Cecilia Van Cauwenberghe from Frost & Sullivan’s TechCasting Group, explains how technology platforms empower safe foster care, starting with some general background
The multiple concerns about the capabilities of foster families to consciously take care of vulnerable children, many of them requiring special care, make it challenging to optimise the adoption process. Some of these difficulties are associated with severe problems around potential abuse and neglect-care issues. Other concerns are related to the need to address new communication needs of children under foster care. The pandemic intensified these problems with a slowdown in the licensing process for new foster homes and created an additional need to move children away from conflictive group homes toward foster families.
The former steps – software development for social care workers
This article discusses how some technological advances may help licensing families to accede to foster care programmes in the present conditions.
First, an increasing number of software applications offer different solutions for fostering, adoption, licensing, and protection of children in foster care. Usually, these platforms, such as the CareDirector or CareWorks, OpenBook, and Binti, consist of case management tools to plan, review, and monitor caseload, alleviating social care workers from bureaucracy – general and specific enquiries, contacts and referrals, children’s special needs, health records, safeguarding information, agreements, psychological assessments, education scheduling and planning, potential placement, home transitions, etc., while allowing them to spend more time with children and families.
Naturally, when talking about uploading information, and most importantly regarding information about children, cybersecurity aspects are essential. As a result, most companies providing software solutions for foster care partners with cybersecurity organisations to guarantee the safe use of data or originate a completely new way to approach the problem – the ECLIPSE Software Platform for Children’s Social Care case.
The advanced steps – technology development to address complex communication needs
A team of researchers working at The Pennsylvania State University (Light et al., 2019) published a recent investigation, explicitly focusing on selecting a new and an emerging research-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technology to help children in foster care deal with complex communication needs. The purpose of the study is to identify the best technology that could result in an appropriate and a responsive tool for the individual interests, conditions and skills of children with developmental disabilities. The singular approach of this investigation relies on the ability to review the state-of-the-art of technological developments around AAC. The indicators also took into account the role of foster families and peers. Overall, the research fundamentals considered the capability of the technology to speed language learning, enable social interaction, enhance literacy skills, promote social inclusion, and facilitate interaction strategies for communication partners.
Scientists working at the Vienna University of Technology (Spiel et al., 2019) presented a similar investigation on autistic children in foster care, focusing on using Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) technology to improve their communication skills in the community. The researchers performed a critical review of the purposes of these technologies across six categories: behaviour analysis, assistive technologies, education, social skills, therapy and well-being. The singular intervention of this study remarks how these technologies embody normative expectations of a neurotypical society. In other words, for most of these tools, autism represents a medical disorder that requires correction. The authors interpret that autistic children, especially those in foster care, would be collateral beneficiaries of these technologies. On that note, the publication claims the lack of design for technologies geared towards the interests, needs and desires of autistic children in foster care while suggesting some guidelines on how to help children better.
The future steps – disruptive developments to enhance emotional and social adaptation
A step further, researchers at the Centre for Innovative Applications of Internet and Multimedia Technologies, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong (Ip et al., 2018), innovated in psychoeducation procedures and protocols. According to the researchers, social-emotional reciprocity significantly hinders children in foster care from responding appropriately and adapting to various social situations. For that reason, the authors investigated how the virtual reality (VR) environment represents a promising tool for emotional and social adaptation skills training in children with autism. The work focused on six learning scenarios: one centred on emotion control and relaxation strategies, another concentrated on facilitating consolidation and generalisation, and four learning scenarios simulated various social situations that allowed them to assess different communication and adaptation challenges.
Although through different approaches, there is a consensus about the critical need for additional research on optimising the route to safe foster care, especially for those children requiring special needs and different timelines to adapt to new environments and interact with the communication partners. The advent of new technologies lets ajar a door for a new promise that helps create new spaces for the better inclusion of children in the family and society.
I want to thank all contributors from the industry involved with developing and delivering this article from Frost & Sullivan.
- Ip, H.H., Wong, S.W., Chan, D.F., Byrne, J., Li, C., Yuan, V.S., Lau, K.S. and Wong, J.Y., 2018. Enhance emotional and social adaptation skills for children with autism spectrum disorder: A virtual reality enabled approach. Computers & Education, 117, pp.1-15.
- Light, J., McNaughton, D. and Caron, J., 2019. New and emerging AAC technology supports for children with complex communication needs and their communication partners: State of the science and future research directions. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 35(1), pp.26-41.
- Spiel, K., Frauenberger, C., Keyes, O. and Fitzpatrick, G., 2019. Agency of autistic children in technology research—A critical literature review. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 26(6), pp.1-40.
A look at social welfare in Japan: Cecilia Van Cauwenberghe from Frost & Sullivan’s TechVision Group, sheds light on social welfare as a crucial element to understand the context of social work education and development in Japan, starting with some general background.