HACKING CHILD WELFARE: DIGITAL INNOVATION TO BENEFIT CHILDREN & YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE
Technology has become an essential part of American life, with the proliferation of mobile applications, or “apps”, that do everything from maintain our calendar to show us the best route home. For many of us, technology eases life planning while connecting us to the resources we need. For foster youth and families, technology can provide great benefits, especially when it is designed specifically to address their unique needs. In May 2016, the launch of the first-ever Foster Care Hackathon, hosted by the White House, ushered in a new era for foster care – one in which new policy ideas and technology solutions are welcomed and foster youth and families are invited to help shape techmediated innovations. This first-ever hackathon inspired follow-up hackathons and spawned a new partnership between the technology and child welfare sectors that promises to change the experience of foster care in the future. Most recently, in February 2017, the Silicon Valley Hack Foster Care Summit brought this new way of thinking and approaching foster care to California. This report is designed to reflect the energy of the hackathons held to date, provide a deeper look at what happened at the Silicon Valley Hack Foster Care Summit, provide useful lessons learned, and lay out the opportunity for leveraging such events to advance the care of children in foster care in California and across the nation. Efforts to harness the power of technology to enhance the lives of children and youth in foster care have been percolating for a decade – but, thanks to the infusion of energy and new ideas fostered by the hackathons, such efforts are now gaining traction.