How to ensure youth have technology devices?

The Play

Work with leadership to find various sources of flexible and/or disaster funding and create a local strategy to make technology purchases possible without delay.

The Problem It Solves

The current situation has made access to communication technologies more critical than ever. Foster youth and families need access to technology infrastructure as school, work, and interactions with the system move online. Currently, there is no national policy strategy to get tech to foster youth in a timely way. Because of that, local staff need to develop a local strategy to address these gaps.

How To Do This

1. Work with leadership to find various sources of flexible and disaster funding to make these purchases. These options would vary greatly based on state and county.
  • Potential funding with public dollars include:
    • IV-B dollars or Chafee dollars
      • On April 17, 2020, the U.S. Children’s Bureau released this guidance which stated that “The purchase and operation of cell phones for children and youth in foster care, their parents, or foster parents is an allowable cost under title IV-B and/or the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood (Chafee) as long as the costs are necessary to fulfill one or more program purposes…” (Read the full guidance here).
    • IV-E dollars
  • External funding options include:
    • Local partnerships;
    • Making direct asks to local retailers (e.g., ask Target to donate 10 tablets);
    • Colleges or universities (who might consider donating older laptops, for example);
    • Check with your local school district, as many schools have programs to ensure all students have laptops for distance learning;
    • Foundations for a specific amount of dollars to meet immediate needs;
    • Asking local communications companies to donate a specific number of hotspots.
2. Develop an agency-wide strategy to help young people get access to the technology they need by:
  • Informing leadership of the need for a fast-moving technology Work Group to meet the needs of clients impacted. Remember: older youth in foster care aren't the only ones with tech needs an agency needs to address. Parents, foster parents, and kinship caregivers have similar needs so a tech solution would have to meet several needs at once.
  • Having this group determine scope and level of tech needs with specificity (e.g., hotspots, tablets, laptops for school and parental visitation) before figuring out hot to meet those needs.
  • Talking with agency and state leadership about financing/philanthropic strategies to fund these needs which could include (more flexible sources of government funding, maybe FEMA assistance, a specific ask to private foundation or local technology retailers (e.g., local Walmarts, Best Buy).
3. Use your local Lifeline program to access discounted or free mobile phones and service.
  • Locate a local Lifeline provider here. Find eligibility and application instructions here.
4. Make a bulk procurement for technology devices through TechSoup
  • TechSoup enables non-profits to access bulk purchasing discounts. While supply of laptops and tablets can be challenging given increased recent demand, they have many refurbished laptops (with full warranties) available on their site now for purchase.

Relevant Resources

Organizations working to make these changes possible

  • iFoster
  • One Simple Wish