Model & Strategy
Foster America’s mission is to improve the lives of America’s most vulnerable children–those who have been abused, neglected, or orphaned–by building a pipeline of leaders and innovators who will help transform the child welfare system. In June 2016, Foster America launched a fellowship program that recruits, trains, and deploys talented professionals with diverse skills and backgrounds into the child welfare system. Drawing inspiration from other successful fellowship models like Teach For America and The Broad Residency, Foster America seeks to effect change within a bureaucratic system from the inside out by placing successful post-graduate and mid-career professionals to work under change-minded government and nonprofit agency leaders, catalyzing short-term improvements and long-term transformation.
Foster America’s fellows will focus on a previously-identified problem that affects children in foster care, leveraging their prior professional experience, skills, and outside-the-box thinking to achieve results against a defined set of metrics. Each fellow works on a project, leading and innovating to: 1) prevent abuse and neglect, keeping more children safely out of foster care; 2) see that children who do enter foster care can live with loving, stable foster families rather than in group settings; 3) ensure that every child in foster care has quality, consistent support from a highly-capable caseworker; and 4) that children have health, mental health, safety, and educational success as the multiple systems in their life work together for their well-being.
Long term, the organization’s goal is to develop and scale new solutions to the biggest challenges facing the child welfare system and build a cadre of talented leaders who will continue to work on improving our country’s child welfare system.
Founder and CEO Sherry Lachman has devoted her career to improving government systems to help disadvantaged children and families. She previously served as a domestic policy advisor to Vice President Biden, a senior policy advisor at the Department of Education, a senior education counsel to Senator Al Franken, and an attorney at the Juvenile Law Center. Sherry holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, a doctor of law from Columbia University, and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. Sherry’s commitment to child welfare stems from her experience in foster care as a child.
Foster America fellows have made major progress on the ground. For example, one fellow used his marketing and design skills to help Rhode Island increase by 25 percent the number of foster families they recruited and licensed and thereby decrease by 30 percent the number of foster children they placed in jail-like institutions. Another fellow is using his software engineering skills to help Washington State integrate data across its early childhood and child welfare agencies to identify and match vulnerable families earlier with services that prevent child abuse and neglect.
By 2022, FA aims to scale the innovations their fellows and alumni create and develop at least 100 new leaders for the child welfare field from their fellowship pipeline. Together, they will represent enough of a critical mass in a relatively small sector, to begin shifting our country’s broken approach to child welfare, which is at the root of so many of society’s biggest challenges.