August 02, 2023

Friends of the Children opening Twin Cities chapter, executive director announced

Minneapolis resident and community leader Brett Buckner tapped to lead the chapter


April 13, 2023


Ariane Le Chevallier

MINNEAPOLIS - Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that pairs children who face multiple systemic obstacles with a paid, professional mentor called a Friend for 12+ years, announced today that they are launching a Friends of the Children-Twin Cities chapter and have named Minneapolis resident Brett Buckner as the executive director

“We are thrilled at the opportunity for our community to benefit from the impact of this 30-year-old long-term mentorship model,” said Buckner. “Thanks to extensive community support, each child in our program will have a Friend for 12+ years—no matter what—to walk alongside them through the ups and downs, and everything in between. Together we can support the bright futures of youth who are facing a lot of challenges and also deserve to experience hope and joy.”

Friends of the Children-Twin Cities will begin working with children ages 4 to 6 in Hennepin and Ramsey counties who identify as Black and Indigenous and have been impacted by systems like child welfare or the justice system. Each child selected will be paired with a Friend whose full-time job is to spend four hours a week with each child holistically – at school, at home and in the community. Friends will support youth and, by extension their families, building trusting relationships through a trauma-informed lens that provides critical social, emotional and academic support.

“We have taken great care to build strong relationships with community, government, nonprofit organizations and business leaders from across Hennepin and Ramsey counties to successfully launch Friends of the Children-Twin Cities,” says Buckner. “We're excited to partner with child well-being leaders throughout our community to help us identify and support children and families who stand to benefit most from the support of a Friend."

Outcomes for Black and Indigenous children in Minnesota are some of the most inequitable in the country, particularly related to child welfare system involvement, education, access to mental health, homelessness and geographic segregation. On any given day in Hennepin County, approximately 150 children ages 4 to 6—the age at which children will enter the Friends of the Children-Twin Cities program—are in foster care. In 2021, 72 children ages 4 to 6 were reunified with their families. The pandemic exacerbated mental health challenges for young people across the state, with Minnesota students reporting higher rates of anxiety and depression than at any other time in history. Family instability, trauma and behavioral health challenges are proven to affect long-term health and education outcomes for young people. Friends of the Children says it is possible to both prevent adversity and reduce the overall impact of trauma. The organization says two main ways recommended by experts are connecting youth to caring adults and building core life skills. Friends of the Children does both.

“I am humbled at the opportunity to serve as the chair of the board of Friends of the Children-Twin Cities. I was incredibly privileged to serve as a former Friend myself through the Friends-New York City chapter,” said Kyrra Rankine, Friends of the Children-Twin Cities Board Chair. “To see Friends of the Children open a chapter in Minnesota truly brings this full circle for me.  I experienced firsthand the impact Friends could have on the lives of children and families who are already incredibly strong and need more support to overcome those systemic barriers that stand in their way. I’m particularly excited to be working alongside Brett – his leadership and dedication to our community will be transformative as we grow the Twin Cities chapter of Friends of the Children.”

Several notable funders and leaders in the area have been instrumental in bringing the chapter to the Twin Cities, including the Edward R. Bazinet Charitable Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Carlson Family Foundation, and the Sauer Family Foundation.  

A third-party evaluation of Friends of the Children program graduates showed that:

  • 92% of graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country or enter the workforce
  • 83% of youth obtain a high school diploma or GED
  • 93% remain free from juvenile justice system involvement
  • 98% wait to parent until after their teen years

Before joining Friends of the Children-Twin Cities, Buckner, a third-generation Minnesotan and a lifelong resident of North Minneapolis, served as the managing director for, a network dedicated to shared sustainable prosperity and the advancement of equity in Minnesota. During that time, Buckner helped form the Seeds To Harvest network, a program of that mobilized 80+ organizations and hundreds of volunteers in response to communal challenges to support children and families. Buckner’s commitment to equity, engagement, and empowerment is demonstrated through nearly 25 years of policy action to close the “gaps” that hinder the community.  

Friends of the Children is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with extensive expansion efforts. The nationwide Friends of the Children footprint now includes 26 chapters located in 32 sites across 19 states and Tribal sovereign nations. The organization is supported by Friends of the Children Ambassador Simone Biles and recently received a $44 million gift from renowned philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Friends of the Children–Twin Cities is in the process of identifying senior leadership to work alongside its executive director and board. The organization will begin hiring Friends whose full-time jobs will be to support youth one on one in the Twin Cities area. Go to to learn more.

Note to media: Access the digital media kit here, which includes a bio and headshot of Buckner and photos of Friends and youth (to be used for reporting purposes only).


About Friends of the Children

Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit with the mission of impacting generational change by empowering youth who face the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors – 12+ years, no matter what. Our successful model is now in 32 locations around the country. Our work has been featured in The New York Times, The Associated Press, CBS News, People Magazine and Stanford Social Innovation Review. Visit to learn more and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.