We want to forever change the world of foster care and the world of cybersecurity is the key. The Foster Warrior program wants to give children in foster care an opportunity to pursue studies and careers in the vast arena of Cybersecurity. The goal of the program is to help these kids transform from feeling the most abandoned to being the most needed, the most valued, and the guardians of the nation.
Not only can we provide foster children with study and career paths that we hope will lead to wonderful and fulfilling lives, we can also help solve the acute shortage of Cybersecurity professionals in the U.S., in business and in government, a shortage that is expected to last for decades. And by making Cybersecurity cool, we may also finally be able to make math and science cool too.
The program aims to provide a network of support for these kids to help them pursue studies, training, and internships that will eventually lead to full-time jobs in one of the nation's most important and fastest-growing industries. It will help to give these children the support they need at the most critical time - as they leave the foster care system into a very uncertain and often dangerous world.
And it could help fill the critical national shortage of Cybersecurity professionals in industry and government.
Kids in foster care
According to the U.S. Department of Human Services, in 2011 there were approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. At the end of 2011, 245,000 children exited foster care while another 252,000 entered foster care. An estimated 25,000 teens age out foster care each year, most with little support.
For those who leave or graduate from the foster care system, even with family support, life can continue to be a struggle. Numerous studies have shown that children raised in foster care are significantly more likely to suffer from physical and psychological problems, with very high rates of incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and suicide.
They also do poorly at school. 56% of foster children completed high school compared to 82% of the general population. According to the Casey Family Study of Foster Care Alumni, nearly a third of the homeless in the United States are former foster children. A quarter to a third of former foster children live at or below the poverty line, three times the national poverty rate.
The Foster Warrior Program
All high schoolers should be encouraged to consider careers in cybersecurity, and should be made aware of the many different study paths and career opportunities that are available to them – and they're not all programming or geek-exclusive. But of all the kids who should be encouraged and supported on this career path, perhaps foster children are the most deserving. And in some way perhaps the most suitable.
What probably defines foster kids most is their sense of abandonment. They're in foster care because they've been abandoned, and as soon as they turn 18 they're dumped out – abandoned again. If we could create a program that turns these kids into security evangelists, provides training, and even steers them towards cyber security careers, they could be the future generation of guardians for the nation. We don't just give them training. We give them a cause, a mission, a purpose, a path out of the consequences of foster care (which includes being exploited on the streets). And instead of being abandoned, they become needed.
If we focus the Foster Warrior program on the first year a foster child leaves the foster care system, we can help protect them from the most dangerous step into adult life – a step that often leads to a downward spiral of homelessness, drug addiction, mental health issues, incarceration, and exploitation.
We solve many problems with one program. We give these kids real meaning and opportunity. We can help find them jobs and career paths. We can help support and protect them during that critical first year after they age out of the foster system. And we help fill the critical national shortage in cyber security professionals.
Those who care for foster children often refer to the nurturing and caring instincts of these children, with many foster kids expressing an interest in careers in social service, criminology, and law enforcement. The Foster Warrior program can help develop these instincts, whether the participants want to protect and guide their fellow students, their school, their community, or the nation.
The Cybersecurity Skill Shortage
The United States is experiencing a critical shortage in cybersecurity professionals, in business and in government, that is expected to last for decades. This shortage not only makes business and government more vulnerable to all types of cyber threats, it is also increasing the value and prospects of job hunters in this field.
In a June 2012 public statement, Sydney Smith-Heimbrock, deputy associate director for strategic workforce planning at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management stated that "Looking at government-wide skills, we have identified cybersecurity as the No. 1 high-risk skill gap for the federal government."
That sentiment was shared by Hord Tipton, executive director of the (ISC)2 professional association "There is no quick fix for this problem. It's estimated that within the next two years, we will need about 4.5 million security professionals worldwide. Right now, we've got about 2.5 million. We need to invest heavily in training and development and bring these people on board."
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