Think of Us Raises $47.5 Million to Improve Child Welfare Systems
The nonprofit Think of Us will expand its efforts to transform child welfare systems thanks to a $47.5 million, five-year investment from the Audacious Project, a funder associated with the TED social change conferences and podcasts. Think of Us reported that the funding represents one of the largest investments given to a systems-change organization run by a leader of color with foster care experience.
Known for its work combining new technology applications with the ideas and needs of young people with foster care experience, Think of Us is a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It was founded in 2015 by Sixto Cancel, whose early experiences in youth advocacy as a Jim Casey Fellow with the Casey Foundation helped shape his career path. Cancel has worked with the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations as well as Congress and has been recognized as a Forbes Top 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur and a White House Champion of Change.
Partners in Child Welfare System Transformation
The Audacious Project funds, announced on April 17, 2023, will enable Think of Us to build on its work to design data-driven and software-enabled solutions that change child welfare systems and improve outcomes for children and families.
As a Casey Foundation grantee, Think of Us engages young people and families who have foster care experience in systems change efforts. Its longtime partnership with Casey will continue as Think of Us expands. Combined with funding from the Casey Foundation and other philanthropic partners, the Audacious Project’s backing moves Think of Us toward its long-term goal of investing $100 million in three priorities:
- prevention efforts that keep families together and reduce the need for them to be involved in child welfare systems;
- kinship-first efforts that prioritize placing children with relatives when they must be removed from their birth families; and
- supporting older youth, including those who have aged out of foster care.
In 2021, Think of Us harnessed social media and other technology to build an outreach campaign called Check for Us to help states track down young people who were eligible for federal relief funds. The effort alerted young people who had aged out of foster care and reconnected them with state systems so they could apply for the aid by the deadline. Cancel, who experienced foster care as a child, included peers as advisors and partners in designing the campaign, which reached 30,000 young people.
“As a collaborator and advocate in the field of child welfare transformation, Think of Us is unique in the way it designs solutions with the power of technology and the expertise of young people who have experienced foster care,” said Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, vice president of the Casey Foundation’s Center for Systems Innovation. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Sixto and Think of Us to scale innovations that improve outcomes for young people — as a longtime partner, we could not be more excited about its potential.”