Computer Buddies are community volunteers who are selected because of their commitment to helping 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. Computer Buddies are recruited through civic groups, colleges, parent associations, technical schools, businesses, or family friends or relatives recruited by the foster family.
SERVING AS MENTOR AND FRIEND
Computer Buddies are friends of the foster family and should have regular contact with the foster family. 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. It is desirable and appropriate that the Computer Buddy celebrate successes with the foster child. In fact this is the primary purpose of the Computer Buddies program—to provide support and encouragement for the foster child. Assistance is offered to help a foster child improve academic skills and become a more successful student.
SERVING AS A COMPUTER RESOURCE PERSON FOR FOSTER CHILD AND FAMILY
The Computer Buddy assists the foster family in the operation of the computer. The Computer Buddy may be involved in the initial installation of the computer in the foster home. When technical questions and difficulties arise, the Computer Buddy serves as one who can answer questions and provide hands-on assistance with the computer, printer, etc. The Computer Buddy serves as an instructor of basic computer skills and has some degree of computer literacy to be of technical assistance to the foster family. Understandably, some Computer Buddies will have more technical skills than other Computer Buddies and may be called upon to assist other Computer Buddies with various technical problems. There may be a need to identify the Computer Buddy who has considerable technical skills as a Computer Buddy Technical to assist other Computer Buddies and foster families as needed and appropriate.
HANDLING SENSITIVE AND CRITICAL ISSUES
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 foster parents before meeting the child. 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 are 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. 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 his or her Computer Buddy may disclose information about abuse or neglect that is unknown to the Department of Social Services. If this should happen, the Computer Buddy must contact the designated staff person at DSS. DSS will work with the child and foster child to assure that support is given to the child.
ASSISTING IN PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION
While detailed record keeping is not required, a monthly status report is needed to determine the effectiveness of the program in supporting foster children and promoting school success for foster children. A form has been developed to guide you in your monthly progress reports. This information should be e-mailed to the designated person at your County DSS office. Computer Buddies can help recruit additional Computer Buddies and suggest areas where improvements can be made. Feedback, comments, and suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated and encouraged.
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