"Ideas We Should Steal" is a regular feature of the Philadelphia Citizen, which will be holding an Ideas We Should Steal Festival on Nov. 30.
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Friends of the Children was founded by Duncan Campbell, a Portland native not unlike the children he came to serve. He overcame the odds, went to law school, and became a probation officer, where he realized most of his clients wouldn’t be there if they had had caring adults who helped them early in their lives. Campbell went on to found Campbell Global, a timber investment company he sold in 1992, when he decided to turn his attention to children in poverty.
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In its 25 years, mostly spent in Portland, the group is almost unfailingly successful. Among foster-care youth who have stayed with the program through at least sophomore year of high school, 83 percent graduated high school, 98 percent avoided teen parenthood, and 93 percent avoided the criminal justice system. Compare that with those without Friends: 58 percent graduation rate, 71 percent teen pregnancies, 25 percent involved with juvenile justice system.The children in Friends of the Children are, intentionally, those with the direst need, chosen in two ways: through referrals from the foster-care system or from observations at kindergarten classes in high-poverty areas. Once enrolled, each child is assigned a “life navigator,” who spends three to four hours a week with him or her, visiting classrooms, taking the children out in the city, to ball games, museums, parks.