TOPEKA – Hundreds of young people age out of the Kansas foster care system each year. Many of them leave with few support systems and resources to start their lives as independent adults. In an effort to get them started on the right foot, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is offering several computer camps this week across the state, where the youth (ages 16 to 21) are receiving free computers and instruction.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to support our youth in foster care, and show them we care about their futures, and we want them to succeed,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said.
The first camp was held Monday, July 17, in Wichita. A second camp was held Wednesday, July 19, in Overland Park, and the final camp took place today, July 20, in Topeka. The camp includes eight hours of instruction on word processing, spreadsheets and Power Point applications to prepare them for employment, managing personal finances and pursuing post-secondary education. Youth also learn how to search and apply for work and complete job applications. One assignment during the camp involves developing a personalized budget. Instructors also educate participants on internet safety and security. At the end of the camp, participants receive a convertible touch screen laptop, three-year warranty, printer and a laptop backpack. This year, 150 young people participated in the computer camps.
“Kansas has been on the forefront of providing current youth in foster care and young adults from foster care with the tools they need to become successful adults,” DCF Independent Living Program Manager Stacey Tidwell said. “Access to technology has become essential for education and employment.”
Kate Ziegler of Salina, was among the camp goers at Washburn University, Topeka. She says that receiving a laptop and technological instruction will help her further her education.
“I’m going to go to Salina Tech for my CNA, and the laptop itself will help me with class work, and the printer will help me with essays,” said Ziegler. “I hear a lot of foster youth say that no one listens and no one cares. Events like this camp, show that people do care.”
This initiative is paid for by the federal Chafee grant, which is 80 percent federal funds, with a mandatory 20 percent State General Funds match. This is the 13th year for the camp.
Additional services are offered to youth who age out of foster care, through the DCF Independent Living program.
• Financial support for post-secondary education and/or certified training programs
• Room and board assistance
• Transportation costs
• Books and materials related to education
• Leadership opportunities
• Medical services through the age of 26.
To be eligible for Independent Living services, young people must have been in foster care after age 15 and likely to age out of care, graduated from high school or completed their GED while in foster care, or had a finalized adoption or guardianship placement after the age of 16. Learn more about this program.
*Due to DCF’s obligation to protect the privacy of youth in foster care, these camp sessions were not open to the media.
From left to right: Madison Roberts and Alia Lucas, two camp goers, receive assistance from an Instructional Access technology instructor at the Overland Park Computer Camp.