Hacking Foster Care: One-Year Update
In December 2016, ACS held its first ever hackathon—the NYC Foster Care Technology & Policy Hackathon—to bring together the foster care community, including youth in foster care, together with technology experts to think “outside the box” about how to use technology to make the foster care experience better for young people, foster parents, families and those who support them.
At the end of the two-day Hackathon, ACS promised to move some of the proposals forward. Since taking the helm, in February 2017, Commissioner Hansell has continued this commitment to support the development of innovative tech solutions that improve outcomes for children and youth in care.
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Watch what happened when we brought together the foster care and tech communities together to develop tech and policy solutions for foster care’s biggest challenges.
Check out the Hacker presentations
From the Hackathon, there was a consensus that youth in foster care, foster parents, and case planners need to be better connected with resources and information.
As a result, ACS developed the following priorities:
- Leverage tech to assist youth in foster care in emergency situations
- Create an online clearinghouse of all resources
- Leverage tech to improve the foster home certification process
- Identify solutions to help connect foster parents to each other and share information about services & resources
- Connect youth with opportunities in the tech sector
Over the last year, we’ve been hard at work to make the ideas from the Hackathon into reality. Learn what we’re doing:
- Developing ACS ConnectMe: There was a loud call by foster youth and case planners to develop a user-friendly online tool that connects foster youth, foster parents, and child welfare professionals with information and resources that they need. In response, ACS has been developing such a tool—ACS ConnectMe. The first phase of ACS ConnectMe is planned for launch in the first quarter of 2018. Moving forward, we will continue to modify the tool in response to user feedback and will bring youth, foster parents, and case workers to the table to help design a mobile version of the tool.
- Smartphones & Computers for Youth: We recognized that youth need access to cell phone and computers to get connected. Initially, ACS has partnered with iFoster to provide smartphones to youth in care who are 18 and older, including discounted phone service through the LifeLine program.
We are also working with New Yorkers for Children to expand its laptop program for youth in care. In addition, ACS began developing new relationships with a host of potential technology partners at the Silicon Valley Foster Care Summit held in the spring.
- Connecting with Youth Directly: The hackathon inspired ACS to modify CONNECTIONS, the state’s case management system, to allow provider agencies to capture cell phone and email information. This simple change has opened up new ways to connect with youth and foster parents – allowing us to communicate directly about available programs, services, and other issues. A first example: in November, we distributed a new youth survey by email in addition to other channels. We welcome this new opportunity to connect with the population we serve.
- Sparking Opportunities for Youth: ACS is currently identifying partners within the technology sector that are interested in participating, including AT&T and Google Code Next. This tech-focused initiative will build on our existing education and employment partnerships with CUNY and The Workplace Center at Columbia University.
- Dedicated Staff to Move Us Forward: It takes a commitment of people and resources to make sure innovation happens and youth are at the table throughout the process. The post-hackathon work is being led by a team within ACS’ Division of Family Permanency Services, Office of Public Private Partnerships and . In addition, ACS has brought on Beth Morrow, to work exclusively on strategic planning to advance the hackathon priority projects.