Friends of the Children–Chicago is part of a national network of Friends of the Children chapters across the United States. Friends of the Children connects children – all of whom have unique talents – to a paid, professional mentor called a Friend. We hire and train Friends whose full-time jobs are to support our youth to succeed, despite the extremely challenging situations most experience, from as early as age 4 through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what.
Our model is distinct, courageous and proven. We redefined youth mentoring by creating the first and only long-term professional mentoring program in the country. Friends are experts in building sustained and nurturing relationships with youth. Our model is evidence-informed and research-based, and we have proven long-term outcomes to show it works.
This is at the core of what we do. Each day, our Friends advocate and help amplify the voices of our youth and their families who often become voiceless in the midst of the systemic failures. By challenging the status quo, we also help shift the way institutions and systems view and treat our youth and their families. Friends also create meaningful experiences that teach youth to build life skills and make informed decisions while exploring the child’s diverse talents and interests.
Our model is real, and it works.
Impacting generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors – 12+ years, no matter what.
Our values guide us to achieve our mission. Each value applies not only to our youth, Friends and program teams, but also applies to all Friends of the Children employees, volunteers and partners. We use our values to make informed decisions; to hire, coach, manage; and most importantly, we use our values to change the way the world treats and views the youth and families we serve.
We intentionally serve youth who are facing the greatest obstacles. To help our youth discover their limitless potential, we foster their internal resiliency. We listen to our youth and base decisions on each youth’s needs and dreams. We prioritize self-care so that we bring our best selves to our work and focus on our youth.
We nurture long-term relationships from a foundation of love, acceptance and culturally-informed practice. We don’t give up easily and take a no matter what approach to our work. We commit for the long-term. We intentionally develop collaborative relationships over time with trust, empathy and healthy communication. We believe that we build community through one-on-one connections that are authentic, respectful and meaningful.
We leverage personal strengths to take ownership of our futures. We build relationships within the communities of our youth and families to strengthen social networks and provide bridges to new opportunities. We consistently inspire possibility through empathy, hard work and fun. We model all of this for our youth, families and each other.
We celebrate all achievements, big and small. We are disciplined in our commitment to goals, while innovative in how we reach them. We believe that the definition of success requires intentional reflection and adjustment over time. We work together and hold ourselves accountable with data to achieve short and long-term outcomes.
We acknowledge the historical and present injustices impacting marginalized communities. We demand equity from ourselves and from our community. We insist that all people have the necessary support to achieve all of their hopes and dreams. We amplify the voices of our children, families and communities. We bring together different experiences, skills and backgrounds to provide opportunities to overcome personal, systemic and institutional barriers.
Friends of the Children–Chicago was founded in 2018 by a group of concerned Chicagoans determined to support youth and families in Austin and North Lawndale so that they can break the generational cycles of poverty, violence and abuse.
We believe in our youth, their families and their communities. We know that with proper support, there is great potential for positive change. But there are no quick fixes. While there are several programs committed to violence interruption and prevention, too often, their support comes too late. Interventions are often short-lived, with expectations for quick results.
Healing trauma just doesn’t work that way. It takes years of sustained and trusting relationships to create a new path for children who have faced poverty, violence and abuse. And the earlier that healing begins, the better the chances of success.
That’s what makes Friends of the Children–Chicago different. We start early, and we commit to the children in our program for the long term.
While we are relatively new to Chicago, we are part of a national organization with a 26-year track record.
Friends of the Children was established in 1993 by entrepreneur Duncan Campbell and his wife, Cindy Campbell, in Portland, Ore. The Campbells purchased a school building in the same Northeast Portland neighborhood where Duncan experienced a challenging childhood. After finding business success, Duncan wanted to help kids who grew up in an environment like his. In 1992, the Campbell Institute for Children, conducted extensive research to determine the most effective program model to help young children overcome adversity and realize their inherent resilience and potential. The research clearly indicated that the strongest protective factor a child can have is a long-term, nurturing relationship with a consistent and caring adult.
Friends of the Children began with just three salaried, professional mentors called Friends and 24 children. Friends of the Children has grown to employ hundreds of Friends who serve thousands of children across the nation. You can view the full list of locations on our national website.