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Organization that provides mentors to children in poverty or foster care will open in Tacoma

A national program that aims to improve outcomes for children living in poverty or in foster care has opened a branch in Tacoma. The organization is called Friends of the Children. It assigns paid mentors to young children between the ages of 4 and 6, and maintains that connection for about 12 years.

The need in the South Puget Sound region is evident. The percentage of children placed in foster care is about twice as high in Pierce County as in King County. Friends of the Children already operates in Seattle and Southwest Washington.

“The goal is to ensure that they have one significant adult in their life that is giving them consistency to help make sure they’re achieving and making gains,” said Melvin “JR” Nobles, Jr., executive director of Friends of the Children – Tacoma.

Nobles said the program also will work with the children’s parents to help them achieve stability. He said the ultimate goal is to help children succeed in school and avoid the juvenile justice system. He said in the coming year, the Tacoma site plans to work with two dozen children.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.