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Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, today I rise in support of Friends of the Children, FOTC, a revolutionary organization founded and based in my hometown of Portland, OR, that provides intensive, long-term mentors to highly vulnerable kids in need. FOTC takes a preventive, early intervention approach that breaks the cycle of poverty and helps children grow up to be productive citizens.

The key to FOTC's success is its mentors, called Friends. Each Friend is full time, paid and professionally trained. The Friends are matched with the most severely at-risk children at an early age--selected in kindergarten--and make a 12 1/2 year commitment to each child, guiding them through high school graduation.

Friends of the Children was founded in 1993 and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. My friend Duncan Campbell, founder of FOTC, grew up in poverty himself, and his persistence, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit continue to be a driving force behind FOTC's success.

The goals for FOTC's children are both simple and profound: success in school with a minimum of a high school diploma or GED; avoid involvement in the juvenile justice system, and avoid early parenting. And independent research has shown that Friends of the Children is achieving those goals: 85 percent of FOTC graduates have completed high school, despite 54 percent having a parent who did not graduate; 97 percent of FOTC youth are not involved in the juvenile justice system despite 60 percent having a parent who has been incarcerated; and 98 percent of FOTC adolescents avoid early parenting despite 60 percent having been born to a teen mother.

Friends of the Children works because it treats every child as an individual facing a set of unique circumstances, and takes a committed, hands-on approach to improving those circumstances. It works because it focuses on one-on-one relationships using a rational, intelligent and proven system.

While headquartered in Portland, Friends of the Children now has chapters in four additional cities: Klamath Falls, Seattle, Boston and New York. Today, I am proud to congratulate this remarkable program on its 20th anniversary, and look forward to celebrating many more years of its continued success.

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