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‘Friends of the Children’ Seeking Support to Bring Youth Mentorship Program to Detroit

By Tiffany Jones

The Detroit Regional Chamber, in collaboration with the Detroit Free Press, welcomed Friends of the Children to its office on April 11 to provide a briefing on the program that hopes to launch a site in Detroit soon.

Friends of the Children is a prevention/early intervention program whose mission is to help the nation’s highest‐risk children develop the relationships, goals and skills necessary to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and violence and become contributing members of society.

The program’s innovative, evidence-based model is unique. It intentionally seeks the most vulnerable youth, selecting them from the foster care system and high-poverty schools at ages five and six and pairs them with a “friend” – a salaried, full-time professional mentor, who provides the students with a caring, intentional relationship from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Since its inception in 1993, the program, which started in Portland, Ore., now serves thousands of youth and operates 10 sites including: Harlem and the South Bronx, NY..; Seattle, Wash.; Boston, Mass.; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Portland, Gresham and Klamath Falls, Ore.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Cornwall, United Kingdom.


The results of the program prove that the model works. Eighty-three percent of youth earned a high school diploma or GED, while 60 percent have a parent who did not. Ninety-three percent avoid the juvenile justice system, while 50 percent have a parent who has been incarcerated. Ninety-eight percent avoid early parenting, while 85 percent were born to a teen parent.

Last year, the Detroit Free Press, supported by a grant from Solutions Journalism, identified Friends of the Children as a quality program that could benefit Detroit and published a story about the program.

Friends of the Children received a federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). The $4 million grant extends over four years to expand the evidence-based program, with the goal to serve 50 percent more children in three to five new sites across the country. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention responded with an additional $2.5 million in funding for expansion efforts.

As a condition of the two funds, Friends of the Children must match the federal funds dollar-for-dollar, which is again matched by the local sites selected to receive SIF grants. With up to $1 million in matching funds from two grants, Friends of the Children is now looking to bring its model to Detroit. To do so, the program must have a commitment of $1.5 million, over three years, by Sept. 1.

To find out ways your organization can help or for more information, contact Eric Gabrielson, the program’s chief expansion officer.

Tiffany Jones is the director of communications at the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

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