Children in the foster system are at a stark disadvantage when it comes to remote learning.
The increasing digitization of education in combination with a recent emphasis on remote learning due to COVID-19 can make it difficult, if not impossible, for children without computer access to stay engaged in the learning process.
For foster children without their own personal devices, computer access can often be unreliable due to their changing home and learning environments.
How can a foster child attend a zoom class, complete their online homework assignments, or achieve their dreams of applying to college without having a computer at home?
A unique public-private partnership in San Diego County is working to bridge the digital divide affecting local foster youth—with a surprising and resourceful solution.
The Computers for Foster Families Program run jointly by the County of San Diego and the San Diego Futures Foundation (SDFF) is an annual event that provides computers to foster families in need.
When the County of San Diego decides to retire the organization’s computers, the County supplies those devices to the San Diego Futures Foundation. SDFF then works to refurbish the computers in preparation for the program’s annual distribution event.
San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson explained why this program is a win for the whole community.
“The County’s partnership with SDFF is a brilliant solution to ensuring our region’s most vulnerable children have reliable computer access, while also making the most out of the taxpayer’s dollar,” he said. “By simply refurbishing our employee’s computers, we are able to change the lives of our foster youth recipients.”
The County of San Diego in partnership with the San Diego Futures Foundation has been providing futures for foster families for over two decades. In 1999, the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors played a key role in establishing SDFF as a way to help families in need of computers or internet access.
Former San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox imagined the program’s concept back in 2001. Ever since, nearly 4,000 computers have been refurbished and distributed through the Computers for Foster Families program.
When asked why the SDFF specifically focuses on foster families, Teresa Valenzuela, SDFF’s Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator, answered, “That was a result of Supervisor Greg Cox.”
According to the California Department of Education, 85 percent of non-foster students graduated from high school in the 2019–2020 school year. In the same year, only 58 percent of foster students graduated.
The past few years have proven that access to a computer is an essential, not optional, component of children’s education and future success. The donated devices supplied by this event will ensure that foster children in San Diego County aren’t falling behind their peers and are granted the same opportunities to succeed.
“If you didn’t have your phone, laptop, or even a desktop, how would you go to work or how would you go to school? You can’t. This program gives them that option. This bridges their digital divide,” Valenzuela noted.
This event also provides support to the incredible foster parents in our County that are stepping up to care for our region’s most vulnerable children.
“[Foster families] are a very underrepresented population, and we wanted to make sure that they receive computers because of the service they do to our communities, and for the children of our communities,” Valenzuela commented.
The annual Computers for Foster Families Program event was most recently held in December 2021, where more than 125 computers were distributed to local foster youth. Supervisor Anderson attended the event and even handed out some computers himself.
The foster youth recipients will now be able to complete their homework, log on to zoom class, and communicate with their teachers and classmates with ease. These children will now have the world at their fingertips, with endless opportunities for learning and discovery just a click away.
The San Diego Futures Foundation is dedicated to improving lives in San Diego County by making information technology available to all underserved populations through computer distribution programs, digital literacy classes, and adaptive technology.
For more information on the San Diego Futures Foundation, visit their website at www.sdfutures.org.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.