How to communicate with older foster youth via text?

The Play

Communicate with older foster youth and former foster youth via a centralized text messaging tool that workers can access from their computers during the pandemic.

Provide a consistent phone number where a youth can reach your team, even if the youth’s contact information changes.

Who Can Do This?

Anyone.

Timeframe

Immediate.

Difficulty

Easy.

The Problem It Solves

Older youth are more likely to send a text than pick up the phone, and more likely to reply to text than to a voicemail. Most youth have phones, though access to data may be intermittent.

If you previously served youth through a central hotline, your team may not have joint access to that phone when working remotely. Giving out individual staff cell phone numbers is not scalable and puts team members at serious risk of burnout. A central text number and tool means youth can reliably reach your team, and your team can reliably track and respond to their needs.

How To Do This

1. Sign up for a centralized text messaging tool like Front. Contact Marina ([email protected]) if you would like us to set you up with a free one-year license for Front:

Screenshot from Front

2. Confirm each member of your team can log into Front and is familiar with the tool. Team members can reply directly to youth texts in the Web interface (which the youth receives back as a text), and/or leave internal comments just for other team members to see.

3. Agree on internal messaging policies if you do not already have them, such as: how to respond to a youth in distress; how to ensure team coverage so messages are seen and responded to in a timely manner; and not writing confidential information such as health diagnoses over text.

4. Make a spreadsheet of your older youth, and their last known contact information. It’s best if this spreadsheet is shared by your team, such as in Sharepoint, Smartsheet (which is offering free licenses for COVID-related uses), or Google Sheets.

5. Divide up your list across your team members. Reach out to each youth and provide them with your new, central text number (from Front), and encourage them to text if they need anything. You should also set a frequency (e.g. every two weeks) to check back in with each youth. This is a great opportunity to check with them about other needs.

Who’s Doing This?

  • Nearly 25 agencies are piloting this play.