August 25, 2022

Friends of the Children Austin Receives $2.4 Million from MacKenzie Scott

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

AUSTIN, Texas (AUGUST 25, 2022) Friends of the Children Austin announced today that the organization received a $2.4 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 national mentoring program in the country with salaried, 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 Austin, many of whom are in—or at risk of entering—the foster care system.

“We are immeasurably grateful for this significant donation from MacKenzie Scott and the commitment to scale our mission and work,” said Nancy Pollard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Friends Austin. “With a contribution of this size, Friends Austin can accelerate our growth to serve more children who are the most in need of a professional, salaried, full-time mentor. We are able to invest in our highly skilled and dedicated staff, so they can invest in the children they are serving.”

This is the largest single gift ever received by the chapter and it provides the capacity to accelerate Friends Austin’s growth. The funding will allow Friends Austin to hire, support and train more staff to offer the highest quality programming to the youth it currently serves across the Austin region, while also expanding to serve many more children who can thrive with the support of a Friend.

“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 foster care— achieve outstanding outcomes considering the national statistics for youth transitioning out of foster care. National results for Friends of the Children are as follows:

  • 83% of youth with Friends graduate high school, while national graduation rates are around 55% 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 Austin pairs youth who have big hopes, dreams and goals and have been impacted by systemic inequities, which may include poverty, foster care and criminal justice system involvement, and other childhood traumatic experiences with Friends who stay by each child’s side from as early as age 4 through high school graduation.

“Children in Austin who are facing the greatest obstacles and vulnerabilities are provided the opportunity to have a Friend walk alongside them for their entire childhood,” said Marilyn Manzo, Program Director at Friends Austin. “The longitudinal and early intervention of the Friends of the Children model provides consistency and stability and changes the trajectory of a child’s life.”

In addition to Friends Austin, 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 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 Austin

Friends of the Children Austin (Friends Austin) launched in 2017 to serve youth in East Austin. We exclusively focus on children who are facing many systemic obstacles and have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences by the time they reach kindergarten. Friends Austin hires and trains bilingual, salaried, professional mentors (“Friends”) whose full-time jobs are to help our community’s youth succeed. We are the first and only professional mentoring organization in the Austin area. Each child in our program has a Friend from as early as age four through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what. Friends Austin partners with four of Austin ISD’s highest-poverty schools, CASA of Travis County and The Salvation Army Rathgeber Center to identify children in need of a Friend. We are currently serving 133 youth, ranging in ages from four to 11 years old. Friends Austin will grow to work with at least 210 children by 2024.