Friends of the Children–San Francisco Bay Area is a chapter of a nationwide organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through salaried, professional mentoring. The national organization was founded in 1993. Our chapter began serving the San Francisco Bay Area children in 2017.
We hire and train professional mentors 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. Our mentors – 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 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.
Put Children First
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.
Build Relationships on Love
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.
Commit to Empowerment
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.
Pursue Goals Relentlessly
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.
After a long legal career in New York and San Francisco, our Founder and Executive Director Michael Rugen resigned his law partnership and set out to make a difference in the lives of children facing multiple systemic obstacles. He quickly learned what the academic literature and anecdotal evidence show – that the most reliable path for a youth to find his or her way out of poverty is to have a consistent, caring adult presence in their life.
Michael decided to found a mentoring organization to serve young children facing multiple systemic obstacles and stay with them through adolescence. He searched far and wide for such a model before meeting Friends’ Founder, Duncan Campbell, and National President, Terri Sorensen. Having served on many nonprofit boards, Michael immediately recognized how unique the Friends model is, combining the soulful mission of identifying the most vulnerable children and serving them for 12+ years with a business-like, evidence-based approach.
Michael spent over two years, raising seed money to start the SF Bay Area chapter. Our initial site is located in Bayview Hunters Point – long the poorest and most underserved community in San Francisco. We began to hire staff in late 2016 and enrolled our first class of kindergartners in March 2017.
We’re proud to serve the children of Bayview Hunters Point, and will add a new class of kindergarteners each year and stay with them for 12+ years, no matter what! Our youth will change the stories they believe about themselves and will go on to live healthy and productive lives!
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.