At the heart of the American story is the simple truth that all children should have a fair chance at success, no matter who they are or where they come from. Central to this promise of opportunity is the love and support of a family – which all children deserve, but not enough have.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in our nation’s foster care system with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted. Every year, 23,000 of these youth will age out of the system never having found a permanent home. Young people who age out of foster care face a tough road: they are more likely to experience significant challenges with completing their education, obtaining a job, homelessness, maintaining financial security and staying out of the criminal justice system. A significant percentage of former foster youth suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. We also know that there continues to be a disproportionate representation of African-American and Native-American children and youth in foster care. The President believes that no child should have to beat the odds simply to get a good education, to live a productive life free from abuse and neglect and to pursue their dreams. And they certainly should not feel alone as they try.
Advances in technology have radically changed nearly every aspect of our lives—but for too many aspects of the foster care system, we’re stuck in the last century. President Obama believes that with enhanced commitment and coordination, the technology and child welfare sectors can work together to solve some of our most pressing issues.
Today, as a step to improve the lives of youth and families in the foster care system, to prevent more young people from entering the system, and to create better outcomes for those who age out, the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Think of Us are hosting the first ever White House foster care and technology hackathon.
This two-day long event during National Foster Care Month brings together child welfare leaders, non-profit organizations, philanthropies, attorneys and foster care families and alumni, as well as engineers, technologists and other leaders from the technology sector. At the convening, we will discuss ways to improve our foster care system through the use of technology and highlight best practices. Additionally, those involved with child welfare will have the opportunity to team up with technology experts to “hack” challenges in child welfare and explore 21st century solutions. Such challenges include:
- Actively integrating more innovative technology into child welfare agencies;
- Preventing homelessness for youth who have aged out of care;
- Making essential documents readily available to foster youth;
- Helping mothers dealing with substance abuse;
- Getting more families to sign up to be foster homes;
- Empowering foster youth with decision making abilities;
- Creating a frameworks to protect child welfare information in the digital age and;
- Preventing unplanned pregnancy among foster youth.
The Administration and its partners are also proud to announce a number of new steps aimed to increase the use of technology and improve outcomes in the foster care system. Today’s announcements include:
- Comprehensive Child Welfare Information Systems (CCWIS) Final Rule: For the first time in 23 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new regulations that guide the use of technology in child welfare. The CCWIS regulations promote innovation and allow state and county child welfare agencies to use more effective technology to quickly identify youth and family needs and link them to services. Additionally, the regulations promote the exchange of information between child welfare agencies, health care facilities, education systems and courts to better serve young people in and aging out of care.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services New Partnership to Build Technology Systems: The HHS Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) has recently teamed up with the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies to provide $1 million worth of consulting services to states as they procure agile child welfare data systems. Through this new partnership, GSA will provide in-depth training and assistance on modular procurements, user-centered design, agile development, application programming interfaces and open source technologies for child welfare agencies across the country.
- U.S. Department of Education Foster Care Transition Toolkit: The U.S. Department of Education released a comprehensive toolkit for foster youth transitioning out of care that highlights ways to successfully pursue higher education and careers post high school. The toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational, skills and resource barriers as they transition into adulthood. This toolkit is also intended to serve as a resource to caseworkers, caregivers, teachers and mentors helping foster youth to realize their highest aspirations. The Foster Care Transition Toolkit was designed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Labor and incorporates input from practitioners and current and former foster youth.
- U.S. Department of Labor Get My Future App: The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration has launched GetMyFuture.org, a mobile-friendly webapp within the Career One Stop website (an informational website sponsored by DOL) for youth to plan careers, explore education and training options and search and apply for jobs. Developed with input from young adults and youth program providers, Get My Future provides youth with online tools, information and resources to help them gain employment success. The site features a streamlined interest assessment and occupational profile to help young people see what careers are a good fit for them along with wage information, skill and education requirements and an indicator of whether or not there will be jobs available in that sector. It also provides special resources to help young people meet challenges such as involvement in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, homelessness, addiction, or a lack of financial, family, or community resources.
- Free Laptops for Transition Age Foster Youth in California: Research released today reveals a marked digital divide for foster youth. Led by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and Foster Care Counts, a public/private coalition led by the State of California has been created to address this digital divide. They have committed $250,000 to launch an effort to ensure that all transition age foster youth in California are provided laptop computers. Having secured the support of the California Department of Social Services and the Child Welfare Directors’ Association of California, the coalition aims to distribute 10,000 laptops to foster youth ages 16-21 at an estimated cost of $5m over the next three years.
- Pritzker Foster Care Initiative’s New Foster Care Technology Innovation Fund: Today, the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative announced the launch of a $1 million Foster Care Technology Innovation Fund to boost non-profit entrepreneurial efforts targeted to supporting transition age youth 18-24 years of age in the foster care system. The Fund builds upon the foundation’s commitment to encourage the development of technology applications to ensure that foster youth have broader access to services, information and higher quality care. Grants will be made to non-profit organizations which are developing innovative online solutions and mobile apps that meet the unique needs of youth in foster care. The Fund will encourage public-private partners to boost tech investment in child welfare.
- Modern Day Case Management System Prototype from Salesforce: Salesforce, a customer relationship management development firm, will create a prototype within 90 days to model a modern day case management system scalable by interested foster care service providers. Salesforce will make the prototype and code that runs on Salesforce available to interested stakeholders.