Friends of the Children – Los Angeles (known locally as Friends LA) is part of a national network of Friends of the Children chapters across the United States.
With Los Angeles County being home to America's largest child welfare system, Friends LA has been working to keep families together and end multigenerational poverty in Southern California since our founding in 2017.
We connect children ages 4-6 who have been impacted by the child welfare system to a long-term, salaried, professional mentor called a Friend.
Each day, our Friends advocate and help amplify the voices of our youth and caregivers – who often become voiceless in the midst of multiple systemic failures. By challenging the status quo, we help shift the way institutions and systems view and treat our youth and their families.
Evidence supports us, but our values and passion guide us in our work.
Our mission is 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.
Friends of the Children – Los Angeles (Friends LA) started as a dream and ignited a movement to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their families.
Los Angeles County is home to the largest child welfare system in the country. Parenting youth who are transitioning out of foster care face daunting uncertainties while working to lay the foundation for their children to feel safe, secure and hopeful as they grow. Friends LA pairs professional mentors — whom we call Friends — to those children facing the highest risks in order to prevent the next generation of children from entering the child welfare system.
Friends LA launched its innovative mentoring program in 2017 in partnership with parenting transition-age foster youth to mentor their children (ages 4 to 6) from kindergarten to high school graduation — for 12+ years, no matter what.
We are uniquely positioned to affect positive change across two-generations for both caregivers and their kids. As we walk beside these children throughout their childhood, we concurrently empower their caregiver(s) to advocate for their children through an ongoing, respectful, and strengths-based partnership.
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.