Fostering Achievement through Computer Technology in Phoenix
Fostering Achievement through Computer Technology (FACT) is a program that provides technology and training to Arizona’s foster youth. The program’s purpose is to responsibly put computer technology into the hands of teenage children in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety (AZDCS). The key goal is to improve their educational outcomes in high school and increase the number of Arizona foster children who enroll in college.
Microsoft gave a $50,000 Community Empowerment Fund award to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) in support of the FACT program.
The FACT is that foster kids need additional support
More than 14,000 kids are in out-of-home care in Arizona and roughly 8,000 of those are school-aged children. More than 40 percent of students in foster care change schools at least once during the school year, which is nearly four times the rate of young people living in poverty and the general student population. This makes it especially difficult for teenage students in foster care to keep up with schoolwork or even receive credit for completed coursework. In most cases, children in foster care don’t have access to the tools necessary to be successful in school. According to national studies, 20 percent of urban foster youth and only 5 percent of rural foster youth have computer access. That is why the AZDCS launched the FACT program in 2018.
“Now more than ever, technology is vital to educational success; it’s the game-changer for students,” said Arizona DCS Director Greg McKay. “We hope this program will help shrink the achievement gap for children in foster care.”
The FACT is that technology is vital to student success
Since the pilot of the program began in June 2018, 200 children in foster care have been served. All children receive their own laptop as well as vital internet safety training from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The foster care providers receive training at the same time as the children. Following the receipt of their laptop, the children and their providers both sign an agreement. The children agree to safely use the technology, and their care providers attest to their commitment to monitor that the child is using the technology appropriately.
AZDCS is partnering with the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) to increase and sustain the number of philanthropic dollars to support the program in the coming years. Through a trauma-informed lens, GOYFF develops programs, coalitions, strategies, and initiatives to support the Governor’s priorities related to substance abuse, human trafficking, sexual and domestic violence, child well-being, and juvenile justice. GOYFF administers state and federal grant programs and engages stakeholders across all sectors throughout the state to improve services and service delivery to Arizona citizens.
The Governor’s Office also administers funding for the Arizona Foster Ed Program. The Foster Ed program requires an annual evaluation report be produced for the Arizona State Legislature. The evaluation includes data on educational outcomes for children in foster care. Foster Ed will also be partnering with AZDCS to ensure that older youth that are being served in their program will also be served in the FACT program.
The FACT is that it takes a village
AZDCS has partnered with many organizations to bring the FACT program to foster children in Arizona. The first 100 Chromebooks were generously provided by the John Jay and Rich #Loveup Foundation, and additional laptops were donated by Thomas W. Lewis, Founder of the T.W. Lewis Foundation. The training on digital safety and responsibility is provided by the Phoenix Police Department, Internet Crimes Against Children unit. Barnett Management—Burger King provides training facilities, snacks, and volunteers to assist the children with laptop training and set up to make the event a fun experience. Microsoft is working with Department of Child Safety, their satellite offices around the state, and law enforcement to support youth in foster care. This project directly aligns with the Microsoft goals of child safety and serving the underrepresented and reaffirms the commitment to the community.
“We hope this program will help shrink the achievement gap for children in foster care.”—Greg McKay, Arizona DCS Director