In 1992, The Campbell Institute for Children, founded by Duncan, conducted extensive research to determine the most effective program model to help young children overcome their high-risk status and realize their inherent resilience and potential. The research clearly indicated that the strongest single protective factor a child can have is a close, healthy and sustained relationship with a caring adult, especially an adult who has positive expectations for the child and involves him or her in meaningful activities.
Duncan established Friends of the Children in 1993 in his old neighborhood. Friends of the Children began with just three salaried, professional mentors called Friends and 24 children. By 2014, Friends of the Children had grown to employ hundreds of Friends who serve thousands of children in cities including Boston, New York, Seattle, Portland, Klamath Falls, Tampa Bay, and Cornwall (UK). These children learn the skills and perspective they need to change their stories.
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