Most teenagers can’t wait to turn 18 or 21 to enjoy their freedom. However, for teens in foster care, these ages carry with it a freedom that isn’t always wanted. Every year more than 20,000 youth in foster care age out of the system and lose life-changing services in the process.
When youth age out, they become ineligible for the state funding they have received since entering the foster care system. This funding helps them with everything from housing to medical care. Youth also no longer have caseworkers to talk with when issues arise or foster families to welcome them home after a long day. Many go from having a variety of resources and people supporting them to being alone in the world.
Prior to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (FCA), only youth under the age of 18 were eligible to be in foster care. The FCA provided states the option to receive federal funding that extends foster children’s benefits to the age of 21. Since 2008, 26 states, including New Jersey and the District of Columbia, have passed the act allowing youth to choose to stay in foster care until their 21st birthday.
In May of 2016, the White House held a special “hackathon” for foster care as a part of the “#HackFosterCare” initiative. Hackathons are events in which problems are presented that the participants attempt to solve with programming solutions, and former foster youth and founder of Think Of Us Sixto Cancel embraced this idea as a way for communities to approach technology in foster care.
The child welfare system is large and, when including the sea of nonprofits and associated organizations, has many working parts. As the nation moves forward and attempts to ensure that the system serves its children as best as it can, the integration of technological solutions becomes a necessity. From social media to smartphones, foster parents, foster children, social workers and volunteers are constantly changing the technology they engage with and through. Because of the changing tides of tech, foster care organizations have a unique opportunity to re-investigate and resolve problems that crop up because of their own consistent evolution.
It’s this opportunity that Cancel hopes to seize by hosting foster care hackathons across the country.
When teenagers think of turning 17, many probably think about getting their license, their first car and who they are taking to prom.
When Jacob Tucci looks back at being 17, he’s reminded of the year he entered the foster care system.
“It’s hard to think that I entered the foster care system so late,” Jacob says, “because there are other kids that enter the foster care system at such a young age, but I don’t think there’s a right time to have that happen.”
Ten years, one decade, 3,650 days of service is a great reason for celebration. Recently, Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS), The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) and the New Jersey Foster Care (NJFC) Scholars Program held a celebration at The Professional Center in New Brunswick, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the NJFC Scholars Program. Over that period, hundreds of young men and women in foster, adoptive and kinship care were able to attend colleges, universities and trade schools with the assistance of this special program.
State Officials Turn Out To Celebrate New Jersey Foster Care Scholars
In attendance were Allison Blake, PhD, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF); Mary Jane Awrachow, CEO of FAFS; Tara Rizzolo, FAFS Director of Scholarship Programs; Kara Wood, Director of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency; Fran Gervasi, FAFS Director of Education and Training; graduates, current scholars and various guests. The event theme was “Red Carpet – Starring the Scholars.” Continue reading