LOS ANGELES, May 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- For most teenagers, owning a laptop computer may seem an entitlement. For teenagers growing up in foster care, that is not the case: less than 20 percent own a computer, compared to 90 percent of teens overall in the U.S.
Research released today by two California non-profits, iFoster and Foster Care Counts, points to the positive impact that laptop ownership can have on teens in the foster care system, offering a simple and straightforward solution for helping to bridge the digital divide.
Jeremy Goldbach of the University of Southern California's School of Social Work surveyed 730 foster youth over a year who were provided with laptops by iFoster and found that not only do grades and class attendance improve, but self-esteem and life satisfaction increase, while depression drops precipitously. Foster youth who received the laptops reported better quality relationships with their biological families, improved feelings of social connectedness and a more positive outlook on life.
"If you look at the percentage of foster youth owning laptops in the U.S., they rank among the bottom third of countries globally," said Serita Cox, founder of iFoster, a California-based non-profit online community targeted to transition age youth. "For as little as $225 we can provide a foster youth with a refurbished laptop loaded with the software they need, providing them with the same opportunity to succeed as other American kids."
"It's hard to imagine growing up today in Los Angeles without a computer," said Jeanne Pritzker, founder of Foster Care Counts, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and serving the needs of foster youth and families. "When we tell our supporters that they can change a foster youth's life for $225, they respond." Over the past four years, Foster Care Counts has donated 1,700 laptops to college-bound foster youth in Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
Such results have spurred leaders in California's child welfare to act. A collaboration among private funders, led by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, is forming a coalition including Silicon Valley leaders and public sector agencies to ensure that all teens who have been in foster care in California can own a laptop computer. The goal of the laptop distribution campaign is to be one of many solutions created by this public/private collaboration to address the digital divide facing the child welfare system.
"Collaboration with our Southern California foundation colleagues makes practical sense, since our foundation focuses on Northern California," says Martin Sullivan, trustee for the Walter S Johnson Foundation. "This partnership with foundation, tech and government partners allows all of us to pool both intellectual as well as financial resources."
"I welcome the opportunity to engage tech leaders to work with public sector to help this important, vulnerable population," said Carl Guardino, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a trade association representing more than 400 Silicon Valley companies. "The expertise and innovation to solve this issue is literally in our own backyard," says Elise Cutini, Executive Director for the Silicon Valley Children's Fund.
"When we learned of the results of the study, we welcomed the opportunity to work with private partners on a campaign, which can build and expand upon the leadership of counties like Los Angeles, Placer, and others who have already been developing laptop distribution programs," said Frank Mecca, Executive Director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California.
Efforts to bridge the digital divide have roots in Los Angeles County. Since 2012, Foster Care Counts has been partnering with iFoster to provide laptops to Los Angeles' foster youth ages 17 to 24. In partnership with Los Angeles County's Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) and Guardian Scholars programs serving foster youth on college campuses throughout Southern California, over 2,000 laptop computers have been distributed to foster youth finishing high school and in college.
iFoster surveyed foster youth in three counties in California in addition to Los Angeles County. The results were consistent across all markets, urban and rural – computer ownership has a positive impact on well-being among foster youth.
"We understand the importance of providing laptops to the youth we serve, and Foster Care Counts has greatly expanded our ability to reach more children," commented Philip Browning, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Director. "The fact that the new research supports our laptop distribution program encourages us to do more."
Foster Care Counts' mission is to improve the lives of youth in foster care and ensure they thrive. We partner with care and advocacy organizations to address the gaps in service and impediments to success and target ways to boost outcomes. Together, we ignite initiatives to empower foster youth, improve access to valuable resources, and incite change on their behalf. http://fostercarecounts.org
iFoster is a free, members-only community for foster, adoptive and kinship communities; youth who have emancipated out of the system and the organizations that support them. Our goal is to give foster youth the resources and opportunities they need to become successful, independent adults. http://ifoster.org
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SOURCE Foster Care Counts