November 22, 2021
2021-2022 strategic direction helps us continue to prioritize youth.
A letter from our Executive Director
Once again, we find ourselves racing towards the finish line of another truly unprecedented year. At Friends of the Children–Seattle, we’ve weathered changes by developing new ways for mentors to engage with youth in-person amid the concerns brought on by the Delta variant and, most importantly, we’ve seen our youth return to school in-person. During my first four months as the new Executive Director, I have been thrilled to jump into this work.
I have been blown away by the dedication of our staff, the commitment of our caregivers and partners, and the generosity of our supporters. Thank you for showing up and being a part of this village that we are building for our youth. Your support continues to be crucial in our work to deepen our relationships with our families to support youth in achieving their dreams.
This year at Friends, we have learned that to provide the most impactful and important services to our youth and families, we all need to be better listeners, better partners, and better advocates. The heart of our long-term, relationship-based mentoring work will continue and we will continue to adapt, always keeping the voices of our youth centered in our work to best meet the needs of our community.
What does this mean right now?
Our entire staff have worked together to develop and implement a strategic direction for the upcoming months that will also inform our bold new 2022–2025 strategic plan. We are proud of our strategic direction and I want to share it with you by introducing one of our youth.
*Name changed to protect youth's privacy
Meet Robbie*. He is nine years old and in the 4th grade. He loves to play video games, collect Pokémon cards, and explore Lincoln Park with Sam, his professional mentor. He and Sam have been paired together for over two years, and if you asked Robbie what he’s most proud of (during that time), he’d say it’s that he has quickly improved his reading level. Together, they are tackling Robbie’s goal of reading cool Pokémon chapter books.
There are over 200 other youth in our program. To ensure all our youth have access to the resources, time, and safe space they need to work on their goals, our team has committed to:
Safely re-open in-person mentoring and office space. Robbie loves spending time with his mentor, but he’s also practicing making friends, being social, and learning to talk to other adults. Reopening the office is really important for him to have a safe space to do that. Robbie’s grandma is elderly, and he wants to make sure she is safe from COVID. Finding a way to balance social needs and safety is a conversation happening between mentors and youth, and at all levels of the organization.
Prioritize staff wellness. Robbie and Sam talk about how important it is to sleep well, eat well, and take care of his mental health. Sam shares stories of how that is also true when you become an adult! As we help our youth gain skills to take care of their own wellness, we also need to ensure our staff can do that for themselves. Not only is it good role modeling; it’s also necessary for all of us to show up ready and fully present to serve our youth.
Become an organization grounded in equity. As Robbie learns and grows, he is learning about racism, and how it looks and feels. He is also learning that there are ways he and his community can work to dismantle it, and overcome it. It’s important to have a space where he can talk and explore, as well as learn from those who can teach him more. And it’s important for us, the adults that make up Robbie’s support network, continue to learn and build through an anti-oppressive lens.
Center our programming around the voices of our youth and families. Robbie has talked to his mentor about wanting to meet new friends during COVID. Sam helps to bring Robbie’s ideas into planning group outings, so everyone can benefit. Sometimes youth ideas are new and creative, using platforms never heard of before by mentors. Most of the time, youth know exactly what they need, and we can be there to help. Moreover, our caregivers also have invaluable insight to creating programming that empowers and supports each of our youth.
Ensure sustainability of our organization. Robbie relies on his mentor to be there, no matter what. Sam has had conversations with Robbie about what will happen when Robbie enters the teen program or if Sam gets a different job—Robbie will get a new mentor, who would be just as committed to his success. He can count on it. It’s essential that Friends maintains strong funding and implements new systems that will provide more effective communication and transparency with our community. With that foundation, Robbie can continue learning and growing, with the support of his mentor and the entire Friends community.
You have been a valuable part of our community, and we are so grateful. You are a part of our village. Your consistent commitment to our work means that together we can carry out our mission to create transformative change and help youth reach their highest potential through the power of long-term mentoring relationships for 12+ years, no matter what.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Lacie West, Executive Director