I got my first cellphone when I was nineteen years old thanks to a steady babysitting gig. This shocks most of my peers today, many of whom had mobile devices in their hands as young as fourteen. Not to mention, the average age of owning a smartphone is only getting younger!
As a former youth in foster care, I feel lucky to have purchased a smartphone when I did. It was truly a privilege to have consistent access to a device, as many of my friends in government care didn’t have access to technology at all.
Youth of today are global citizens. Technology provides us with much more than a convenient way to hit up our friends. It gives us a way to navigate our world, society, identities, relationships and daily lives. Technology is impactful and necessary – it’s just the way our world works these days!
So why are so many youth in or from government care living without access to technology?
We need to change the perception that young adults leaving foster care have everything they need to be immediately successful in adulthood. Resources like Agedout.com are a good start. The website helps youth transitioning from care learn important life skills for living independently. But, how are they expected to access this site without an Internet connection and the device to do so?
Without the power of technology, how do we expect these young adults to call their social workers, get out of a crisis, find employment, hit up iTunes, or even get a good grade on their university assignment? Technology is a lot more essential to meeting basic needs than most people think. In fact, I bet you can’t get through a day without connectivity. So, why is it okay for my friends in and from care to live without it?
Projects like Mobility For Good – created through a partnership between TELUS, B.C. Government’s Ministry of Children and Family Development, and IBM – give us a tangible way to improve the lives of young British Columbians leaving care. They focus on reducing barriers so these youth can not only survive, but also thrive.
Mobility For Good will support British Columbians leaving care by providing them with a Moto G smartphone and fully subsidized TELUS Mobility rate plan. They will also be offered inexpensive high-speed Internet through the TELUS Internet for Good program.
The Adoptive Families Association of BC, TELUS, and IBM, are leaders in listening to the voices of Federation of Youth in Care BC, and RCY. These organizations give us hope. We feel like we have a community cheering for us with the desire to change the narrative for a population of passionate and capable future leaders.
I know that one day, one of the individuals receiving a cellphone through Mobility for Good will move on to invent the next digital tool of communication. Another will write a book. A few might work together to solve global warming or cure a disease. Whatever direction their lives takes them, I can’t wait to see it happen!
I imagine a day where all youth in and from government care will be provided with phones to help them stay in touch with social workers and access the services and resources they need, such as job training and employment opportunities. These tech tools will make all the difference in planting the seeds for their future – for our future.
We need to stop closing the doors, and open the lines of communication (pun intended!) to get these youth to not only tell their story, but also write a new chapter that helps them heal, learn and grow. We need to put the time and money into these youth because doing so will change lives.
Maybe one day, people like me won’t shock our peers with stories from our time in care. We won’t shock them with our lack of technology. Instead, we’ll just text them and say “sup?”