Foster Warriors wants to give foster youth and alumni the same chances as everyone else to pursue a career in the exciting and rewarding world of cybersecurity and to harness cybersecurity as a way to prepare these young adults for any career.
There are currently nearly half a million children in foster care in the U.S., and according to the National Foster Youth Initiative:
- Nearly 2,000 children age out of the US foster care system every 30 days, and 1 in 5 of those will become instantly homeless.
- Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
- There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
- 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
- 1 in 4 will suffer from the direct effects of PTSD.
- About 1 in 4 kids who age out of the system will not graduate from high school or be able to pass their GED.
And yet, the cybersecurity industry is reporting a critical national and global shortage of cybersecurity professionals, sparking a nationwide effort to encourage teens to consider exploring careers in this field.
We want foster youth to have a seat at that table, a voice in that discussion, and an equal chance to share in this opportunity.
The Most Important part of our mission
This is the most important part of our mission – that no foster child is excluded just because they’re not interested in a cybersecurity career. Our goal is to make sure that any child or young adult in foster care can benefit from the Foster Warrior program, even if they’re not interested in or capable of pursuing a career in cybersecurity.
Here's How It Works
All foster youth participating in the program will go through basic training in cybersecurity hygiene, followed by an introduction to security awareness in the workplace (privacy, data ethics, phishing, malware, data handling, mobile security etc.).
The next step will be the most important. When students feel confident enough with their basic skill levels, we will then teach them to teach others.
- Students will be taught and encouraged to present their new-found knowledge to their local schools, churches, and community centers.
- They’ll take a lead in their local schools as security ambassadors, arranging educational programs and encouraging others to become cyber warriors,
- And they’ll be teaching foster parents and foster workers about the dangers of identity theft, an epidemic in the foster world.
Older youth will teach in front of local businesses in partnership with Chambers of Commerce.
The goal of the teaching is to help prepare these students for any career, security or otherwise, by using cybersecurity to build their business skills and confidence. They’re learn how to create a PowerPoint presentation, organize an event, speak in front of an audience, field questions, do follow ups.
Great skills that we hope will make our students more appealing to potential employers – whom we hope will be in the audience.
And of course, public speaking is great for developing self-confidence and leadership skills.
For More Advanced Students:
- Matching students with local security teams who can help guide them through the process, from simply learning if this is a career they'll like and excel in, all the way through formal education and that first internship and job.
- Providing access to free training, from basic introductory and orientation courses to more advanced and specialist training.
- Structuring an online learning environment so that training is always easy and accessible no matter what the circumstances of the students.
- Creating student-led projects focusing on the intersection of cybersecurity and privacy.
- Providing assistance with local internships and scholarships.
- Arranging meet-and-greets with local security experts and employers.
- Helping students secure their first industry-recognized security certifications, like the Comptia Security+ and CIPT certifications.
- Giving students access to a network of supporters and cheerleaders who can help support them throughout the process and into their careers.
- Connecting students with local and national professional associations to help them build out their first career networks.
- Assisting students with their job-hunting skills, including interview skills, resume writing, and even connecting them with specialist recruiters and placement experts.
- And encouraging those already in the security industry to consider volunteering for their local foster youth services and programs, and share some of their good fortune.
The Bigger Opportunity
We hope that if we're successful in establishing our program nationwide, we may have a rare opportunity to remove the stigma of the word foster, to give foster youth and adults real role models they can relate to, and help foster youth wear the term as a badge of honor rather than shame.
A Shortage of Women in Cybersecurity?
Once our students feel comfortable with their basic understanding of security and privacy, we’ll teach them to teach and help them lead security and privacy workshops at their own schools and with local community groups.
This part of the program will help students develop non-technical skills that will help them no matter what career path they end up choosing. It will help them with communications and presentation skills, help them understand how to carry and present themselves, how to organize, promote, and run events, develop leadership skills, and even help with their self-esteem and self-confidence.
A lesson in ethics
In perhaps another first, our students will also learn about the importance of data ethics, what they mean in any workplace, and the role of data ethics in both preventing data and security breaches and in reducing the impact of a breach.