FOSTER CARE RESOURCES
- iOS/Android App Development
- Website Development
- Brand Design and Development
- Support & Maintenance
- UI/UX Strategy and Design
UT Southwestern Medical Center recognized the importance of providing reliable and comprehensive resources for teenagers and young adults transitioning out of the foster care system. The resources currently available were often inaccurate and difficult to find. To address this, they formed a task force consisting of stakeholders in the region and engaged foster parents, liaisons, and individuals with lived experience. Working together, this team crafted a valuable, much-needed solution — but they needed someone to bring their vision to life. That’s where Falkon came in.
The foster care system can be scary, confusing, and hard to navigate, especially alone, and especially as a kid. Many resources exist online, but finding them can be very difficult, and it’s often fragmented or inaccurate. Adolescents and young adults who have been in foster care often lack skills and support needed to successfully transition to adulthood.
Frequent placement changes, no permanent home, limited support from adults, and lack of knowledge or access to health and community resources can lead to poor health outcomes, lack of educational attainment and limited career development. There was no central repository to help kids aged 14-26 find free, accurate, helpful information for a variety of common tasks/needs.
- Provide helpful and vetted resources to teens and young adults transitioning out of foster care
- Design a brand that would be appealing to teens and young adults
- Create a FREE app experience that is helpful, educational, fun, and something they would want to return to
Empowering Youth is an Android and iOS app that serves as a resource hub for teens and young adults transitioning out of the foster care system. It’s a place for them to set goals, learn life skills, and keep their important documents and info organized.
Research: To better understand the needs of North Texas kids in foster care, we first met with experts from UT Southwestern Medical Center, Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence at Children's Health, Collin College, SMU Dedman School of Law, other organizations, and Foster Parents and Liaisons. We discussed their experiences and thoughts around what would be necessary for an app of this type, from the kind and quantity of resources, gamification, aesthetic, and more. Much of their feedback was direct from foster kids/teens from previous conversations and surveys.
We also dove into any existing resources or apps to understand their offerings and how Empowering Youth would differentiate itself in the industry. We discovered many foster care related apps and websites, but none that directly spoke to the kids/teens themselves. What we found primarily was focused towards foster parents, or was highly overwhelming with too much information and mis-information.
Understanding: These days most adolescents and young adults have access to a smart phone. Developing an app to allow storage of health information, access to reputable sources of health information and links to community resources could be a useful vehicle to support transition to independent living.
Branding: We had a name: Empowering Youth. But we needed a logo and brand for the app that would show as fun, colorful, exciting, and motivating. We prepared a few mood boards and after some pre-surveys and meetings, it was unanimous and clear we had our perfect brand! The logo is a simple typeface spelling Empowering Youth, with the You in a bold accent color, which subliminally reads as “Empowering You”… a direct reference to the young adult users of the platform.
UI/UX: Overwhelmingly, young adults in our focus groups preferred a dark mode interface by default, so we used a dark background and added bold, neon colors as the buttons and UI elements. We used simple line icons and buttons for a “technologically advanced” feel that fill in with color as you tap or visit areas. We wanted our young adult users to feel empowered every time they open the app, so we included rotating neon sign messages on the splash screen that would boost their mood, such as “Love Yourself” or “It’s Now O’Clock”.
Resources: Resources are organized into 6 main categories: Health, Education, Job, Community, Finances, and Home & Life. Each resource is tagged with multiple keywords to make it easy to find the exact thing you’re looking for.
Things: Our experts prepared a large collection of “Things” to help kids accomplish their objectives in any category, including selecting a primary care doctor, applying to college, finding scholarships, writing a resume, understanding credit and taxes, and so much more! Each was written as a simple, step-by-step guide that provide all the information and resources needed to succeed.
Profile: This app helps kids and teens store and manage their personal information and documents, including medical, dental, and vision insurance, immunization (vaccine) records, medications, addresses, ID’s, and details of any healthcare providers they have visited. Plus, they can upload motivational text or include links to uplifting websites or videos to help them feel better when they’re feeling down.
Safety: Upon signing up, each user must enter a secure password as well as 3 security questions and answers. The app does not require logging each time to allow for ease of access to the resource hub, but if they want to access any personal information, they must re-log in and answer one of their security questions to ensure their information stays safe. Experts from UT Southwestern Medical Center, Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence at Children's Health, Collin College, SMU Dedman School of Law, and other organizations carefully curated and reviewed all resources and advice provided in the app to help eliminate unhelpful or mis-information.
Website Design and Development: Falkon also designed and developed a simple landing page for the app to provide a high-level description as well as various screens with links to download from the Google Play and the App Store.
User Feedback Testing
Over numerous Focus Groups consisting of primarily kids, teens, and Foster Care Liaisons, we received feedback on the initial app prototype…
“I love it, looks amazing! Big fan of simple icons. Really love what you showed about how much can be uploaded, like documents and health care providers. Saves you so much heartache by having access to all of this.”
“I like how you can see your journal progress over time.”
“Having documents in one place makes a huge difference.”
“Love that you showed the kind of file types for what can be uploaded. Loved how you showed the password requirements on the sign-up screen instead of letting us guess.”
“Beautiful app. Would love to use this. Everything is so clearly organized.”
“Love the checklist aspect and reward system, that’s just fun to look at.”
“The Things list is long. I would want a way to search or filter or just put it on its own page organized by category.”
“This is going to be an incredibly helpful and resourceful app once it gets published!”
Falkon designed and developed the Empowering Youth app in a way that successfully provides helpful and vetted resources to DFW kids and teens transitioning out of foster care. The brand was so well received and assisted in keeping the kids coming back to the app, setting new goals, and having fun while doing it.
The resources and tips written and provided by our team of expert liaisons, educators, and doctors were wildly successful and helpful for our test groups. The ability to favorite resources, search by area and dozens of keywords, and having super resources available are game-changer.
Empowering Youth is free to everyone and is available to download now!
This product won 3 awards from CSS Design Awards: Best UX Design, Best UI Design, and Best Innovation. Empowering Youth also won the 2023 American Digital Design Award from Graphic Design USA.
Jake, Jenna, Riley, Caleb and the whole team at Falkon have been so wonderful to work with on our project. They are responsive, knowledgeable and helpful and committed to collaborating to develop an amazing app. We can’t imagine working with anyone else.
Kimberly Stone, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical School Rees-Jones Foster Care Center for Excellence Children’s Health System, Dallas, Texas