It’s hard to understand the true essence of an organization without knowing how or why it came about. That’s why we sat down with iFoster’s founders, a married couple — Reid and Serita Cox, to get to know the brains behind the brand a little better. We asked them nine questions about who they are, how they got to where they are today, and the future of iFoster and foster care.
1. Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
Reid: I grew up in a tiny farm town in rural Ontario, Canada. I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and an MBA in Finance. My for-profit career took me along a path of becoming a VP of investment banking (business valuations, mergers, acquisitions), business development (partnerships and joint ventures), and financial reporting for publicly traded companies.
Serita: I was raised in and outside of the foster care system. After an undergraduate degree in Biochem / Biotech and an MBA, I went on to become the Vice President of eBusiness and IT at 3Com, followed by the VP of Strategy and Business Operations for one of the business units of 3Com. Afterwards, I joined The Bridgespan Group where I focused on child welfare and the nonprofit industry.
2. How did you two meet?
Reid: We met at McGill University when we were both earning our MBAs. Serita is 4 years younger than me, but managed to be a year ahead of me at grad school. That explains a lot about each of us.
3. What are your duties for iFoster on a day-to-day basis?
Reid: I’m the CFO of iFoster, so I’m responsible for managing our finances, making sure we’re in compliance with regulatory agencies, and paying the bills.
Serita: I’m the CEO of iFoster, so I’m responsible for the overall strategic direction for iFoster and all iFoster programming. As a techie, I am also responsible for the design and development of our iFoster platform and all our systems in partnership with our Chief System Architect.
4. Where did the idea for iFoster stem from?
Reid: Ever since Serita and I met, we’ve been discussing what we would do to support foster care. The idea for iFoster came when Serita was working at The Bridgespan Group consulting nonprofits in child welfare, and I was helping LinkedIn with their IPO. It was this intersection of solving the needs of child welfare and learning about emerging social network companies that lead to the creation of iFoster, which is a combination of the two.
5. How did you get iFoster up and running? What did that process look like?
Reid: The development of the idea for iFoster took about a year, but the launch was a bit of a surprise. Both Serita and I were working full time, creating iFoster on evenings and weekends. Serita created the original website and strategy for iFoster, and I worked through our nonprofit status and negotiated our first resource partnership with a corporate benefits company.
Prior to leaving for a business trip to Boston, I emailed about 10 state child welfare departments to ask them if they would review our site and provide feedback. Instead of providing feedback, one of the largest states went right ahead and forwarded our website to all of their foster families telling them they should join. So we woke up on the first day of our trip to hundreds of new members. That was when we realized there was a need for iFoster.
6. How has iFoster evolved since its founding?
Reid: We’ve grown from those first hundred members to almost 50,000, from our initial resource partner to over 300 partners providing more than $125 million in resources annually to the community, evolved the iFoster portal into one of the most sophisticated tech platforms (not just in child welfare), and launched incredible programs like the iFoster Jobs Program and TAY AmeriCorps.
We have had three formal evaluations of our programs, each showing measurable impact. We are giving our community a voice, giving young people in foster care access to resources and programs they did not have before, and raising awareness of what our community needs to help young people reach their full potential.
7. Where do you see iFoster 10 years from now?
Reid: We hope that in the next 10 years, every family and transition age foster youth in the country are members of the iFoster community, and we’re helping every one of them achieve their full potential.
Serita: The crisis of youth leaving foster care and failing is a solvable problem and I think in 10 years, we – along with our incredible partners and community – can solve it.
8. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Reid: Meeting our community members and hearing how we’re helping.
Serita: Seeing our youth succeed and become successful, independent adults. I’ve been to graduations, celebrated promotions, watched our youth grow up, get married and have children of their own. I’m proud that iFoster has been there to help them every step of the way.
9. What is one thing you would want people to know or understand about foster care?
Reid and Serita: Children and youth in foster care are there due to no fault of their own and deserve the same investment and opportunity as any other child in this country.
Now it’s your turn! What is one thing you would want people to know about foster care? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share your thoughts or experiences with us. We would love to hear from you!