August 24, 2022
MacKenzie Scott gifts $44 million to Friends of the Children to support its long-term mentoring model
Gift gives organization powerful momentum to provide thousands more youth who have big dreams and face systemic obstacles with a paid, professional mentor for 12+ years
Ariane Le Chevallier
PORTLAND, ORE. (August 25, 2022) – The national organization Friends of the Children announced today its network received a $44 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Friends of the Children is the only national mentoring program in the country with paid, professional mentors called “Friends” who walk alongside youth for 12+ years, no matter what. This gift offers powerful momentum for the organization to serve thousands more children, many of whom are in—or at risk of entering—foster care. In just eight years, Friends of the Children has grown from five to 26 locations across the U.S., serving urban, rural and Tribal communities.
“We are honored to kickstart our 30th anniversary of serving children with this extraordinary gift from MacKenzie Scott. This catalytic investment means we will continue expanding across the country to provide a Friend to thousands more youth,” said Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children - National. “In 2020, nearly 32,000 children ages four to six entered foster care in the U.S. – that’s 32,000 children and families who may have avoided foster care involvement if they’d had a Friend by their side.”
Of the $44 million, Friends of the Children – National received a $15 million gift and 12 of its chapters received direct gifts totaling $29 million. Those chapters include Austin, Boston, Central Oregon, Chicago, Detroit, Klamath Basin, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Tacoma and Tampa Bay. This is the largest single gift ever received by the organization in its 30-year history. The funding will support the organization in expanding its child and whole-family well-being services to thousands more children and families at new Friends of the Children locations.
“I know from my own experiences that children often face a lot of hard things as they grow up and the love and support I received after my foster care experience allowed me to thrive and see myself for all that I could be,” said Simone Biles, youth advocate and Olympic gymnast. “That’s why I believe the long-term mentorship that Friends of the Children provides is so meaningful—having just one person who believes in you can truly impact a young person’s life. I am excited that MacKenzie Scott is investing in Friends of the Children to empower more youth across the country! In supporting Friends of the Children, it is my hope that more children will have access to a ‘Friend’ and be inspired to pursue their hopes and dreams in all communities, including my hometown of Houston, Texas.”
The Friends of the Children mentoring model empowers youth—many of whom have been impacted by foster care—to achieve remarkable results. Comparisons of youth with Friends versus youth nationwide transitioning out of foster care show that:
- 83% of youth with Friends graduate high school, while in some communities, graduation rates are as low as 55% for youth without a Friend;
- 93% of youth with Friends avoid the juvenile justice system, compared to 74% without a Friend;
- 98% of youth with Friends avoid early parenting, while only 74% without a Friend wait to parent until after their teen years; and
- 92% of our program graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or become employed in a living wage job.
“Empowering children is at the core of our work,” said Tasha Fridia, national director of Tribal Programs at Friends of the Children - National. “This incredible gift will support Friends of the Children as we increase our work with communities of color across the country. It is an especially tremendous opportunity for our work with Indigenous youth as we partner with Tribal communities and Sovereign Tribal Nations to serve young relatives who have amazing promise and are surrounded by cultural richness but live in dramatically under-resourced communities.”
Friends of the Children pairs youth who have been impacted by systemic inequities, which may include poverty, foster care and criminal justice system involvement, and other traumatic childhood experiences, with “Friends” who stay by each child’s side from as early as age 4 through high school graduation. The organization empowers youth and families to overcome challenges at school, at home and in their community. Current systems aren’t working—or are causing additional trauma—for many of the families served by Friends of the Children, due to practices that have been embedded for decades.
The organization’s growth has been fueled by the success and efficacy of the model, with 30 years of data informing the approach and changing lives and communities. Friends of the Children is grateful for the recognition of the impact they are making and the immeasurable impact that will be made in the future through this investment.
Access the digital media kit here, including an exclusive video from Simone Biles.
About Friends of the Children
Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit with the mission of impacting generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors – 12+ years, no matter what. Our successful model is now in 26 locations around the country. Our work has been featured in The New York Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review and CBS News. Visit friendsofthechildren.org to learn more.