There’s more to Silicon Valley than just tech IPOs, self-driving cars or the best smart device.
The great leaders of Silicon Valley also care deeply about their community and the children who are most vulnerable, particularly foster youth. These young people experience unimaginable hardship and misfortune that shouldn’t exist in a community like ours that has so much abundance. For example, 40 percent of foster youth will become homeless within 18 months of leaving foster care. Only 3 percent will earn a college degree. Forty-seven percent will be unemployed when leaving the system.
As a community, we know we can and should do better.
That’s why the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund (SVCF) has been working hard for the past decade to
fundamentally change the experience of foster youth in the region. My team, working with community partners, has dedicated itself to finding new ways to better help these young people.
In support of this goal and in collaboration with our partners, we created the Hack Foster Care Summit, which will take place on Feb. 27-28 in Mountain View.
The summit brings together the best and brightest in Silicon Valley to challenge and remake the system for foster youth and their families. The founding vision of the summit is to engage Silicon Valley’s genius for innovation by having government agencies, non-profits, foster youth advocates and tech companies sit down together to “hack” the system and develop new solutions that will change the foster youth experience for future generations.
The summit builds on the nationwide momentum for creating new solutions for foster youth. Last May, the White House hosted a wildly successful foster care event that fired up the imaginations of foster care advocates across the country. That success led to another event in New York in December. Another is planned in Los Angeles April 27-28.
To make the most of the event in Silicon Valley, we have organized the summit into a series of team challenges and created calls-to-action that focus on Hack Foster Care’s four key goals:
- Prepare youth for college and career:Only half graduate high school and only 3 percent earn a bachelor’s degree.
- Improve access to technology:Too many foster youth do not have a computer or access to the Internet.
- Reform foster youth technology infrastructure: A lack of coordination among platforms makes it difficult to securely capture, manage and share information. Additionally, it slows the processes and increases errors.
- Understand foster youth rights: Laws that were designed to protect our youth often inhibit access to important resources and supports.
Let’s Work Together
Our SVCF scholars from foster care have taught us some incredible and important life lessons. I am grateful and humbled to see the world through their eyes and for inspiring me with their tenacity and determination. It should remind all of us that family isn’t about who you are born with, but rather the people who will hold your hand when you need it most.
In truth, these young people are not our community’s liability. They are our greatest asset. We encourage you to find a way to be a part of our foster youth’s important family support circle. They deserve it!
On behalf of everyone at SVCF, I want to thank the many business, nonprofit and elected leaders for their ongoing support. My team welcomes the opportunity to work with anyone whose heart is dedicated to changing the foster care experience in our community.
Elise Cutini is CEO of Silicon Valley Children’s Fund.