March 12, 2024

Oregon Congressional Leaders Invest $850,000 in National Center of Excellence for Paid Professional Mentoring

Support from U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer will support creation of National Center of Excellence for Paid Professional Mentoring


PORTLAND, OR (MAR. 7, 2024) – This week Friends of the Children is celebrating its 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.

“There is a distinct need in Oregon and across the nation for programs that support young people facing issues daily like homelessness, mental health challenges, and hunger,” Wyden said. “This federal investment to build the National Center of Excellence for Paid, Professional Mentoring here in Portland will not only further develop the successful mentor program, but also ensure vulnerable children and communities are getting the resources they need to succeed.”

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.

“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.”

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.

“Access to paid, professional mentors reduces poverty and system involvement for children and families, ultimately benefitting taxpayers,” said Sen. Merkley. “The Friends of the Children program has a $7 to $1 return on investment for youth impact, and a larger return when impact for an entire family is considered.”

Studies of the program show that 92% of youth go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or enter the workforce; 83% of youth earn a high school diploma or GED; 93% of youth remain free from the juvenile justice system; and 98% of youth wait to parent until after their teen years.

“It’s time for our country to recognize new and different ways of supporting young people and their families,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Friends of the Children’s paid, professional mentoring model is increasingly recognized as an effective foster care and mental health prevention and intervention strategy. As I close out my congressional career, I will continue to champion investments that support the growth of programs like Friends of the Children that are proven to work.”

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. 


About Friends of the Children

Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit with the mission of impacting generational change by empowering youth who face the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors – 12+ years, no matter what. Our successful model is now in 36 locations around the country. Our work has been featured in The New York Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review and CBS News. Visit to learn more and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Ariane Le Chevallier