Two Tech-Savvy Non-Profits get Big Boost During Day One of Foster Care Hackathon

With the first day of the White House’s Foster Care Hackathon in the bag, two non-profits seem poised to make huge strides in expanding their reach.

In the case of tech-heavy iFoster, the hackathon became a venue for repeated pledges to dramatically expand its program for providing foster youth with laptop computers. First came an announcement on White House stationary that two California-based philanthropies had pledged $250,000 toward providing all transition-age foster youth in California free laptop computers.

The plan calls for distributing 10,000 computers to foster youth ages 16 to 21 over the next three years at an estimated cost of $5 million.

At lunch, Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, fresh off a redeye from California, gave an impassioned speech supporting the plan. Guardino shared that he, his wife and two young daughters had made a family decision to take in a foster child. Beyond his support of the plan to provide 10,000 computers statewide, he promised to chip in personally by pledging one computer a month for the next six months.

With backers like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the California Department of Social Services, the Child Welfare Director’s Association of California, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and Foster Care Counts it seems there is the will to get this big task done. In such a scenario, iFoster, which provides refurbished computers to foster youth for less than $300 a piece, stands to expand its One Laptop Program dramatically.

Sixto Cancel, founder of Think of Us, with Danielle Gletow, founder of One Simple Wish at White House Foster Care Hackathon

Sixto Cancel, founder of Think of Us, with Danielle Gletow, founder of One Simple Wish at White House Foster Care Hackathon

The other big winner was Think of Us, a non-profit organization started by Sixto Cancel, the 24-year-old former foster youth who has been a central figure in convening the White House tech event in the first place.

One of the key products that Cancel and his team have developed is a goal-setting program called Unify, which provides transition-aged foster youth with online learning modules and ways to connect with adult supporters to see their goals realized.

During a panel discussion after lunch, Jana Rickerson, the assistant director for Santa Clara County Calif.’s Department of Family and Children’s Services, explained how the Unify application works and her intent to pilot the program in her Silicon Valley county.

“I don’t know what we are going to be able to create with this, but I am very excited,” Rickerson said. “I am very excited to bring this to Santa Clara.”

She also added that Greg Rose – who oversees child welfare at the state level as the deputy director of California’s Department of Social Services – was hoping that the pilot is a success so it can be implemented in all 58 counties.

This would provide Think of Us with access to the largest foster care population in the nation.

So day one down, these are the two biggest winners I see.

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