Kids First of Florida gets resources for remote learning, critical services

For Clay Today
Posted 9/22/21

CLAY COUNTY – Sunshine Health and its parent company, Centene Corporation, teamed up with AT&T, Connected Nation, Dell Technologies and Intel to bridge the Digital Divide for youth in foster …

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Kids First of Florida gets resources for remote learning, critical services

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – Sunshine Health and its parent company, Centene Corporation, teamed up with AT&T, Connected Nation, Dell Technologies and Intel to bridge the Digital Divide for youth in foster care by enabling greater internet access. Sunshine Health deployed the K-12 Digital Divide Program in Florida by donating technology to foster care agencies to distribute to youth in need.

Kids First of Florida, a community-based program that provides child welfare and foster care to Clay County children. One hundred and fifty laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots were delivered to the organization last Friday, said Chief Executive Officer Irene Toto.

“These will help with the academic achievement and schoolwork of, primarily, our foster kids,” she said. “We’re thrilled.”

Toto said Kids First now is working to prioritize the needs of local children.

Through the K-12 Digital Divide Program, Sunshine Health donated 500 laptops and 1,700 Wi-Fi hotspots to foster care agencies across Florida to distribute to youth in need. These packages will help connect youth with the hardware to access the internet for schoolwork, job searches, telehealth, online tutoring, behavioral health services and other daily activities – helping to bridge the Digital Divide. The other foster care agencies received devices were:

• Brevard Family Partnership

• Community Partnership for Children

• Family Integrity Program

• Family Support Services

of North Florida

• Heartland For Children

• Kids Central Inc.

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed challenges amongst vulnerable populations, like children in foster care facing issues with access to internet and computer equipment,” said Liz Miller, President and CEO, Sunshine Health. “By providing these devices to foster youth, Sunshine Health is ensuring that the needs of young children are being met, so that they can further grow and advance.”

The Digital Divide refers to the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those with internet access and those without. For children in foster care who may experience additional challenges in education, researchers suggest that online technology can be a tremendous advantage in this area. This Digital Divide has been especially prevalent and impactful during the COVID-19 pandemic, as computers and internet access have been required for everyday tasks from attending school to visiting the doctor, which could ultimately impact the youth’s overall health and wellness.

“On behalf of all of us at Brevard Family Partnership we wish to extend a heartfelt appreciation for the donation of so many computers and hotspots for our children in foster care throughout Brevard County,” said Phil Scarpelli, CEO of the Brevard Family Partnership. “On a personal note, working with our partners at Sunshine Health has been an absolute blessing as they selflessly contribute to the success of our mission as we serve at-risk children who are so deserving.”

“I am so thankful for the partnership with Sunshine Health that allowed us to provide high-speed internet and laptops for our children in out-of-home care,” said Shawna A. Novak, Director of Health and Human Services for the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners. “High speed internet has shifted from being a luxury to being a necessity, especially during the past year. Being able to ensure all our children, including those in rural and underserved areas, have access to reliable internet and capable computers is truly a blessing.”

Sunshine Health has been supporting Florida residents since 2007 across its Medicaid, Medicare and Ambetter plans. Their efforts to address the social determinants of health reinforce their long-standing commitment to supporting the whole health of their communities, one person at a time.

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