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How To Build Software To Give Young People The Right Support

Youth advocate Sixto Cancel argues that we create software that’s healing, that teaches and helps young adults thrive



How many of you moved out at 18? Like, raise them really, really high, so people can get it. How many of you moved out at 18 without any type of financial support from any supportive adult in your life

Great. You are the troopers, you understand this life.


Here are the results. Here is what we see. When young people age out of foster care without the support that they need, we're seeing 20 percent of them immediately experiencing homelessness.

Half will be employed, and, what's even more disturbing, half of those who are employed are actually making less than $10,000 a year. This is the Midwest study out of the University of Chicago.

We see that less than three percent are earning a bachelor's degree, and we also see that 71 percent of the young women will experience at least one pregnancy by the time after 26.

This is important, because, in a state like Nebraska, where we're doing work, 46 percent of all the young people who are in foster care…Excuse me. Of all the zero‑ to five‑year‑old who are in foster care, one of their parents were in foster care.

The pipeline is that we're taking young people into the foster care system, promising them a better future, and yet what's happening, we're starting a cycle of multigenerational young people in foster care.

The cost is $7.8 billion, and this was from Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. They did a cost evaluation, and here is what it boils down to.

One, as a country, we say, “Look, we're trying to give you a better future. We're taking you away from your parents. It's unsafe,” and then not only are we failing there, but we're also then mismanaging the resources. It costs us quite a bit of money not to get this right.

Instead of creating another flip phone, we asked ourselves, “What should we be creating?” A case management system is needed. But we went on this journey and we found three specific pillars.

How might we create software that helps in the healing? How might we create software that helps young people develop skills and that position them to thrive? I'm going to tell you a little bit more about each of these in a second.

The whole goal was to go ahead and move someone from, “How do we go from the place that you have at least a voice and choice?” Right now, we have young people who have no voice and choice of what happens to them when they're 18.

But then what does it mean if we can actually get a little bit better than that and started saying, “What if the young people started to live?” But then how do we really get to the point where we stop surviving and start living and really owning our destiny?”

This is where we start to say, “How my software do that?” For us, it was the design of software. One, we created a platform where it's a life coaching platform that merges young people's paid professional or social worker and their unpaid people in their lives or supporters to come to one place and help them create a transition plan.

It's focused on young people being engaged, a better planning process, having the concrete supports when they need them, but, most importantly, it's about having that human connection with someone who cares.

Filmed at PSFK's CXI 2018 conference :

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