There are many children in the world who are born into circumstances that do not benefit them. Maybe their parents cannot support the family, so they grow up hungry, or maybe they are left mostly on their own because their parents are working all the time. Parents may be abusive or pre-occupied with their own problems.
Living in Bend, it can be easy to forget that these circumstances are real and happen here locally. There are plenty of kids who eat most of their meals at school, whose families experience homelessness or are growing up in circumstances that hinder future success in life.
This is where Friends of the Children Central Oregon comes in. Friends of the Children was started by Duncan Campbell in Portland, Ore., in 1993 and has since expanded all over the nation. The organization started in Central Oregon in 2017.
This non-profit, evidenced-based organization sets out to find those young children who need extra support due to the circumstances they were born into and then give them that support until they become adults. This long-term plan is one of the main things that separates FOCCO from other mentoring organizations.
"We have an intense selection process where we partner with the school district and do a six-week observation in kindergarten classes," says Kim Hatfield, Executive Director for FOCCO. "We look for kids who are isolated, who may have behavior issues, who are coming to school hungry—the most vulnerable children who need someone to walk alongside them and advocate for them."