This weekend, over 200 people gathered at Fullscreen Media in Playa Vista for #HackFosterCareLA – Los Angeles’ iteration of the hackathon events that have been taking place across the country since last May at the White House. Fostering Media Connections was proudly part of the planning committee for this event, along with a dozen other motivated organizations, all brought together by the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative, the event’s lead planner.
After months of preparation, #HackFosterCareLA initiated two-days’ (and one long night’s) worth of active coding and intense dialogue between a cohort of 25 current and former foster youth, tech companies, county and city government officials, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and nonprofit service agencies. Snap, Binti and Salesforce were among the more than fifteen tech companies who sent teams to hack.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas gave the keynote address on Friday afternoon to kick off the event, and Brandon Nichols, Acting Director of the Department of Children and Family Services introduced the L.A.-specific hack challenges that would serve as pillars of the event: foster family recruitment and retention, transition planning, visitation, communication, or service linkage and referrals.
Mayor Eric Garcetti as well as Councilman Mike Bonin and his husband, Bixel Exchange Founder Sean Arian, all donned their parenting hats, speaking to the crowd on Friday and Saturday about their personal experiences as foster and adoptive parents.
“I was asked by a reporter outside, ‘What’s the connection between tech and foster care?’” Garcetti shared with the crowd of 250 on Friday. “And I said, ‘well, one is about connecting people and the other’s about … connecting people. It’s about finding connections for disconnected people.’”
Participants spent daytime hours convening in workshops about topics such as L.A. County’s open data for foster care, employment opportunities for foster youth in the tech space, and tools that already exist for youth in the system, such as the Think of Us platform, and apps like Persistence Plus and KnowB4UGo. The youth were especially equipped to join these discussions, as the cohort had received a crash course in coding two weeks earlier, thanks to TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, in preparation for the hackathon.
Hack teams, including youth, then stayed overnight at Fullscreen, digging into their assigned hack challenge and starting to design the solutions they’d begun to envision. A late night virtual reality display, pizza delivery and sunrise yoga all helped keep the energy up.
#HackFosterCareLA culminated Saturday afternoon, with teams presenting on the products of their last 24 hours. You can see it all in action in the video above.
Fostering Media Connections is the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change, and is supported by the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative.