Did you know that approximately 5% of rural foster youth and 21% of urban foster youth have consistent access to a computer in their homes, making them one of the most underserved populations in the world?
This means that only a fraction of this demographic can easily write papers and conduct research for school, apply for jobs, access needed resources and digitally communicate with peers and mentors.
In 2019, access to technology is synonymous with access to opportunity. Cell phones and laptops open up a world of scholastic, job, and social opportunities that are otherwise difficult to come by.
For an underprivileged foster youth, advanced technology is necessary to stay on par with his or her peers in almost every realm of life. iFoster has made great strides to bridge this technological gap that so many youth face every day — and we’re not done yet.
iFoster’s Foster Care Laptop Program
We are perhaps best known to some for our 1 Laptop Program through which we provide low-cost laptops with donated Windows and Office from Microsoft to transition-age foster youth. In addition, we provide the tech support needed to help them succeed. In the majority of cases laptops are funded by donors, making the devices free to our most at-risk youth.
Thus far, we have provided around 15,000 laptops nationwide to college-bound and in-college foster youth.
“Having a laptop makes me feel more prepared —like other youth. I feel less stressed, more connected and independent,” one of our program members shared.
Providing something as simple as a laptop has resulted in measurable outcomes like improved grades and life satisfaction, higher school attendance rates, and increased college and job applications sent by foster youth.
iFoster’s Foster Care Phone Program
One of our newest and most exciting initiatives is our engagement with telecom provider Boost Mobile. Through this pilot program approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), we will be distributing free smartphones with unlimited text, voice, data and internet to up to 33,000 current and former California foster youth.
This technology is life-changing not only because it is a means of being connected to the outside world and having real-time access to the data and opportunities the internet holds, but also being able to build and engage with one’s personal network. It allows for social growth, and is crucial for safety purposes in the event of an emergency.
Access to cell phones and laptops early in life allows foster youth, our most at-risk population, to gain independence socially, academically, and manage and propel their future careers in a positive direction.
How iFoster’s Member Portal Impacts The Foster Care Community
Our free, extensive portal of resources for iFoster members is a game-changer in the foster care community. The portal is designed to address the tragic investment gap in foster care, and has been evaluated to reduce family needs.
One of the primary reasons we are adamant that our youth have access to the internet is so that they can sign up to become members and gain access to an array of resources that presents opportunities, discounts on everything from movie theater tickets to braces, and unparalleled mentoring and support.
Although there is still a long way to go, technology is finally making its way into the foster care community. Access to technology is — and will continue to be — of the utmost importance in paving the path of foster youth’s future success.