Four organizations have received awards for outside-the-box ideas aimed at improving child welfare systems in the first iteration of the Springboard Prize, launched by the Aviv Foundation this year.
After a six month process, the Bethesda, Md.-based grant maker and its selection committee announced that two Nebraska child welfare groups, one national tech firm and a Los Angeles transitional housing program would each receive $200,000 over the next two years. The focus of the process was to seed early-stage projects, and Aviv received more than 389 proposals.
An external advisory committee winnowed the field down to 15 using four criteria: innovation, impact, achievability, and connection to the child welfare system. The Aviv Foundation Board selected the four winners from that list.
“We were blown away by the Springboard Prize applicant pool, which reflects the talent and commitment of child welfare leaders across the country,” said Jill Nagle, deputy director for the Aviv Foundation, in a statement announcing the award today. “We made this an open call in an effort to level the playing field for access to capital for organizations across the country.”
Following are descriptions of the four ideas that garnered Springboard Prize awards.
Better Counsel for Kids
The University of Nebraska Center on Children, Families, and the Law will launch the Children’s Justice Attorney Education fellowship program aimed at improving the quality of legal representation for children in rural parts of the state. The focus will be on training on legal issues in child welfare, expert case consultation, and reflective practice, and the project will be led by Michelle Paxton of the Children’s Justice Clinic at the University of Nebraska’s law school.
Helping Tribal Youth Aging Out
The Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition plans to create a culturally-specific program to build stronger ties between area tribes and the state when it comes to connecting older youth in foster care with supports for transitioning to adulthood. The project will be led by Misty Frazier of the Santee Sioux Nation.
Keeping Families Together Post-Conviction
Vonya Quarles, the co-founder of the Los Angeles transitional housing and re-entry program Starting Over, recently launched Family Reunification, Equity, & Empowerment (FREE) to reduce the county’s use of foster care in cases where willing relatives or birth parents are available. The program, and the nonprofit, focus in particular on people who have been incarcerated or who face barriers to reunification with their children due to convictions.
Streamlining the Court Experience
The tech company Uptrust specializes in software that makes it easier for people who have been convicted of a crime, and have either been paroled or are on probation, to navigate the justice system. The goal is to reduce the number of people who are unnecessarily incarcerated for technical violations, chief among them the failure to appear in court or before a probation office when required.
Upstart plans to use its Springboard Prize to adapt its platform to help parents who are involved with dependency courts as a result of a child protection investigation. It will develop a mobile app that will calendar out appointments and send text reminders about them, provide a direct line to contact lawyers, and set up a portal for seeking community services and available benefits.
The Aviv Foundation was founded in 2016. It plans to publish a report that assesses the prevalent themes and ideas among the hundreds of proposals it received sometime in the fall, Nagle said.