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Computer BuddiesTM*

by Nexuskids

Seeing Services Through the Eyes of the Child



Concept: Computer Buddies are community volunteers who are selected because of their commitment to helping individual foster children master computer skills, which will help the child in school and later in the workforce. Computer Buddies assist the foster family with basic computer operations and encourage the foster child to use the computer for schoolwork and improving educational achievement. If the family chooses to link the computer to the Internet, Computer Buddies also can help encourage the foster child through email contact.

Who are Computer Buddies? Computer Buddies may be community volunteers—both teens and adults--recruited through foster and adoptive parent associations, civic groups, colleges, high schools, technical schools, businesses, or family friends or relatives recruited by the foster family. Because foster children have a history of abuse and neglect, it is important that Computer Buddies are sensitive to these issues. Consequently, it is essential that Computer Buddies have undergone routine background checks by DSS, have received orientation training before being introduced to the family, and have the approval of the parents before meeting the child.

How are Computer Buddies matched with foster children? Following a successful background search by DSS, Computer Buddies will be matched to foster children depending on the needs of the child and family. Matching criteria will include pairing technical computer skills of the Computer Buddy to what the foster family requests, according to the emotional, developmental, and academic needs of the foster child. The foster family must approve the selection of the Computer Buddy to work with their foster child prior to actually meeting the child. Where there is more than one foster child in a foster family, the foster family, the Computer Buddy, and the DSS caseworker will work together to determine the overall computer needs of the foster family and how the Computer Buddy may be able to help to support the entire family.

What is involved with routine background checks? All DSS volunteers who work with abused and/or neglected children in foster care, including Computer Buddies, must be screened to assure no one with a criminal history or history of child abuse and neglect has contact with the foster child. Please contact your local DSS office for further details.

What does the Computer Buddy do with the foster child? Computer Buddies are recruited to provide computer support and educational encouragement to the foster child. The degree of contact with the child will vary, but Computer Buddies should be aware of the child’s progress in school, know when tests are scheduled, acknowledge progress with grades and school attendance, and encourage computer usage by the foster child.

How long does the Computer Buddy serve? There is no set limit on how long a Computer Buddy should work with a foster child. However, because foster children have experienced repeated losses and rejection by adults, it is important to meet your commitments and promises to the foster child. Even though becoming a Computer Buddy does not require as extensive a commitment as becoming a mentor for the child, it is recommended that you personally meet with the child to say goodbye, if you need to resign as a Computer Buddy or be reassigned to another foster child. The foster family may greatly appreciate any help you can give in locating another Computer Buddy to take your place in the event that you must quit being a Computer Buddy for the foster child. If a new Computer Buddy can be recruited, then you may wish to introduce the foster child to his or her new Computer Buddy when you have your goodbye visit.

What if the Computer Buddy learns of a problem the foster child is experiencing or wants to acknowledge progress with schoolwork or grades? Computer Buddies are friends of the foster family and should have regular contact with the parents. Any minor issues can be discussed with the child, but major problems should be discussed directly with the parents to determine how to handle the situation. Achievements by the child, especially those that show increased use of the computer or improvement on school tests and/or grades, deserve special praise and encouragement by the Computer Buddy to the child directly. This is the primary purpose of the Computer Buddies program. Contact with the parents can be face-to-face, or, if the family is connected to the Internet and is willing to use email, can be via email. The Computer Buddy and the parents will determine what type of contact is most convenient for all.

Confidentiality is important. Computer Buddies may learn of information about the foster child or the foster child’s birth or foster family, which must be kept confidential for the protection of the child and in accordance to state law. Computer Buddies will be requested to sign a confidentiality form that acknowledges that the Computer Buddy is aware of the need to maintain confidentiality about the child’s name, location, circumstances, history, and other information that could be detrimental to the child if released.

