Every year, approximately 20,000 youth age-out of the foster care system throughout the U.S. The statistics on how youth fair after they leave foster care are grim. Compared to their peers, youth who age-out of foster care without being connected to caring and committed adults are less likely to complete their education and obtain employment that pays a living wage. They are at greater risk of homelessness, incarceration, becoming parents early and having their own children involved in the foster care system. Many are left to deal with the trauma they experienced at home or in the foster care system without adequate access to medical and mental health care.
To combat these dire outcomes, both federal and state laws have created rights and protections for this vulnerable population. However, many youth and those who advocate on their behalf are unaware of those rights or do not understand how to access them.
Florida, in accordance with federal law, has enacted several programs which provide access to health care, housing, education, social and financial support. However, the eligibility requirements for each program are specific and can depend on the youth's legal status at certain ages, the length of time the youth spent in certain placements, the youth's educational achievements and current age.
To help navigate this complicated system, we would like to create a chatbot that walks a youth and/or their advocate through questions to help determine eligibility for the various programs. Most of the questions could be answered with yes, no, or I don't know.
In an ideal world, this chatbot could be expanded to cover the entire U.S. and be available to all youth and young adults who have aged out of care.
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