Leaders Prepare to #HackFosterCare at the White House Foster Care and Technology Hackathon

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.”

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Devon Ziminski
About Devon Ziminski 33 Articles
Devon is a Journalism for Social Change Fellow. She writes about gun violence, mental health, adoption policy and practice, and education.


  1. Waste of time. As Former US Senator who lost her seat after she put out the report “The Corrupt Business Of Child Protective Services” said in a speech, The whole system needs reformed…. here is her report- Link: http://www.nccr.info/attachments/600_The%20Corrupt%20Business%20Of%20Child%20Protective%20Services.pdf Nancy was later murdered with her husband, on what was claimed to be a murder-suicide… The whole system needs reformed, no more federal incentives etc. This has gone on far too long, what happened to Due Process? Innocent until proven guilty? why are only 4% of children taken by Kansas DCF (According to the director of communications) there for substantiated claims? And why are they not returned after ruling of unsubstantiated? If you do not see an issue with rights such as HUMAN RIGHTS (Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 11 being the biggest http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/) being stripped away from you, this may be a good time to read up on the constitution, of take a gander at the UDH, or maybe read the report Nancy Schaefer had put out before her death…

  2. If you really want to hack that system, use an axe. Hack the Federal Funding off, which is turned into a bounty to take children away from their natural families.Rip away Title IV D and Title IV E and then you will see some changes happening. Until then, you will just see more and more children trafficked away from their families… for money.

  3. The system needs to be hacked! Our baby has been stolen due to county employee immunity and their indiscriminate federal & state statute bypasses. Money talks, and grandparents lose…forever, in our case.

  4. Prediction: allocate MORE ffunding to drive ‘commission’ to address the issue, and line item most $ for administrative costs.

    And I’m nobody.


  5. Did someone forget to invite the natural parents who have had their children taken from them? Why are we ONLY focused on what happens to kids once their are already in foster care? Why don’t we focus on keeping kids out of foster care and helping their families? The Senate Finance Committee had a hearing last year entitled “A Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care about child welfare.” In that hearing, Wyden said, “Whenever you ask anyone who has been through the child welfare system about what could help them the most, the answer is often ‘helping my mom, helping my dad, helping my family.'”

    • One problem at a time. What you say is true but while you figure out how to make families better, kids are aging out. They have a time limit which is why its most crucial that we gave them tools to prepare themselves before aging out. The kids can’t control what the parents do, but they sure can help themselves.

  6. How about starting with human beings who have actually experienced life as a foster kid? I would love to share and help build a better system. Our current system is broken. Innocent families are destroyed every day, meanwhile those truly abused are left in the hands of the abusers. Follow the money trail. For too long, those who earn a living and benefit directly from the system have made all the regulations and guidelines. How about foster kids and those falsely accused of wrongdoing have an opportunity to share some information?

    • There were many foster alumni at the event to help the developer understand the problem of the system. Its not just some coders sit in a room by themselves thinking they can fix the problem but rather groups of coders, social work, and many former foster kids. I suggest you watch the live stream on the white house website.

  7. What a wonderful event and opportunity! My only concern is that child welfare academics/researchers, like myself, seem to have been left out of the conversation! And yet, not only have I done serious thinking about many of the issue areas, I also have an amazing app idea!

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