Tomorrow kicks off the first ever White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon, and participants’ home court, the web, is buzzing with excitement as leaders in technology and child welfare leaders from around the country head to Washington to #HackFosterCare. This event will gather some of the most tech-savvy minds in the country together with child welfare organizations and foster families to generate new solutions to issues facing youth in the foster care system.
Teams from organizations like Microsoft, Stack Overflow and Stanford Law School’s Design Lab will spend two days “hacking” the child welfare system in partnership with professionals and families involved in child welfare. Teams have been in training, preparing solutions to their specific challenge, with issue areas ranging from preventing homelessness for those aging out of the foster care system to how to keep necessary documents consistently accessible to foster youth.
David Haney at Stack Overflow, whose team will tackle the question “how might we prevent unplanned pregnancy among foster youth?” wrote about their excitement to apply technology in cutting edge ways to impact social change. He provides a teaser into their hack, an app linking youth to resources and support, which “can become a powerful on-demand resource for social workers and foster youth everywhere.”
For some participants, the experience will be personal — not just for foster families and youth in attendance, but for the tech “hackers” as well. Microsoft’s team aims to tackle prenatal alcohol or drug exposure by creating “a marketplace for social services” for young women facing an unplanned pregnancy, something that hits home to some members of the team. Team member and Microsoft technical evangelist Heather Shapiro posted, “several members of the team have been personally touched or affected by the problem of pregnant and parenting mothers dealing with substance abuse and are passionate about improving the situation for struggling mothers and their children.”
The event promises to be both challenging and inspiring. Blogging en route to Washington D.C., Kalon’s team mused, “What if we could help foster youth find, cultivate, and take advantage of their potential? How might that not only benefit youth, but companies like us? Now that’s a challenge we’re ready to take on with the utmost dedication!”
In their focus on reducing homelessness for youth who have aged out of foster care, the joint team from Colab.la and Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab sees potential beyond these two days. “We hope the different stakeholders and experts attending the Hackathon will take a few pages out of our playbook and apply them to the issue of foster care and homelessness,” the team posted yesterday. The changes they design cannot happen overnight, but they hope that “the small things we build this week will inspire big ideas in the future.”