Being a Friend is More Than a Job. It’s A Calling.
Last week, nearly 50 Friends of the Children staff from around the
country, including Friends, program directors and executive directors,
came to Portland, Ore., for New Friends Training. The largest New Friends
Training ever, staff from nearly every chapter, including our new
locations, attended the week-long training.
“The Friends were here for the week-long training learning about how
we can empower and advocate for the youth we serve, their families and
their communities,” said Gary Clemons, chief program officer for Friends
of the Children. “We also spent a lot of time talking about our four
frameworks: taking a strength-based approach, promoting resilience,
starting with outcomes in mind and being inclusive of all cultures.”
It seems so straightforward, yet if you were to ask a Friend what
their typical day looks like, they would likely say one doesn’t exist.
There are good days, and there are bad days. There are times when the job
feels incredibly fulfilling and times when our Friends feel defeated.
So, what exactly do we look for in a Friend?
“We look for someone who loves children, wants them to be successful and
wants to nurture all the good in that child that other people might not
see,” said Carmi Brown, national program director for Friends of the
Children. “We want people who can say, ‘Regardless of your circumstances
or what you’ve been exposed to, I’m going be here for you for the long
haul, no matter what.’ Being a friend is more than a job—it’s a
The training provided the entire network a valuable engagement
opportunity where staff could celebrate the growth, build relationships,
receive support from other Friends and establish trust among team
members. The training also ensured that everyone received the same
training curriculum and left with a deep understanding of the Friends of
the Children model.
Knowing there is no such thing as a typical day, attendees spent a
lot of time working through real-life scenarios that Friends are faced
with. This included everything from talking with their youth about
sexual health to knowing how to navigate difficult situations with
caregivers, schools and other systems.
One of the most important roles a Friend plays in their youth’s life
is in teaching their youth the power of the nine Core Assets. With these
in place, we believe our youth will enter adulthood with a solid
foundation for future success.
Another key takeaway from the New Friends Training was the importance
of using data to inform the work of Friends. By starting with outcomes
in mind, we are able to customize our approach to the individual and the
relationship, and then adjust our approach based on what the data tells
us is working.
A strong network is critical to Friends of the Children’s success. We
were so inspired to see so many people in the same room together
learning what it really means to be a Friend. This work would not be
possible without them.