In addition to serving as a gathering space for youth and families at the Friends of the Children – Portland Chapter, the building will be a hub of training and technical assistance for paid, professional mentors across the country. Portland, Oregon has the distinction of being the first Friends of the Children site.

“The educational and mental health challenges youth are facing are a call to action for all of us,” said Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children-National. “The National Center of Excellence for Paid, Professional Mentoring will be a national hub for evidence-sharing and innovation. This investment demonstrates the impact of professional mentoring as a new way of working in service to children and families. Thank you to Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Congressman Blumenauer, for helping us to advance our vision that every child who needs a Friend has one.”

Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit that pairs children who face some of the greatest obstacles in life with long-term paid, professional mentors. Obstacles such as foster care, housing insecurity, and family mental health challenges. These professional mentors, called Friends, walk alongside youth and their families from as early as age 4 through high school graduation—12+ years, no matter what. The national network consists of 36 Friends of the Children sites across the United States in rural, Indigenous, suburban, and urban communities.

In early February, Friends of the Children awarded Rep. Blumenauer with the Champion for Children Award for his commitment to the well-being of the most vulnerable children across the country. Rep. Blumenauer is set to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives that would formally recognize paid professional mentoring programs, like Friends of the Children.

“Thank you to our Congressional delegation, Senators Merkley and Wyden and Representative Blumenauer for choosing to support the Albina neighborhood, the home of Friends of the Children – Portland, as we develop the National Center of Excellence for Paid Professional Mentoring, that will allow Friends to walk alongside youth for generations to come,” said Traci Rossi, executive director of Friends of the Children – Portland.