Friends of the Children (FOTC)

About This Program

Target Population: Children ages 4-6 years who are at serious risk of entering or reentering foster care, and/or who are already involved in the foster care system. Children participate through high school graduation.

For children/adolescents ages: 4 – 6

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 4 – 6

Program Overview

Friends of the Children (FOTC) provides children and families with intensive, individualized service from full-time, highly trained, salaried mentors (called Friends) for 12+ years, from kindergarten through high school graduation. In partnership with child welfare systems, community partners and schools, FOTC pro-actively selects children ages 4–6 facing the most significant barriers to future success. FOTC intentionally and simultaneously works with youth and caregivers in their lives together. Each Friend works one-on-one with 8–10 youth for 3–4 hours per week in school, at home, and in community. Friends provide a consistent caring relationship to: (1) engage youth and model strength-based social emotional development for caregivers; (2) foster healthy attachments and intrinsic motivation for goal achievement; (3) strengthen access to concrete supports and social networks; and (4) promote self-advocacy in school and other systems. FOTC stays with youth and their caregivers for 12+ years, supporting positive development and helping navigate life’s challenges.

Program Goals

The goals of Friends of the Children (FOTC) are:

For Children:

  • Develop prosocial instead of antisocial behavior
  • Engage in and achieve educational success
  • Develop healthy habits
  • Develop connections to concrete supports that promote well-being and stability
  • Establish positive social network connections
  • Avoid involvement in the juvenile justice system
  • Delay parenthood until adulthood (i.e., avoid teen pregnancy or fatherhood)

For Parents/Caregivers:

  • Improve perceptions of their children’s behavior at home and in school
  • Gain understanding of their child’s needs and strengths
  • Establish positive social network connections
  • Develop connections to concrete supports that promote well-being and stability
  • Develop healthy habits

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for Friends of the Children (FOTC).

Essential Components

The essential components of Friends of the Children (FOTC) include:

