At Family of Friends we believe that kids and families lie at the heart of an empowered, connected community. We build systems of support so that kids feel heard, valued and encouraged to grow.
How does Family of Friends work?
Through long-term, individual and family-style mentoring, volunteers partner with kids and families to create a village of support. Through fun, weekly outings in the community, everyone benefits. Kids get access to another trusted adult and fun activities, parents get an advocate for their child, and volunteers get to share their time and experience. Everyone gains a deeper understanding of the world around them.
After a minimum of one year, matches may continue with the same child or mentor, or be re-matched with someone new. Children may continue with their mentors until they graduate from high school. Most matches stay formally involved in the program for an average of 2-3 years. More than half of these graduate to “Alumni” status. This is when a match reaches a natural state of connection, and want to stay affiliated but no longer need formal support from the program.
Professional staff provide high-quality training, screening and coaching every step of the way, so that each match is as successful as possible.
Serving roughly 85 mentor-mentee matches per year, Family of Friends is funded primarily through private and public foundation grants and individual donations.
Who are our kids?
We believe that every child, no matter their background, can benefit from additional adult support. However, we prioritize children from low-income backgrounds whose environments can make it harder to get additional attention and support.
Children are typically referred by a parent, teacher, counselor or community member who believes the child could benefit from additional, caring, adult relationships. We currently enroll elementary school children (grades k-5) attending Gresham area schools or who live at Stephen’s Creek Crossing in Southwest Portland.
Who are our mentors?
Mentors are stable, caring individuals, couples and families, age 21-70+ who have time and experience to share. Our mentors come from many racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. They all have a heart for kids and for making our community stronger through relationships. Mentors don’t have to do or be anything “special”. They simply show up consistently and be themselves for a kid. Through active listening, encouragement and fun, mentors build trust and provide another, safe, caring adult that a child can rely on. Just by being a friend, mentors model healthy social-emotional skills for kids, which in turn, aides in positive youth development and a love of learning.
What makes us different?
We’re family-oriented. Our mentoring relationships are often more than just one-on-one. In our model, entire families as well as couples and individuals are invited to participate in mentoring the child. We encourage families of all types and sizes to join our program and give a child more opportunities to thrive.
We’re preventative. We focus on matching children in elementary school so kids have more support early on. Mentors partner with parents and guardians to increase the positive environments around kids at an early age. This gives kids a foundation on which to make healthier decisions later on in middle and high school.
We’re professional. Our program offers intensive training and support throughout the life of the match, so that mentors and families get the most out of their experience and have the highest potential for success. Our model is based on best practices in the field of mentoring, and continually examines practices to keep the program relevant to the changing needs of our participants.
Our co-founders, Kris and Mike Forzley, dedicated their careers to helping kids succeed. They co-founded and built numerous successful youth organizations including the nationally acclaimed professional mentoring program Friends of the Children with Duncan Campbell.
In 2003, Kris and Mike started Family of Friends under Trillium Family Services and in 2004, the program made its first match.
After 13 years under Trillium Family Services, in October 2016, Family of Friends spun off to become its own independent nonprofit and moved to Gresham! An innovative partnership with the City of Gresham leverages the strengths of both organizations to prioritize mentoring for low-income families and gang-affected youth in east Mutlnomah County. Family of Friends will continue to serve at select locations in Portland.
Since 2003, Family of Friends has matched over 250 children with mentors, many of whom are still in contact today.
Family of Friends is a high quality program.
In 2014, Institute for Youth Success (IYS) recognized Family of Friends as a high-quality program upon completion of IYS’s Quality-Based Mentoring Initiative. This initiative gives programs the opportunity to examine and improve their policies and procedures with one-on-one coaching from experts in the field. We are very proud of this accomplishment and strive to continually improve our services. We are immensely grateful to the team at IYS for guiding us through this multi-year process. Click HERE to learn more about the Quality-Based Mentoring Initiative.