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Computers Buddies Program


Fact Sheet





! Foster children are highly likely to be one to two years behind in school and less likely to graduate from high school.

! Abused and neglected children lose six months of emotional development each time they are moved in foster care.

! Foster children are on the wrong side of the digital divide

! South Carolina is first state to help all foster children get computers

! South Carolina is the only state to seek Computer Buddies for foster children


Contact for more information: Dr. Kathleen M. Hayes, Director, Computer Buddies, phone: 803/ 576-5574; email: KatHayes@aol.com; website: Nexuskids.org

What is happening? School age foster children in South Carolina are getting 1800 personal computers with educational software for use in their own homes. The Children’s Law Office through its Computer Buddies program is helping the Department of Social Services, foster parents, educators and others in communities recruit volunteers to help foster children master their computers skills and to serve as the child’s educational coach. The program is called Computer Buddies. To our knowledge, South Carolina is the first state to help foster children overcome the digital divide by placing computers in their homes. It is one of only a few states working to help foster children succeed in school. Finally, South Carolina is the only state to have a Computer Buddies program for foster children and youth.

Who is helping the foster children and youth?

1. The University of South Carolina Children’s Law Office [School of Law] (a) coordinates the statewide educational initiative, (b) identifies educational barriers, (c) facilitates delivery of computers to foster homes; (d) identifies educational software, and (e) promotes improved school policy for foster children. (Judge William Byars [Ret.], Director).

2. The South Carolina Department of Social Services has provided upgraded, refurbished computers for school-age foster children and identified Computer Buddies coordinators and managers. (DSS Director Elizabeth Patterson).

3. The Department of Education has provided resources and support and helped to streamline educational policy for foster children. (Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum).

4. The South Carolina Foster Parents Association has encouraged foster parents to help abused and neglected children overcome the digital divide by assuming responsibility for the computers over time. (Co-Presidents, Carl and Mary Brown: 803/ 865-2020).

5. The Department of Corrections (Prison Industries) has helped with refurbishing and upgrading of the computers for foster children.


How do Computer Buddies fit in? Computer Buddies are community volunteers who help foster children set up the computers and access educational software (which is provided free). In addition, Computer Buddies work with foster children to encourage the educational use of the computer, academic performance, school attendance and achievement. In many ways a Computer Buddy serves as the foster child’s “school coach,” encouraging the child in school in whatever way a child might need. When email is made available to foster children in the future, the Computer Buddy will assist the family in helping the foster child safely access the Internet.

What will school-age foster children receive? Foster children will receive a computer with a CD ROM and a color printer. In addition, Computer Buddies will be matched to each foster family who has a school-age foster child in order to help the family maintain the computer, help the child identify appropriate educational software, and encourage the child’s learning.

How can the community help? Every community has school age foster children. Help the Children’s Law Office, the Departments of Social Services and Education, and the South Carolina Foster Parents Association get the computers into the homes of foster children and facilitate their use by foster children by identifying (1) people who would be willing to be Computer Buddies and (2) groups that would be willing to sponsor recruitment and support programs for volunteers.

What educational barriers have been identified that adversely affect foster children? Nexuskids, the parent program for Computer Buddies, is dedicated to improving services for foster children, with a very specific focus on improving their school success. Across South Carolina, educators, social service professionals, and foster parents agree that there is not enough academic information available for individual foster children and many children do poorly in school. Consequently, Nexuskids is facilitating state level resolution of several educational issues that adversely affect foster children: (1) Confidentiality barriers, (2) Difficulty in enrolling a foster child in a school, (3) Timely transfer of school records, (4) Poor communication about educational law and policy, and (5) Lack of support for foster parents in advocating for their foster children’s education.

The Computer Buddies program has demonstrated promising results. In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Education and Juvenile Justice, and the South Carolina Foster Parents Association, Nexuskids in Sumter worked with DSS and other groups to implement a highly successful educational and computer support program that brought together diverse community partners on behalf of foster children. The Sumter partners have successfully placed computers and printers with school-age foster children and matched 46 Computer Buddies to children who need them to help maintain the computer, access educational software and encourage academic success. Besides addressing the digital divide for children, this program also has improved communication among foster parents, the schools, DSS, and the community. Contact Ronald H. Smith, Sumter County DSS director (803) 773-5531 for additional information on this initiative.

Who do I call about program questions or if I wish to help with Computer Buddies? Your support is greatly needed and welcomed! The Children’s Law Office, with its partners, is currently facilitating similar exciting programs in other parts of the state and computers are available for many foster children. For more information, if you wish to help establish this important program in your area, or if you want to become a Computer Buddy, please feel free to contact Dr. Kathleen Hayes, the Computer Buddies program director, at (803) 576-5574; send email to KatHayes@aol.com; or contact the Nexuskids’ website at Nexuskids.org.

What does the Children’s Law Office do in South Carolina? The Children’s Law Office, directed by Judge William R. Byars, Jr. (Ret.), is part of the USC School of Law. It works to build social and legal connections for children and families and provide quality training and resource materials to lawyers, judges, social workers, Guardians, and other professionals who work with children and families. In addition to Nexuskids, it has two other programs: (1) Child Protection and (2) the Juvenile Justice Resource Center. The phone number for the Children’s Law Office is (803) 777-1646; the official website for the Children’s Law Office is childlaw.law.sc.edu/.



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Last modified: June 04, 2008