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August 25, 2022

Friends of the Children - Detroit and Friends of the Children’s national network receive $44 million gift from MacKenzie Scott to support its long-term mentoring model

Gift gives organization powerful momentum to provide more Detroit youth with big dreams who face systemic obstacles with a paid, professional mentor for 12+ years

Media Contact:

Lokyee Au


DETROIT (AUGUST 25, 2022) Friends of the Children - Detroit announced today that the organization received a $1.1 million gift as part of a $44 million gift to the national organization Friends of the Children from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Friends of the Children is the only 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 more children in Detroit, many of whom are in—or at risk of entering—the foster care system.

“We are honored to receive this historic gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott,” said Brittany Merritt, Interim Executive Director of Friends of the Children - Detroit and National Chief Development Officer of Friends of the Children. “Friends-Detroit launched in 2020 and our unwavering commitment to our youth and families positioned us as trusted sources of support in our community. We are especially excited for what this gift means to the youth and families we currently serve, and the many more we will reach. They have big dreams, limitless potential, and deserve to thrive - this gift will crystallize our promise to them.”

This is the largest single gift ever received by the chapter. The funding will allow the organization to sustain and accelerate the chapter’s presence in the community, expand the number of youth and families served, and build the chapter’s capacity by bringing on more Friends — all while simultaneously offering critical resources to their families and caregivers to alleviate challenges that impact them daily, including housing, transportation, and food insecurity. In addition, the chapter aims to expand families’ access to behavioral and mental health resources.

“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.”

Youth in Friends of the Children—many of whom have been impacted by poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, and foster care— achieve outstanding results considering the national statistics for youth transitioning out of foster care:

  • 83% of youth with Friends graduate high school, while in some communities, graduation rates are as low as 27% for youth without a Friend;

  • 93% of youth with Friends avoid the juvenile justice system, compared to 74% without Friends;

  • 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.

Friends – Detroit pairs youth with big dreams who have been impacted by systemic inequities, which may include poverty, foster care and criminal justice system involvement, and other adverse childhood experiences, with “Friends” who stay by each child’s side from as early as age 4 through high school graduation.

“Empowering youth and their families is at the core of the work,” said Lakesha Williams, professional mentor “Friend” at Friends of the Children - Detroit. “This incredible gift will support our work as we focus on serving youth and their families at the highest risk of involvement with the child welfare system. Long-term, one-on-one relationships between Friends, youth, and caregivers can bring healing, stability and consistency to a child’s life, and open up pathways to opportunity for both youth and their families.”

In addition to Friends of the Children - Detroit, 11 other Friends of the Children locations across the country received gifts directly from MacKenzie Scott. Funding gifted directly to Friends of the Children - National will support the organization in expanding its child and whole-family well-being services through the establishment of new Friends of the Children locations and expansion of other current locations. Over the last eight years, Friends of the Children has grown from five to 26 locations across the U.S.


About Friends of the Children - Detroit

Friends of the Children - Detroit is a 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 work has been featured in WXYZ, Detroit Business Magazine, and Michigan Chronicle. Visit to learn more.