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May 2024Vol. 25, No. 4Leveraging Technology to Empower Families: Supporting Foster Parents' Essential Role in Child Welfare

Written by Children's Bureau Division of State Systems staff

Within the world of child welfare, foster parents (including those providing kinship and relative foster care) are often the unsung heroes in the lives of many children and young adults. Sometimes, with little advance notice or under challenging circumstances, these special individuals choose to provide a safe home to a child or youth in need of a stable environment.

What motivates some people to become foster parents, and how can we learn from their experiences? Let’s explore the pivotal role of foster parents and see how technology can better enhance their impact and our knowledge.

Why do some people foster children?

The path to becoming a foster parent is generally paved with purpose, good intentions, and a genuine concern for children. Becoming a foster parent is usually a decision made through the lens of compassion for others and the sincere desire to make a difference in ways such as the following:

  • Being a voice for a vulnerable person
  • Changing the course of someone’s life
  • Watching a child grow mentally, emotionally, and socially
  • Providing a temporary shelter or safe haven
  • Offering caring family experiences
  • Teaching a child how to deal with life’s joys and challenges

How can technology help foster parents and agencies?

Today’s technology, information systems, and websites play an important role in supporting both foster parents and child welfare agencies.

For foster parents, including those providing kinship and relative foster care, current technology can help with these aspects:

  • Application process. Having access to user-friendly online platforms can simplify a foster parent’s application process. For example, an agency’s centralized portal might allow potential foster parents to submit their documents, track their application progress, and receive real-time status updates.
  • Training and education. Today’s technology can provide foster parents with training and instruction on relevant topics such as parenting techniques, child development, legal aspects, and other essential information. Additionally, this knowledge transfer can occur using various forms of technology, such as interactive modules, webinars, online courses, and videos.
  • Upcoming reminders. With mobile apps, foster parents can more easily receive reminders about their foster child’s medical appointments, court dates, school activities, or other important life events.
  • Support networks. Foster parents can also use technology to connect with their peers via online forums and request advice from virtual support groups.
  • Retention strategies. Technology can provide foster parents with access to ongoing training. Websites can offer educational resources on important topics such as behavioral management and self-care.

For agencies, technology can help with the following:

  • Finding suitable foster parents. For recruitment purposes, technology allows agencies to reach a wider audience via online platforms, focused foster parent campaigns, and social media. Websites can present success stories, dispel myths, and encourage potential foster parents to step forward.
  • Streamlining the approval process. An agency’s child welfare system can automate paperwork, track background checks, and facilitate needed training.
  • Placement efficiencies. Agencies might use automation to get information that helps with placement decisions or obtain information that a caseworker needs to improve placement stability.
  • Enabling real-time communications. Agencies can use websites and mobile apps to allow real-time communication channels between foster parents, caseworkers, and families of origin. By using these communication tools, activities such as updates, appointments, and progress reports can be shared more seamlessly.
  • Using data exchanges. Data exchange technology can help agencies do the following:
    • Support information collection processes to prevent data duplication
    • Allow private agencies or child welfare contributing agencies share information
    • Support safety through access to foster parent background checks
    • Provide efficiency when accessing information related to child welfare

A foster parent’s dedication, resilience, and love can shape the lives of vulnerable children and youth. But most importantly, their impact will still be felt even when that child or youth leaves their care. By harnessing today’s technology, agencies can further empower these dedicated people to ensure brighter futures for children and youth in need.


Additional Resources:

Empowering Caregivers, Strengthening Families, Capacity Building Center for States

Foster Care, Annie E. Casey Foundation

"Foster Parent Perspectives on Necessary Supports for Youth and Their Families Departing Foster Care," Journal of Social Work

Strengthening Technology Support for Recruitment, Approval, and Retention of Foster Homes (ACYF-CB-IM-20-03 )