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November 2004Vol. 5, No. 9Computer Training for Foster Families, Relative Caregivers

Two programs designed to teach computer skills to foster families and to relative caregivers offer promising models for bringing technology skills to these populations. These groups traditionally have had less exposure to computer use and training due to lower incomes and residential instability; in addition, grandparent caregivers may have had only limited exposure to computer training due to their age. Training these groups in technology skills may promote both educational success and job marketability for caregivers and the children in their care.

The "Building Skills-Building Futures" project was developed by Casey Family Services, with the help of outside experts, to promote information technology skills for 32 foster families in the Bridgeport, CT, area. The model integrates foster family access to information technology training with ongoing foster care service activities. As part of the program, foster families are provided with computer hardware, software, and supplies, as well as with monthly Internet access; ownership of these items is transferred to the foster parents. Social workers use an individualized technology plan (ITP) to assess technology skills, set goals, and refer foster families to training opportunities. Progress is measured against the ITP at regular intervals, and goals are refined when necessary. Preliminary evaluation of the training has focused on collecting baseline data and evaluating the program implementation and costs; outcomes are not yet available.

Using a different training approach, researchers in Florida provided computer training for kin caregivers and found that they made gains in both skills and social opportunities. In this model, 46 kinship caregivers (the majority of whom were grandmothers) attended an 8-week computer training course. Results from participant interviews and from computer efficacy scales completed before and after the training show that the caregivers gained in self-efficacy, career skills confidence, and confidence in helping with their children's education, as well as in awareness of the need to monitor their children's use of the Internet. In addition, the participants developed new friendships with others in the course, which led to greater social support.

An article about the Casey Family Services project, "Building Skills-Building Futures: Providing Information Technology to Foster Families," can be found in the April - June 2004 issue of Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services and can be accessed at "Developing a Network of Support for Relative Caregivers," about the Florida program, can be found in the July 2004 issue of Children and Youth Services Review and can be accessed at