Skip to content

Hundreds of member benefits. One convenient place to explore them. Check them out!

 

AARP Purpose Prize Winner Chats with Bob Edwards

Reid Cox, founder of iFoster, talks about how he got involved in the child welfare system in this 'Take on Today' episode

Take on Today Podcast

AARP

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

INTRO – Bob Edwards:

Hello. I’m Bob Edwards with An AARP Take On Today.

The child welfare system protects the privacy and safety of youths, who may have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or violence.

But this also makes it harder for their foster families to find the support they need.

That’s where iFoster — the online community Reid Cox and his wife, Serita, cofounded — comes in.

Reid, a former tech industry financial strategist, and Serita, a former management and philanthropic strategy consultant who was a foster child herself, were looking for a way to make a difference.

They thought about becoming foster parents but realized they could combine their professional expertise and have a larger impact.

Reid Foster

So, I think for anyone who is you know willing to take on this work, be prepared. Understand where your passion is. Understand where you are in your life, how you can contribute, and how much you can personally put in.

Last year, Reid received one of AARP Purpose Prize Awards, which recognizes outstanding work by people age 50 and over that is focused on advancing social good.

Bob Edwards:

In 2010, you and your wife Sarita started a nonprofit called iFoster. What does iFoster do?

Reid Cox:

Maybe the simplest way I can describe iFoster is we help young people in foster care get the resources and opportunities they need to be successful. Some of our young people call us “the getters of stuff.” One of the sad realities of the foster care system is that children and youth do not get the same resources and opportunities as children being raised in the family environments. So, we help them fill that gap and hopefully have as a positive experience being raised as possible.

Bob Edwards:

What types of barriers do children in foster care face and how does iFoster support them?

Reid Cox:

Young people in foster care face many barriers. The one we focus primarily on though, is an investment gap. On average, foster care givers receive less than half of the funds that an average family will spend to raise a child. And what that means is, our children go without they go without many of the basic things that help them compete and be successful against their peers.

So, what we do is, we help stretch that limited funding go farther. We have over 300 corporate partners who provide over 500 resources at costs that are either below what you would expect to pay retail or in some cases donated. So, we're trying to bridge that investment gap by allowing caregivers to do more with the funds they do have.

Bob Edwards:

What happens to these young people when they age out of foster care?

Reid Cox:

The primary goal of the foster care system is to place young people with loving parents. So that end goal is generally either being reunified with their biological families or being placed and adopted into a new family. Approximately 8% of youth – around 30,000 a year – never achieve this. They age out of foster care without having any family supports. We call those transition age youth and when they leave the system it's called aging out or emancipating.

The expectation is when they age out of foster care that they're fully independent. That they are fully capable of taking care of every one of their needs without any form of support. And as you can imagine, this group of youth have the worst outcomes of any at-risk population. So, that's one of the primary focuses for iFoster is to become a valuable resource and support group for these transition-age youths during this critical phase in their lives.

Bob Edwards:

And then you just stay behind the eight ball don't you?

Reid Cox:

It's tragic. Every youth that we don't prepare to be independent, is not only a wasted life, but it's a million-dollar cost to society in lost wages and supports for those individuals. So, creating pathways like going to college, creating job opportunities for these youth, it changes not only their life trajectory at a young age., but their children their families. It has a massive impact.

Reid Cox:

As an example, one of the biggest needs for these youth is employment. They need to earn a living wage. They have no family support. They have no government support. We have a program, it's the iFoster jobs program. We've been running it for two years now. We're very proud of it. What we do is we train foster youth on job skills, soft skills, etc. We have over 30 major corporate partners. Companies like Starbucks, grocery store chains like Raley's, who will hire every one of our trained youth that we put forward.

To date in the first two years we have gotten over 400 former foster youth hired at these corporate partners. What's absolutely fantastic is the retention rate for those youth is two and a half times what our employer partners would normally get from a new hire. So, our employer partners are thrilled. They're getting some of the best new employees that they've ever had and our foster youth are thrilled because they're getting opportunity to live a wage and be successfully independent.

Bob Edwards:

You and your wife both had successful careers in the tech industry. What drove you to start iFoster?

Reid Cox:

It's a very personal reason for us. My wife Sarita was raised in the foster care system. We have discussed our entire adult lives becoming foster parents. But, we realized that we had an opportunity to create iFoster as a support system for the hundreds of thousands of caregivers who are out there raising almost half a million foster youth.

So, our motive was to leverage what we had learned in our careers and see if we could make a measurable change in the foster care system.

Bob Edwards:

Was there a particular moment when you knew that iFoster was something you were passionate enough about to give up your previous career?

Reid Cox:

We had we had spent you know basically our adult lives talking about what it was that we could do to try to improve the system and to try to give children and youth a better experience and my wife it had in the system.

The moment we knew what it was that we thought we could do happened in 2010, which is when we formed iFoster. At that time we were both full-time employed in our for-profit careers. Sarita had a very successful career in the tech industry. She ran e-commerce platforms for some of the largest Silicon Valley companies.

I spent my career in corporate finance and investment banking. In 2010, I was consulting to LinkedIn, who at that time was thinking about going public. So, we were working on their IPO and it was at that time that we realized that we had had the opportunity to learn some very unique things about tech platforms and building online communities, structuring partnerships.

I had a really great inside glimpse into LinkedIn and how they were building their social community and their platform. We realized that the community that could probably benefit the most, or the one that we thought could benefit the most, was the foster care population. Highly fragmented, highly underfunded. So, we thought the perfect candidates for creating an online community was foster care.

No one we knew was going to do it. There's no profit motive. You're not going to become the next “dot com” billionaire. So, we felt like we had a responsibility, at that point, to take what we had learned and turn it into iFoster.

Bob Edwards:

What made you think it would work?

