“Scarcity of solutions is not the issue. The opportunity is for leaders to embrace change and see the transformation potential of innovative platforms.”
Public innovation opens doors to solve some of the biggest challenges in society. A social worker turned social entrepreneur with an eye for disruptive technology, did just that. Thea Ramirez embarked on a journey to transform the outdated child welfare system.
Based in Brunswick, Ramirez is founder and Chief Sharer of Adoption-Share, a national network linking approved families with resources in the private and public adoption arena, and Family-Match, offering front line workers access to a more informed and targeted list of family placement options in a broader geography.
Ramirez conceived the idea of using relational science to create better profiles for families and children in the foster care and adoption systems. “You have families waiting longer to adopt kids from foster care than the kids are waiting to be adopted. I knew we could leverage data and predictive models to speed the process, make better decisions and improve placement stability.” Algorithms developed by former eharmony senior researchers are the foundation for matching children with families.
This data-driven process is validated by placement numbers. In one state, Family-Match matched 22% of the hardest to place children in 11 months. In the second year, Family-Match doubled the foster match rate and tripled the adoption rate – resulting in a total cost savings of $19 million. For every child placed in a foster or permanent home, the state’s ROI is $15,480 per child per year that child would have been in care.
Mentors, government leaders and community contacts have been key for Ramirez. Georgia has an ecosystem that fuels connections, creating a powerful network that Ramirez says “makes the State a much smaller place” – but of course, with change comes challenges. “Scarcity of solutions is not the issue. We often run into a titanium wall of those resistant to change. The opportunity is for leaders to embrace change and see the transformation potential of innovative platforms.”
Ramirez is passionate about her mission. “I want to see change now. In the next three to five years, the backlog of adoption and foster children is solvable. Technology can help solve the problem for good.” While the financial benefit of innovating the child welfare system is significant, perhaps the most meaningful impact comes in the form of healthy families, homes – and HOPE.