  • Rigorous Child Selection and Enrollment - The FOTC program hand picks the children who are invited into the program:
    • Works with multiple entities during selection process:
      • Child welfare agencies
      • Community partners
      • Schools
    • Intentionally selects children who are:
      • At serious risk of entering or reentering foster care
      • Already involved in the foster care system
    • Enrolls only youth with the highest needs and fewest protective factors which are assessed through:
      • Observation
      • A codified assessment of individual and environmental risk and protective factors
    • Invites children and caregivers into the program and building trust in making a long-term commitment through:
      • Visiting family at the home
      • Conducting intensive individualized outreach
    • Every parent voluntarily consents to participation in the program for 12+ years
  • Professional, Full-Time Mentorship: FOTC employs and trains salaried professional full-time mentors, called “Friends”
  • Long-Term Commitment - The FOTC program and ideally the individual Friend makes 12+ year commitment to every child and caregiver, from kindergarten through graduation, no matter what:
    • Becomes a responsible steward of their child’s and family’s narrative through home and school transitions by providing stability when challenges arise and when positive opportunities are presented
    • Earns the right to be a trusted support – often in the child’s times of greatest need
  • Individualized Intentional Relationship-Based Service provided by full-time, professional mentors, (“Friends”): The FOTC does provides this service by:
    • Encouraging change by maintaining the relationship between Friend, child, and caregiver
    • Employing trauma-informed and culturally responsive practice
  • Child Support – The Friend provides support to the child by:
    • Engaging the child early in the developmental process
    • Providing the following over time:
      • Social Capital-Building:
      • Teaching relationship-building skills
      • Connecting youth and their caregivers to other social networks in the community
      • Providing a bridge to resources and new mentors that will continue their exploration of:
        • Future goals
        • Passions
        • Opportunities
      • Providing a bridge to organizations and systems that break barriers and lead to the achievement of future goals:
      • Job training
      • Universities
      • Social service organizations
  • Social-Emotional Skill (“Core Asset”) Development: Friends help with this during outings by:
    • Modeling and coaching on specified core assets, or cognitive and social skills, including:
      • Problem solving
      • Relationship building
      • Growth mindset
      • Self-management
      • Perseverance
      • Self-determination
      • Finding your spark/curiosity
      • Belonging
      • Hope
    • Strengthening these skills which builds intrinsic motivation towards the accomplishment of goals and prosocial behavior outcomes
  • Goal orientation:
    • All activities are oriented around an annual roadmap plan, where children practice future orientation by setting and monitoring goals in five areas:
      • School success
      • Prosocial relationships
      • Healthy habits
      • Making good choices
      • Planning skills
    • Friends partner with caregivers and teachers to support youth’s achievement and management of these goals.
  • School Support:
    • Spending 2 hours per week in the classroom during the elementary school years
    • Continuing partnership with schools in middle and high school ensuring at least two school contacts per month
    • Supporting the educational goals of youth
      • Promoting positive school habits and behavior
      • Empowering parents to advocate for academic services
      • Partnering with parents in attending Individual Educational Plan meetings (IEP), parent-teacher conferences, and supporting teachers in their work with the youth
    • Playing an active role throughout the K-12 school experience:
    • Enhancing school belonging by encouraging extracurricular activities
    • “Being there” as youth and their caregivers navigate peer and teacher relationships
  • Modeling and creating a safe relationship where children learn:
    • How to verbally express and manage their thoughts and feelings
    • Develop an understanding of different perspectives
  • Allowing youth to explore their environment
  • Establishing a safe, family-like community for children over the course of 12 years through mentors and program peers:
    • Fosters a sense of belonging
    • Creates positive peer relationships
  • Parent/Caregiver Support - The Friend provides support to the parent/caregiver by:
    • Making, on average, between 2 and 4 contacts a month with parents and caregivers
    • Including parents in the work to:
      • Build core assets (social/emotional skills) in the youth
      • Set goals with youth
    • Increasing parent understanding of developmental milestones and opportunities to positively connect and engage with their children
    • Promoting nurturing and attachment so that parents and children feel compassion and warmth for each other
    • Creating an environment where parents are better able to provide positive parenting, as well as support the healthy physical, social, and emotional development of their children.
    • Strengthening social connections by creating trauma-informed, culturally responsive opportunities for parents to connect with others in the community
    • Creating emotional supports for parents that reduce social isolation
    • Offering encouragement
    • Providing assistance as parents face the daily challenges of raising a family
    • Supporting parents as they navigate formal systems, such as education and health care
    • Building bridges and helping parents be empowered to be able to advocate for themselves and for their children.
    • Stabilizing families by connecting them to concrete supports and resources that address their needs such as food, clothing, housing, and transportation
    • Supporting caregiver personal goal achievement
  • Supervision and Performance Management System: As full-time employees of the organization, Friends are in contact with program leadership and support staff on a weekly basis or more.
  • Child Safety and Youth Protection: FOTC Youth Protection Policies provide multiple layers of protection for the youth and families served, in turn providing protection for staff and volunteers. Policy subjects include:
    • Screening
    • Hiring
    • Ongoing background check processes
    • Code of conduct
    • Physical and virtual environment of the organization
    • Training and educational programs for employees and volunteers

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Friends of the Children (FOTC) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Physical and mental health issues, stigmatization, high-risk of child welfare system involvement or re-entry, disruptive behaviors, disruptive relationships, low self-control/impulse control, social withdrawal, deviant peer relationships, depression, chronic absenteeism, school discipline problems/suspensions, low sense of belonging
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Siblings: Friends engage siblings, building friendships in the home, often providing resources to caregivers about how to connect siblings to extracurricular and other support activities. Friends include siblings in FOTC activities that benefit the family, such as back-to-school supply drives, holiday dinners, etc. Schools: FOTC establishes an MOU agreement with youth participant schools, outlining: (1) Friends’ observation and teacher/counselor input during the child selection process (if school is a child selection partner); (2) Friends’ role in the classroom 2 hours/week during the elementary school and making at least 2 school contacts/month during middle and high school; and (3) school data access. Child Welfare Agencies: FOTC establishes an MOU agreement with child welfare agencies (if child welfare is a child selection partner), outlining: (1) the child referral and selection process; (2) ongoing communication strategy among caseworkers and FOTC staff; and (3) data access, when feasible. Community-Based Organizations: FOTC builds relationships with community-based organizations to connect youth and families to services and resources; and, where appropriate, support child selection. An MOU agreement is required with all community organizations that are also a child selection partner.

