As a UCLA student without a laptop of her own, Ashley Williams spent many hours waiting to use a computer in the library to complete assignments. “It was frustrating. It was a struggle to get my work done,” says Williams, who entered foster care at age 10.
Getting her first laptop at age 20 changed Williams’ life academically and socially. “It lifted a weight off my shoulders. And having that network added a new kind of excitement,” she says.
Williams, who is now 26 and a law student, received a donated laptop through Foster Care Counts and iFoster, two nonprofit organizations that have partnered to provide refurbished Dell laptops to college-bound foster youth ages 17 and older. The organizations work with L.A. County’s Department of Children and Family Services to provide services to transition-age foster youth.
“It’s difficult for young people from foster care to be successful in school without a laptop because it takes longer for them to access resources, prepare and hand in work and/or school related assignments, all of which makes them less competitive with their peers,” says Jeanne Pritzker, who founded Foster Care Counts in 2012. The L.A.-based organization also assists college-age foster youth with internships, job interviews and gently used work clothes.
Foster Care Counts provides funds for iFoster and sets criteria for laptop recipients. Students ages 17 and older must be in L.A. County, college bound or in college, and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. iFoster obtains and delivers the laptops (which cost $225 each) and ensures students get round-the-clock tech support. To date, 1,780 laptops have been provided to L.A. foster youth.
“The number-one request from foster parents, foster youth and social workers has always been computer access,” says Serita Cox, a former foster youth who in 2010 founded iFoster – which to date has provided more than 8,250 laptops to foster youth across the U.S.
Community college student Denisse Aldana says the laptop she received from iFoster has made a world of difference. She’s able to research college majors, fill out college applications, apply for financial aid and dabble in social media. “It’s been super helpful. It’s an essential tool,” says Aldana, 19, who plans to work in adoption services.