January/February 2017Vol. 17, No. 10Engaging Youth in Foster Care
Social media has emerged as a new tool for caseworkers and other child-serving professionals to engage youth. A recent podcast from Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Engaging Youth in Foster Care," features an interview with Sixto Cancel, youth consultant to the Children's Bureau's Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for States, founder and CEO of Think of Us, and foster care alumnus.
The interview focuses on the emerging use of social media, specifically Facebook, to engage youth in foster care and help them to develop a dialog with their caseworkers and other supportive adults. Using outlets like Facebook also allow caseworkers to get a youth's perspective on their lives while in the foster care system as well as provide youth with a place to connect with others in similar situations.
Cancel shares an example of this strategy in use in Bridgeport, CT. There, the Department of Children and Families uses Facebook in a safe and structured way to not only connect youth with caseworkers as Facebook friends but also as a means for child welfare professionals to relay important information, such as upcoming training or case plan meetings. In addition, this social media connection gives caseworkers, who otherwise may be dealing with heavy caseloads, the ability to stay abreast of their cases via youth status updates.
As the founder and CEO of Think of Us, Cancel discusses how his organization is leading the way in using multimedia and technology to help youth in foster care thrive as they enter adulthood. With the goal of creating an online web and mobile platform that connects young people to education and employment opportunities based on their abilities, Think of Us aspires to give youth in foster care the chance for a prosperous future.
Engaging Youth in Foster Care is available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-welfare-podcast-engaging-youth. A PDF of the transcript is available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cw_podcast_engaging_youth_foster_care_transcript.pdf (184 KB).
Think of Us is available at http://www.thinkof-us.org.
In May 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Labor released The Foster Care Transition Toolkit. This toolkit was designed for use by both youth who are currently in foster care and those formerly in foster care as well as by the supportive adults in their lives. The toolkit provides resources on career support, financial management, and housing to help youth transition from foster care into independent adulthood. Read more in November's Children's Bureau Express.