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 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 calling.”
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.