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Children’s Home Society of Florida receives $7.3 million grant from Microsoft

Winter Park, Fla.—Children's Home Society of Florida, the state’s leading provider of services to vulnerable children and families, has been awarded a $7.3 million grant from Microsoft’s YouthSpark Software Grants program. The award will help bridge the digital learning divide for disadvantaged youth. In addition, Microsoft employee volunteers will help Children's Home Society of Florida change the technological face of child welfare in Florida and the nation.

Microsoft YouthSpark is a company-wide, global initiative to create opportunities for youth around the world. Through partnerships with governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses, YouthSpark empowers young people to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. In short, together, we are empowering youth to do more, achieve more and be more.  

“Working with Microsoft, we are developing solutions to child welfare challenges that were previously out of reach,” says Michael Shaver, CEO of Children's Home Society of Florida. “Not only do we have the tools but we also have the Microsoft vision to help us unlock incredible potential.”

“We are committed to helping nonprofits around the world gain affordable access to the technology and resources they need to create more impact in their communities,” says Mary Carol Alexander, Microsoft General Manager, Southeast Region. “We’re proud to have created new opportunities for more than 227 million young people in over 100 countries around the world, including locally here at Children’s Home Society of Florida.”

Microsoft’s relationship with Children's Home Society of Florida includes the following components:

Tech Success Florida

According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, lack of access to technology leads to student achievement gaps. Without basic computer and IT skills, these students are at a distinct disadvantage, not only in the workplace, but as contributors to society.

Children's Home Society of Florida is developing a unique technology training program to help 7,000 disadvantaged youth– including those in poverty, in foster care and/or in the juvenile justice system – acquire the necessary technological aptitude, interest and skills to improve their chances for success in life. 

Tech Success will use the latest Microsoft technology and software to provide training in computer basics: use of the Internet, websites and cloud services; Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications; résumé writing and interviewing techniques; living a digital lifestyle and more. Participants will be supported through self-paced progress, incentives and a focus on individual areas of interest.

Children's Home Society of Florida recently completed a successful pilot program with 20 teens in foster care. Phase II is expected to begin in the fall with a full rollout planned by the end of the year. In addition to a self-led online learning portal, Tech Success Florida will offer participants mentoring and entrepreneurial opportunities. 

Hack-A-Thon

Microsoft employee volunteers are also donating their time to help Children's Home Society of Florida advance key technological initiatives. For every hour volunteered, Microsoft Corp. donates $25 to Children's Home Society of Florida. To date, Microsoft has contributed more than $9,500. 

A May 2015 hack-a-thon event produced $6,000 in donations and resulted in a ground-breaking task management tool that’s the first of its kind in the child welfare arena. During the hack-a-thon weekend, 40 volunteers from three organizations – Microsoft, Nintex and Children's Home Society of Florida – collaborated on a software project to allow dependency case managers to spend more time with clients and less time on burdensome administrative tasks.

The task management tool eliminates the need for case managers to use spreadsheets to track dozens of tasks per client including visits, court hearings and medical appointments. It is expected to save case managers at least eight hours per week, allowing them more face-to-face time serving vulnerable children and families. The tool also is expected to contribute to increased work satisfaction and, in turn, case manager retention, which has a direct correlation with improved outcomes for children.

The weekend hack-a-thon also produced a new intranet for Children's Home Society of Florida.

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About Microsoft YouthSpark:

Microsoft YouthSpark is a companywide, global initiative to create opportunities that empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. For more information, visit www.microsoft.com/YouthSpark

About Children’s Home Society of Florida:

On the front lines since 1902, Children’s Home Society of Florida is the oldest and largest statewide organization devoted to helping children and families. Children's Home Society of Florida offers services that help break cycles of abuse in more families, heal the pain for traumatized children, guide teens to successfully transition into adulthood and create strong, loving families through adoption. The organization annually serves approximately 90,000 children and families statewide. 

Copyright 2015 Children’s Home Society of Florida, All Rights Reserved.