In a model we believe has great potential, iFoster is supporting Aetna Better Health of West Virginia to be the managed care organization for foster youth in West Virginia. Along with many other states, West Virginia is customizing its Medicaid services to address the specific needs of children and youth in foster care and those who have aged out of care (age 0 to 26 inclusive). iFoster programs are value added service under this new Medicaid plan to provide access to technology to bridge the digital divide for foster youth, as well as connecting young people in foster care to iFoster resources through our online portal and app.
Why is this important to the foster care community?
iFoster’s model is to provide needed resources and opportunities to the foster care community at scale. At a time when the need for foster care is increasing, and child welfare budgets are under increasing pressure, it is groundbreaking that larger government systems are starting to address the unique needs of foster youth. iFoster is engaging with programs outside of child welfare like the California Public Utility Commission’s LifeLine Program, and West Virginia Bureau of Medical Services to get the resources children in foster care so desperately need.
Why is this important to iFoster and its members?
As the largest national community in foster care, iFoster’s goal is to support EVERY young person in foster care by having everyone in their support network be a member of iFoster. Partnerships with West Virginia Bureau of Medical Services are an opportunity to drive membership and localize iFoster’s services to ensure that all young people in foster care are connected to iFoster’s growing suite of local and national resources and opportunities.
Why West Virginia?
Localizing in West Virginia allows iFoster to serve foster children in perhaps the most underserved state in the country. Over the past 5 years there has been a 60% increase in children entering foster care in West Virginia compared with an 11% increase nationally. West Virginia leads the nation in children in care per capita, with nearly triple the national entry rate. This foster care crisis is principally due to parental opioid abuse, with West Virginia leading the nation in number of deaths due to drug injury at 3 times the national rate. This is exacerbated by high unemployment, with West Virginia ranking last in national workforce participation rate since 1976.
These societal and economic pressures have resulted in some of the worst outcomes for young people in foster care. Only 2% of West Virginia foster youth at age 19 have finished their high school GED compared to 90% of all West Virginia youth. Incarceration rates for foster youth are well above national averages, with 32% of West Virginia foster youth being incarcerated in the past 2 years.*
At iFoster, supporting those who need help the most is part of our culture. Working with Aetna Better Health of West Virginia services for foster youth is an opportunity for us to bring all of our resources to West Virginia to help every child reach their potential.
How are we helping?
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to localize iFoster in West Virginia and welcome the thousands of foster children, their families, and their supporters to the iFoster community. We will be connecting this highly digitally disconnected community by providing tablets to young people between 13 – 17 years of age, and laptops to youth from 18 – over. The goal is to provide every eligible foster youth with the tech they need to connect them to what they need to thrive, including: educational, employment, health and wellness and daily living resources. Transition age youth will receive personalized resources sent by our TAY assistant, safely and securely save their vital documents and access them anytime, and find curated content on My Life, My School and My Work to help achieve self-sufficiency. Caregivers and supporters will be able to join the iFoster portal of thousands of free or deeply discounted resources which can save a family upwards of $9,600 per year on the products and services they need.
Our goal is to help West Virginia foster youth achieve academic success, employment, financial stability, independence, and reach their full potential. We applaud West Virginia Medicaid for recognizing and addressing the specific needs of foster youth and being receptive to the recommendations of Aetna and iFoster for the value-added services that will most greatly impact our community.
For more information please contact iFoster’s Jill Bloch at 646-330-5113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Data from Child Trends: Source
West Virginia Legislative Reports for the general West Virginia child welfare data: Source
Opioid Info: Source
Employment Info: Source