HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Georgette Todd stands confidently in front of the camera. She is using this website video shoot to take a stand about the foster system.
“Our country can no longer accept the status quo,” she states firmly.
Todd, who grew up in foster care after her mom died, is an ambassador for the new nonprofit, Connect Our Kids. For its website, she is recording video testimony about a system she describes as flawed.
“I struggled for years, financially, emotionally,” Todd explains. “Not having that support system in place really, really affected me.”
It is why she is now involved with this program that developed new software for social workers. It allows them to track down distant relatives, coaches, teachers and others to create a network for children who are often bounced from one home to another.
“If they can find about 150 or 200 people, sometimes more, there will statistically be someone who is in the right place in their life and in the right state of mind that this is something that they want to do,” says Dr. Jennifer Jacobs, the Connect Our Kids Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
A lightbulb went off for Dr. Jacobs about three years ago after she read an article about the foster system and realized current methods to find permanent homes are not working. Social workers often have to manually search for people in a child’s family tree and life who may want to step in to offer support.
According to its website, Connect Our Kids aims to “replace the paper-based, bureaucratic system with a cloud-based family-recruiting platform.”
Dr. Jacobs describes the digital platform Connect Our Kids developed as working like both ancestry.com and facebook to have better placement outcomes for children waiting for a permanent home.
“We have over 400,000 children in the foster care system,” says Jessica Stern, the Connect Our Kids Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer. “Many of them are suffering from post-traumatic stress and that affects all of us as a society.”
Stern looks to her experiences in a foster home after her mother died, and her father was unable to care for her and all seven of her siblings.
“I spent a year of my life there, and today it still makes an impact,” says Stern. “I think it’s really important that we acknowledge that these kids are out there, we acknowledge that they all need homes and stability and love, and they will be productive members of society if we do that.”
She is part of a network of people in Richmond, Northern Virginia and across the country advocating for children and hoping to pave the way for a high-tech change within the foster system.
“It just makes sense that we use technology to find and connect with people who could be our family members,” says Todd, who has also written a memoir about her experience living in the system and aging out of it.
Adds Dr. Jacobs about children in foster care, “They need to be connected to who they are, where they came from and who are the people who care about them?”
Richmond sponsors Kim Brundage Photography, Makeup by Holly and Hondo’s are assisting with local fundraising and awareness campaigns.
Renowned Los Angeles-based media and record producer Spencer Proffer is among the growing number of national ambassadors.
Connect Our Kids will officially launch nationwide from offices in Richmond and Falls Church, Virginia this fall. Stay with 8News for updates.