White House Looks to Tech with Foster Care Hackathon

(Photo: Youtube, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Youtube, Creative Commons)

The White House has held a foster-care-focused hackathon with the goal of developing technology specifically to benefit foster children.

In honor of National Foster Care Month in May, the White House held the two-day Foster Care & Technology Hackathon on May 26th and 27th. The event’s hastag was #HackFosterCare.

Child welfare leaders, nonprofit organizations, philanthropists, foster care families, engineers, and other technology professionals all came together for the event. Participating organizations represented included Microsoft, Stack Overflow, and Stanford Law School’s Design Lab.

Aisha Chowdhry of FCW quoted a White House statement, which read:

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.

In a blog post, the leading representatives said:

There seems to be a disconnect between the innovative work that’s happening and the people who need these products in the child welfare system. There’s also a disconnect between the entrepreneurs working to improve child welfare and the technologists and innovators who could build and scale these solutions.

According to Elizabeth Green at the Chronicle of Social Change, goals included preventing homelessness in those who have become too old for the foster care system, and dealing with unplanned pregnancies.

The White House made several announcements at the event about the role that technology will be playing in improving the foster care system.

Firstly, they added a “final rule” to the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information Systems (CCWIS), which is a set of rules from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to guide the use of technology in child welfare efforts. According to a news release:

The 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.

Secondly, the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families will be partnering up with the General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, and will be allocating $1 million to states as they develop child welfare data systems.

Thirdly, The Pritzker Foster Care Initiative launched a $1 million fund for Foster Care Technology Innovation, and will be using it to support nonprofit entrepreneurs who are developing technology that will help young adults who are just emerging from foster care.

The Department of Education released the Foster Care Transition Toolkit to aid in the transition to adulthood, work, and post-secondary education.

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration also announced GetMyFuture.org, a web app that can be used to plan careers, explore education, apply for jobs, and find training opportunities without being creating user account.

According to the Office of the Press Secretary, Salesforce, a customer relationship management development firm, will have 90 days to develop a prototype case management system for foster care service providers.

Lastly, Sri Ravipati of THE Journal reports that the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and Foster Care Counts will be distributing $5 million worth of free laptops to transitioning foster youth in California over the next three years.