Parent/Caregiver Services

Friends of the Children (FOTC) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Lack of access to support on strength-based approaches to parenting, parent/caregiver of child with disruptive behavior, lack of respite, social isolation, depression, distrust of community resources and public systems, and inadequate support systems

Recommended Intensity:

12–16 hours per month (4X/month). Each contact averages 4 hours.

Recommended Duration:

From kindergarten through high school graduation

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home
  • Community Daily Living Setting
  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
  • Shelter (Domestic Violence, Homeless, etc.)
  • Virtual (Online, Telephone, Video, Zoom, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.


Friends of the Children (FOTC) has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Personnel
  • Site-specific office/location for admin staff and Friend/youth/caregiver activities. The office environment is dependent on size, culture, and need within communities.
  • computers/tablets, cars/public transportation, school supplies/materials for activities. Equipment/materials must be highly mobile, as Friends work individually with children/families in their neighborhood, home, and school.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Friend Qualifications: Friends must have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in education, child development, sociology, or a related field, and at least two years of experience working with at-risk youth.

Supervisor Qualifications: Program directors and managers must have a bachelor’s degree in social work or related field and a master’s degree is preferred; seven to ten years of experience working with child-related programs in progressively responsible roles; and three to five years in leadership or management role with significant supervisory duties and responsibilities.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

The manual is accessible through FOTC’s National Chief Program Officer.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

FOTC trainings are implemented through a quality improvement system (QIS) that includes in-person trainings at the program’s demonstration site in Portland OR, regional trainings, local site-specific community-based trainings, and online training and professional development through the “Friends Learning Academy,” learning management system.

Number of days/hours:

Friend training is 50 hours and supervisor trainings are 72 hours.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Friends of the Children (FOTC) as listed below:

The Friends of the Children National office works with local champions to meet pre-implementation criteria before bringing the expansion opportunity to the National Board of Directors for review and approval. The Chief Officer of Expansion and Policy is available to assist in providing the following pre-implementation materials that are leveraged when the National office receives an inquiry from a local community champion expressing interest in model replication:

  1. The Friends of the Children Business Plan 2020-2025. This document details the Friends of the Children Scaling Goals and Strategies, including Expansion Site Feasibility and Requirements.
  2. Friends of the Children – New Chapters: Foundational Elements of Success, providing more detail regarding new site feasibility requirements, the role of the national office, and the relationship between National and a new site before and after implementation of the model. This document also contains a readiness assessment tool that the FOTC National office uses when working with new locations on pre-implementation readiness activities.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Friends of the Children (FOTC) as listed below:

Formal support is required for this program and is an ongoing expectation for all chapters/affiliates in the network. It serves the following purposes: leadership coaching, fidelity monitoring, continuous improvement, and assessment and monitoring of organizational health and sustainability.

Formal support from the National office is highly individualized to each new chapter/ affiliate, and always includes: Site Visits to both the new chapter/affiliate, and for key leaders from the chapter/affiliate to the Portland demonstration site; Direct support to hire the initial team of staff responsible for model implementation (typically the Executive Director, Program Director, and Friends); On-site support for child selection (for the first two cohorts); Ongoing participation in centralized training for new Friends; Ongoing participation in network-wide, Efforts to Outcomes database; Weekly teleconferences with local leadership for the first six months of program implementation, moving to monthly coaching check-ins that are individualized by function (executive leadership, program, operations) ongoing; Meetings with key funders/investors, and the local board of directors; Meetings with local public officials who are working in support of the program; Monthly network-wide calls focused on shared learning targeting key areas of focus (executive leadership, fundraising/development, program, and operations); Annual Quality Improvement monitoring reviews focusing on program and operations; and Other activities as determined necessary by Friends of the Children.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Friends of the Children (FOTC) as listed below:

