White House Foster Care Hackathon Kicks off with Commitments

On May 26, around 150 child welfare professionals, former foster youth technologists, philanthropists and various technocrats filed into a windowless auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just adjacent to the White House.

Why? To “hack” foster care of course.

In the kickoff to the two-day session, Rafael López, the commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, said that he was hoping to “flip the script” on the current foster care system, a refrain that he has repeatedly evoked since he took office last year.

“Why is that we can track that a package on Amazon Prime, but can’t tell you for a fact where every child in the child welfare system is?” López asked. “What about bringing the tinkerers, thinkers and entrepreneurs to this space?”

Panelists during first session of White House Hackathon.
Panelists during first session of White House Hackathon.

In conjunction with the event, the White House issued a fact sheet announcing steps it and partners are taking to spur tech advances in the foster care system.

Top of the list was a “Final Rule” to the 23-year-old Comprehensive Child Welfare Information Systems, the data entry system that all U.S. child welfare administrations must use. While this reporter is yet to review the new rule, the White House fact sheet states that it will “promote the exchange of information between child welfare agencies, health care facilities, education systems and courts to better serve young people in and aging out of care.”

In addition, the Administration for Children, Youth and Families announced $1 million to be dedicated to updating data systems for child welfare agencies across the country.

This sum was matched by the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative*, a Los Angeles-based philanthropy, which pledged $1 million to launch a “Technology Innovation Fund.” The Fund will “boost non-profit entrepreneurial efforts targeted to supporting transition age youth 18-24 years of age in the foster care system,” according to the fact sheet.

Also out of California, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation*, a charitable foundation, and Foster Care Counts, the non-profit wing of the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative, announced that they had committed “$250,000 to launch an effort to ensure that all transition aged foster youth in California are provided laptop computers.” This comes on heels of new research that shows that less than 20 percent of foster youth have computers compared to about 90 percent of teens in the general population.

In addition, customer relationship mega-firm Salesforce announced that it would prototype a “modern day case management” for the foster care system within 90 days.

So the FosterTech smorgasbord begins. More to come out of D.C.

* Fostering Media Connections, the parent company of The Chronicle of Social Change, has received support from the Pritzker Foster Care Initiative and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.

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Devon Ziminski
About Devon Ziminski 34 Articles
Devon is a Journalism for Social Change Fellow. She writes about gun violence, mental health, adoption policy and practice, and education.

1 Comment

  1. This is awesome! What a creative way to solve the problem. I am an alum of foster care myself. Bringing these resources to bear on the problems of the foster care system is an innovative and potentially transformative way to bring necessary change.

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