Reid Cox:

Well, I guess we didn't know for sure it would. But it was a calculated risk. We again had had the opportunity to see how e-commerce and social online communities were working at the time. They were growing and what the value was to the members who joined those communities.

For us, we thought that foster care was the prototype. The perfect example of a community that needed to come together and needed the support. Needed to be able to interact with each other and was structurally prohibited from doing so. We didn't know it would work. But, we thought if we built it, and we put it out there, we would pretty quickly find out.

Bob Edwards:

Any advice for someone interested in an “encore career” that focuses on solving social problems?

Reid Cox:

Yeah, I would say first of all by all means do it. It's the most rewarding work you'll ever do. But, for me, and I guess this is the banker in me coming out, for every reward there's a risk that you have to take on. So, I think for anyone who is you know willing to take on this work, be prepared. Understand where your passion is. Understand where you are in your life, how you can contribute, and how much you can personally put in.

I think one of the big risks is people get very passionate and very excited and they jump in. And you don't help anyone by failing. In many cases you just set expectations and you set hopes that you can't fulfill. I would encourage anyone to find opportunities to do the work that they're passionate about and follow the path that emerges on the timeline that emerges.

Bob Edwards:

What's next in your path?

Reid Cox:

Well, we've still got a lot of work here to do here at iFoster. The programs we've started we want to continue to grow in scale. We want to have more and more members join iFoster. It's free for anybody in the foster care community. We want to get more and more resources to help fill that investment gap. So, from more partnerships with more corporate partners, specifically guided by the community as to what they need. We want to get more youth full-time jobs that can financially stabilize their lives.

So, continue doing all the things we are doing, but we've got a couple of, you know, really interesting opportunities on the horizon.  Our next program we're launching is an educational path for foster youth. So, to give them the guidance and the resources they need, whether that's going to college or pursuing a vocational path.

Sadly only 6% of foster youth ever go to college and only half of those ever get a degree. That is an opportunity, that for a number of reasons, really isn't open to our population. And we want to make sure that that's available to our community.

We have this incredible opportunity in LA County where we're going to be integrating government agencies and resources into the resources that we have from outside of child welfare to create a much bigger pool of resources for families in that area. AmeriCorps is going to be a partner in this.  So, we're going to have a hundred service opportunities that we will populate with foster youth that's going to give them incredible experience and skills.

Their paths to becoming independent adults, but they're also going to be peer navigators. They are going to make sure that the needs of youth are always being talked about. That that's always at the table. So, changing the system improving the lives, as many lives as we can.

Bob Edwards:

Well, good luck with that.

Reid Cox:

Thank you very much.

Bob Edwards:

Thank you

TRANSITION

Bob Edwards:

Here’s what else you need to know this week.

Imagine a state-of-the-art hospital without beds, waiting rooms or doctors honing their bedside manner.

This is Mercy Virtual, a sleek brick and mortar medical hub, connecting real time patient care to forty-four Midwest hospitals through a computer connection.

With a team of more than 700 physicians, nurses and support staff serving 750,000-plus patients last year alone, Mercy Virtual — the nation’s first built-from-scratch virtual care center —  is an experiment in the growing field of telemedicine.

While the growth of Telemedicine has exploded over the last decade, it’s not meant to replace face-to-face care or critical diagnoses.

But it is an efficient, twenty-four-seven health care option that allows doctors and specialists to manage chronic conditions or treat urgent symptoms for patients who are dependent on remote care.

Unlike house calls, which mostly disappeared when two-car families became the norm, office visits, urgent care centers and hospitals aren’t going anywhere. Telemedicine just adds one more dimension to accessing the best possible health care.

TRANSITION

The battery loses its charge; the memory is full; apps are slow. It’s time to give your smartphone a good house-cleaning.

But to avoid losing anything precious, it’s a good idea to back it up, either to the cloud, or by connecting to your computer.

Here are some ways to make your phone run like new:

Take an inventory of your apps and delete the ones you don’t use. You never know what’s running in the background.

Delete old texts, emails or unwanted photos, too. Then transfer the photos you want to another storage device to free up some space.

Turn off location services and app updates. Create a new habit of enabling location services only when necessary, like when you need to use maps or navigation.

And finally, since phones can carry thousands of germs on the surface, physically clean your phone with a disinfecting wipe.

For more tips on cleaning up your phone, both inside and out, visit AARP dot org.

OUTRO:

For more, visit AARP dot org slash podcast.

Become a subscriber, and be sure to rate our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and other podcast apps.

Thanks for listening.  I’m Bob Edwards.

The AARP Purpose Prize celebrates people 50 and older who are doing outstanding work for social good.  On this week’s An AARP Take on Today podcast, Bob Edwards talks with Purpose Prize winner, Reid Cox, founder of iFoster, an organization that helps those involved in the child welfare system — kids, their foster hosts, agencies and businesses — build a community of support for one another.

How to Listen and Subscribe to Take on Today Podcast

iPhone or iPad

  1. Open the Apple Podcasts app, search for the show title and select it from the list of results.
  2. Once on the show page, click the "Subscribe" button to have new episodes sent to your phone or tablet for free.
  3. Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

Android Phone or Tablet

  1. Open the Google Play Music app, search for the show title and select it from the list of results.
  2. Once on the show page, click the "Subscribe" button to have new episodes sent to your phone or tablet for free.
  3. Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

Smart Speakers (Amazon Echo or Google Home)

  1. To play podcasts on your Amazon Echo smart speaker, ask the following: "Alexa, ask TuneIn to play Take on Today podcast" OR "Alexa, play Take on Today podcast on TuneIn"
  2. To play podcasts on your Google Home smart speaker, ask the following: "Hey Google, play Take on Today podcast"

Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

GO TO THIS ARTICLE