Update: July 15, 2021
California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to make the iFoster Pilot Program a permanent part of California LifeLine.
The Pilot Program provided all eligible foster youth in California (ages 13 – 26) with a smartphone and monthly mobile services (including unlimited data and hotspot) free of charge. Today’s decision will provide a permanent state benefit for foster youth using the existing LifeLine funds.
iFoster believes this is a huge win for foster youth, providing not only a vital service for the safety and success of our youth, but will save foster youth thousands of dollars which can be used for many of the other vital resources and services that are also unfunded.
The Decision authorizes a 14-month extension of the Pilot Program during which iFoster and its partner T-Mobile will move all current phones over to the T-Mobile network, and prepare for the transition from a Pilot Program to permanent California LifeLine.
Update: December 28, 2020
A lot has happened since we delivered the first iFoster phones for foster youth in November 2019.
What we did not know then is the dramatically increased need for these devices that resulted from COVID-19. With stay-at-home orders disrupting visitations, support networks, employment and education, these cell phones/Internet hotspots became even more critical to help our young people remain safe, connected and on track to succeed.
A year after we delivered our first phones, we have reached two major milestones.
First, we have delivered over 13,000 cell phones to foster youth across California. That is 13,000 young people who now have the technology they need during a pandemic.
Second, we have been able to upgrade the data plans to increase the high speed/hotspot data by over 15 times the amount needed prior to COVID-19. Starting in mid-December, every one of the 13,000 devices had its monthly data increased to 47G from the 3G initially approved. This will provide 125 hours to 250 hours of Zoom, or 470 hours of Google Classroom per month, more than enough to meet the needs of a student with a full caseload.
We are thrilled that so many youth have been provided with this life changing technology, and that the California Public Utilities Commission continues to support the needs of foster youth in these tumultuous times.
Original Post: November 29, 2019
Back in April of this year, the CPUC authorized California LifeLine to provide up to 25 million dollars to fully subsidize the cost of smartphones with unlimited voice, text and high-speed data as part of the iFoster and Boost Mobile Phones for Foster Youth Program.
We are excited to announce that on November 22, 2019, the first round of LG Empire Tribute smartphones were handed out to youth in conjunction with a TAY AmeriCorps event called Game Of TAY. The inaugural California event was hosted by our TAY AmeriCorps members, during which they educated and connected fellow LA County foster youth to the resources they need to succeed.
These smartphones will be distributed to up to 33,000 current and former California based foster youth over the duration of two years.
At the event, the iFoster team identified and verified approximately 400 recipients to receive smartphones. All eligible TAY AmeriCorps members received a phone, as did other attendees on the waitlist.
Not only will our TAY AmeriCorps members benefit from these phones for their own personal use, but they will also use it as a resource to teach their clients how to best take advantage of it.
Members of the CPUC, such as Commissioners Guzman Aceves and Genevieve Shiroma, along with other dignitaries, gave powerful speeches on what an incredible asset this will be to foster youth.
Those on the waitlist who did not attend the November 22 event will receive their phones in forthcoming distribution rounds. If you are a current or former California based foster youth, sign up to receive a free cell phone here.
If you put your name on the waitlist, but have not formally filled out an application, make sure to do so here to receive a free smartphone.