Adherence to the program model is assessed using the following tools: (1) Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual Program Scorecards – focusing on the chapter/affiliate’s data in program intermediate and long-term outcome areas; (2) Semi-annual Organizational Dashboards – focusing on organizational health metrics, such as leadership engagement, retention of staff, and financial health; and (3) Annual Quality Improvement Monitoring – a review tool encompassing both program fidelity implementation review and more detailed metrics reviewing fidelity to key organizational requirements (e.g., compliance with pre-employment screening processes for professional mentors, finance and accounting practices, etc.).

Training to maintain fidelity standards takes place during New Friends and Supervisors’ Training, covering use of our data management system, content of performance scorecards, and how to reflect and adjust Friend intentional work with children based on scorecard data.

Fidelity is assessed using the following methods: (1) Input of data weekly into the network-wide Efforts to Outcomes database; (2) Annual survey of program participants; (3) Self-report (to the National office) of organizational health metrics; (4) On-site observations and/or review of information (as needed); and (5) Third-party implementation evaluation. >

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Friends of the Children (FOTC) as listed below:

The National office creates materials and toolkits that focus in the following major areas:

  • Board Governance
  • Employee Policies
  • Finance and Accounting Policies
  • Executive Director Orientation and Onboarding
  • Program Director Orientation and Onboarding
  • 2Gen Model Implementation and Impact
  • Development and Marketing staff Orientation and Onboarding
  • Grant Writing
  • Marketing
  • Sample partnership Memoranda of Understanding (for education, child welfare agencies, and community partnerships)

Implementation Cost

There have been studies of the costs of implementing Friends of the Children (FOTC) which are listed below:

A social return on investment study (SROI) was conducted by the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon in 2010, concluding that for every $1 invested in FOTC, $7 is returned to society over the lifetime of an FOTC graduate. The FOTC program costs approximately $15,800 per year per child. The study used data from FOTC-Portland’s annual third party evaluation, government sources, and academic studies cited by government agencies. For each program youth, there was a lifetime return of $900,000.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Friends of the Children (FOTC).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Eddy, J. M., Martinez, C. R., Jr., Grossman, J. B., Cearley, J. J., Herrera, D., Wheeler, A. C., Rempel, J. S., Foney, D., Gau, J. M., Burraston, B. O., Harachi, T. W., Haggerty, K. P., & Seeley, J. R. (2017). A randomized controlled trial of a long-term professional mentoring program for children at risk: Outcomes across the first 5 Years. Prevention Science,18(8), 899–910. 10.1007/s11121-017-0795-z

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 278


  • Age — Mean=6.5 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 46% African American, 18% Latino, 18% Multiracial, and 14% White
  • Gender — 53% Female
  • Status — Participants were children attending kindergarten or first grade who were identified as at-risk for adjustment problems during adolescence.

Location/Institution: Four major urban areas in the USA, namely Boston, New York City, Portland (Oregon), and Seattle

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to investigate the outcomes of Friends of the Children (FOTC). Participants were randomized to either FOTC or to a services-as-usual control condition. Measures utilized include the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS-2). Results indicate that significant effects favoring FOTC were found in terms of caregiver ratings of positive school behavior and less trouble in school, with a trend for higher child behavioral and emotional strengths. Effect sizes were in the range typical in recent trials of youth mentoring. Limitations include the small sample size, all significant effects were on measures rated by caregivers who were not blind to condition, and lack of postintervention follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Fitzgerald, M. (2018, February 16). Paid mentors, big plans: Terri Sorensen on Friends of the Children’s growth strategy. Chronicle of Social Change.

Sorensen, T. (2019, November 14). How a Portland-based nonprofit scaled from 5 to 20 locations in 7 years. Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Sullivan, P. (2019, January 25). Charity finds success in work with at risk kids, but it is costly. New York Times.

Contact Information

Susan Walsh, JD, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Friends of the Children
Phone: (503) 281-6633

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: October 2023

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2021

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: November 2021