What if the foster child tells the Computer Buddy about abuse or neglect that no one else knows about? Foster children have been exposed to trauma that even many adults have trouble comprehending. It is possible that a foster child, once he or she has come to trust an adult such as a foster parent or Computer Buddy, might disclose information about abuse or neglect that is unknown to the Department of Social Services. If this should occur, please contact the child’s DSS caseworker. The DSS caseworker will work with the child and foster parent to assure that support is given to the child. You will be provided with the child’s DSS caseworker’s (or supervisor’s) name and telephone number once you have been matched with a foster child.

Are there records to keep? Computer Buddies are selected for (1) helping foster children learn relevant computer skills in order to help them in school and (2) encouraging academic success. While detailed record keeping is not required, a log of contact with the foster child and/or his or her family and a short monthly summary of the child’s progress, approximately a paragraph long, would be helpful to the foster parents. The foster parents will send a copy of the summary to the DSS caseworker for the child’s record. Please incorporate any direct quotes from the child about the Computer Buddies program whenever possible, because this will be of benefit to Nexuskids in determining the program’s level of success and what improvements need to be made. A half-page form has been developed to guide you in your monthly progress reports.

What kind of software is available to the child on the DSS computer in the foster home? Nearly a hundred packages of educational, freeware, shareware, and/or demoware software have been identified as appropriate for foster children and teens and compatible with the computer system provided to them. Software is available for children and teens of all ages. Software includes educational games, word processing, spreadsheets, graphics and much more. All of this software is available on a CD-ROM given to Computer Buddies before visiting the foster child’s home, and is also available on the Computer Buddies website, www.help-net.com/computer buddies. New software is being identified all the time, so be sure to regularly visit this website and download new programs! One of your responsibilities as a Computer Buddy will be to learn what software is available to the child and help the child identify additional software needs. Older children, in particular, will need help in identifying educational software and games. You will be given the name of a person to contact about software during your orientation session to becoming a Computer Buddy.

What support can I expect as a Computer Buddy? Computer Buddies are seen as valuable contributors to the lives of foster children. As such, each Computer Buddy will receive approximately three hours of training to prepare for working with the computers and be given the name of your county’s Computer Buddies Coordinator or Technical Manager to contact with any questions, suggestions or concerns that may emerge about the program or with the child(ren) with whom you are working. In the unlikely event that you are unable to contact the people listed for your county and need immediate assistance, the Statewide Computer Buddies Technical Manager for Nexuskids, David Fellows, is available to respond to any questions concerning the computer and software in an emergency. Please page him at (803) 698-8278 and he gladly will return you call. Adjustments to the program will be based on your feedback. Computer Buddies can access other Computer Buddies by email on the www.help-net.com/computer buddies website. If you wish to be listed as a Computer Buddy, please send your email to David Fellows at this website stating your interest in being listed. Additional information and support is available on the official Nexuskids website, www.nexuskids.org.

How can I help build Computer BuddiesTM*? Computer Buddies know best about how to recruit additional Computer Buddies or where improvements in the program can be made. You are encouraged to provide feedback, anecdotes, comments, and suggestions for improvement to your Computer Buddies Coordinator, by contacting the nexuskids.org website, or by calling Roni Caw, Community Liaison for Nexuskids at (803) 576-5578. Your involvement is greatly appreciated!


A program of the
The Center for Child and Family Studies
College of Social Work
226 Bull Street Suite 130
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208

www.nexuskids.org    www.computer buddies.us

 *Trademark of the Computer Buddies program by Nexuskids is in process (March 2002).


Nexuskids, a program of the Children’s Law Office, University of South Carolina School of Law, is designed to bring together the helping agencies and organizations to overcome problems facing children, “through the eyes of the child.”  Please visit our website, Nexuskids.org, or call Dr. Kathleen Hayes (803/576-5574), Mr. Roni Caw  (803/576-5896) or Ms. Jutta Young, M. A. (803/576.5578) with your comments, interest, or questions about Computer Buddies



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Last modified: June 04, 2008