#HackFosterCare: Taking Advantage of Technology in Foster Care

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.

Coder working hard at developing new 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.

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Kinship Care Trends Across the Nation

Widely regarded by child welfare professionals as the best placement option for foster children, kinship care has been on the rise in the United States. Collectively, child welfare agencies have been pushing for more kinship placements as reports show that outcomes improve for children placed into the care of relatives.   These kinship care trends are signs that our child welfare system is working.  From a legislative standpoint, however, the major breakthrough in kinship care came in the form of the Fostering Connections for Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (FCSIA, also known as the Fostering Connections Act).

kinshiptrends

Laying the Groundwork for Kinship Care Trends

Passed in 2008, this bill paved the way for kinship care throughout the nation. Although “kinship care” as a concept was introduced to the US child welfare system as early as 1978 (way it was vs way it is link), it wasn’t until 1990s that it was regulated and supported by federal funds, becoming endorsed by the federal government as a specific program within foster care. At that time, more than 75% of the children in kinship care were in private or unlicensed homes.

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Individualized Foster Parent Support: FAFS’ Family Advocates

The number of children entering the foster care system across the country has steadily increased from 396,430 in 2012 to 427,137 in 2015. Most races, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, were victims of this surge, including children of Hispanic or Latin origin.
As of 2015, there were 91,101 Hispanic children in care, up from 83,637 in 2014. In fact, Hispanic children made up 21% of the children in the foster care system across the U.S.

individualized foster parent support
This influx, due in part the nation’s opioid epidemic, has put added stress on the foster care system, especially those foster parents who struggle with English and are not familiar with the system.

That’s why, now, more than ever, non-native English speaking foster parents are looking for support services to help them navigate a complicated system.

Most states have their own agencies to help Hispanic foster care families. In Washington, the nonprofit agency Friends of Youth specializes in helping Hispanic families become licensed. In California, the Latino Family Institute aims at preserving the integrity of Latin American cultures among adoptive families while promoting kinship adoptions. Continue reading

Foster Parent Online Support Groups Connecting Families

foster parent online support groupsFoster parenting is a 24/7 job with no days off! No wonder foster parents need easy access to support and information on their schedule – not just 9-5. When online support groups started in the early 80s, foster parents discovered a new way to get moral support and advice when they needed it, and the trend continues to grow today.

As you might guess, users say convenience is the best benefit of online support groups for foster parents. With both parents’ and kids’ schedules getting more and more demanding, the ability to get what you need, when you need it, is essential to everyone. More convenient for busy foster parents than traditional support groups with monthly or weekly face-to-face meetings, online support groups offer many other benefits as well. Continue reading