Our mission at Friends of the Children–He Sapa (Friends–He Sapa) is to impact generational change through youth relationships with professional mentors—for 12+ years, no matter what. We intentionally build relationships with children and families facing the greatest obstacles to belonging and well-being, using our long-term mentorship model together with the cultural grounding of the Lakota culture to help children and families build a path to long-term stability and community.

Friends–He Sapa launched in summer 2022 as an independent nonprofit that is the first Indigenous-led, culturally specific location of the national Friends of the Children network. Our model has six distinguishing elements:   
1. We intentionally serve children facing the greatest risk factors. 
2. We hire full-time, highly trained professional mentors (who we call “Relatives”) with skills and knowledge to work with children and families with histories of personal and cultural trauma. Friends spend 3 to 4 hours per week with each child, including 2 hours in school. 
3. We enroll children ages 4 to 6 and commit to them through high school graduation. 
4. We are involved in all facets of a child’s life (school, home, and community) and are grounded in Lakota culture to provide holistic, wrap-around services. 
5. Relatives develop trusting relationships with caregivers and elders, partnering to promote the child’s learning and development. 
6. We combine our network’s 30 years of proven results with our leadership’s deep attachment to Lakota traditions and their expertise in educating and serving Indigenous youth and families.

Four stages of the Lakota Way of Life

Four Stages Lakota Way of Life

This representation of the Oinajin Topa is based on the work of Rick Two-Dogs and Ethleen Iron Cloud-Two Dogs, and shared with their permission.

Friends of the children Values

Our values guide us to achieve our mission. Each value applies not only to our youth, Friends and program teams, but also applies to all Friends of the Children employees, volunteers and partners. We use our values to make informed decisions; to hire, coach, and manage; and most importantly, we use our values to change the way the world treats and views the youth and families we serve.

Lakota Values
Children First

Put Children First

We intentionally serve youth who are facing the greatest obstacles. To help our youth discover their limitless potential, we foster their internal resiliency. We listen to our youth and base decisions on each youth’s needs and dreams. We prioritize self-care so that we bring our best selves to our work and focus on our youth.

Build Relationships

Build Relationships on Love

We nurture long-term relationships from a foundation of love, acceptance and culturally-informed practice. We don’t give up easily and take a no matter what approach to our work. We commit for the long-term. We intentionally develop collaborative relationships over time with trust, empathy and healthy communication. We believe that we build community through one-on-one connections that are authentic, respectful and meaningful.


Commit to Empowerment

We leverage personal strengths to take ownership of our futures. We build relationships within the communities of our youth and families to strengthen social networks and provide bridges to new opportunities. We consistently inspire possibility through empathy, hard work and fun. We model all of this for our youth, families and each other.

Pursue Goals

Pursue Goals Relentlessly

We celebrate all achievements, big and small. We are disciplined in our commitment to goals, while innovative in how we reach them. We believe that the definition of success requires intentional reflection and adjustment over time. We work together and hold ourselves accountable with data to achieve short and long-term outcomes.

Demand Equity

Demand Equity

We acknowledge the historical and present injustices impacting marginalized communities. We demand equity from ourselves and from our community. We insist that all people have the necessary support to achieve all of their hopes and dreams. We amplify the voices of our children, families and communities. We bring together different experiences, skills and backgrounds to provide opportunities to overcome personal, systemic and institutional barriers.