New Profit Invests in Organization Transforming the Child Welfare System
Venture philanthropy organization New Profit welcomes Think of Us into its portfolio to support ongoing organizational evolutionDecember 2, 2021
New Profit announced that it will provide $1 million in unrestricted funding along with capacity-building support over a four-year term to Think of Us, a nonprofit organization advancing systems change for foster care. The investment, part of New Profit’s flagship Proximate Capital Fund, aims to help Think of Us shift the child welfare system from its current focus on compliance and risk mitigation to instead enable holistic development and wellbeing for current and former foster youth.
There are more than 880,000 youth ages 14 to 26 who have spent time in the foster care system due to neglect or abuse. While coming into care was intended to provide immediate protection from abuse, the long-term outcomes are grim: 33% of homeless young adults were previously in foster care, 88% of youth who are sex trafficked were in foster care, less than 3% achieve a bachelor degree, and less than 50% are employed. The staggering societal cost of these adverse outcomes is more than $7 billion per year, but that is to say nothing of the individual impact felt by each young person affected.
Sixto Cancel was placed in his first foster family when he was eleven months old and after surviving a range of traumatic experiences with foster families, he “aged out” of the system at age 23, starting Think of Us while in college, which then launched as a nonprofit in 2017.
Think of Us, a system change nonprofit, operates as a research and development lab for system transformation in child welfare. They engage a portfolio of government projects in which traditional methods have failed, pioneering a new approach that leverages the lived experience of youth and biological families with technology, data and the institutional knowledge of system leaders to establish proof points that result in meaningful, measurable systems change.
“Growing up in foster care, I saw firsthand that the system isn’t set up to support healing and self-sufficiency,” Sixto said. “Decisions are made for youth, not with them, and those decisions are to minimize short-term risk—at the expense of building healthy decision making and independence.”
“Decisions are made for youth, not with them, and those decisions are to minimize short-term risk—at the expense of building healthy decision making and independence.”
Originally launched as a technology nonprofit, Think of Us aimed to create a virtual tool to support young people aging out of foster care. After receiving an early-stage investment and support from New Profit’s Catalyze initiative in 2019, the organization evolved into a research and development lab with a clear focus—transforming the child welfare system to center lived experience.
“We’re excited to once again partner with New Profit,” said Sixto, “and expand upon our shared commitment to embedding equity and proximity into our work, as well as exploring what’s possible when we are guided by lived experience. We believe young people should be loved past a contractual agreement. We envision an accountable system that begins with community-led, holistic prevention for families to stay together and thrive. And if young people have to enter child welfare, they are in family-based placements with healing-centered intervention to address unresolved trauma.”
Think of Us engaged 38,000 young people with lived experience in 2020 and 2021, elevating their experiences and perspectives to the state child welfare system, federal agencies, Congress, and the White House. They provided extensive technical assistance to states, building strategies to bridge systemic gaps so that foster youth could access the support they need.
In 2022, Think of Us is launching the Center for Lived Experience — a first-of-its-kind proximate policy, research, and community organizing initiative that captures insights, data, and experiences of those who have experienced foster care, to inform the biggest state and federal systems transformation initiatives.
“Sixto and the team at Think of Us are engaging deeply with youth directly impacted by the child welfare system to inform how to re-architect it,” said Kim Syman, Managing Partner at New Profit. “They are elevating proximate expertise and creating proof points that can transform how we as a nation care for and nurture our foster youth.”
“They are elevating proximate expertise and creating proof points that can transform how we as a nation care for and nurture our foster youth.”
Over the course of the investment, New Profit will provide strategic advising to the Think of Us leadership team, supporting the ongoing evolution of its impact theory, and managing organization growth, among other priority areas.
Get Closer—learn more about recent efforts and advocacy from Think of Us:
- I Will Never Forget That I Could Have Lived With People Who Loved Me, a guest opinion piece by Sixto Cancel in The New York Times
- Approaching The Cliff: A Pivotal Week For Young People Aging Out Of Foster Care, an interview with Sixto Cancel in Forbes
- Away From Home: Youth Experiences of Institutional Placements in Foster Care, a study by Think of Us
- For regular updates, follow the Think of Us blog: https://www.thinkof-us.org/blog
About Think of Us
Think of Us operates as a research and development lab for child welfare, driving systems change so that those touched by the system, people with lived experience, are at the center of designing, imagining, and building.
Think of Us envisions a world where every person has the conditions they need to Heal, Develop, and Thrive. Founder and CEO Sixto Cancel recently shared this vision in an op-ed for The New York Times.
Learn more at www.thinkof-us.org.
About New Profit
New Profit is a venture philanthropy organization that backs social entrepreneurs who are advancing equity and opportunity in America. New Profit exists to build a bridge between these leaders and a community of philanthropists who are committed to catalyzing their impact. New Profit provides unrestricted grants and strategic support to a portfolio of organizations led by visionary social entrepreneurs to increase their impact, scale, and sustainability. It also partners with social entrepreneurs and other cross-sector leaders to shift how government and philanthropy pursue social change to ensure that all people can thrive. Since its founding in 1998, New Profit has invested $325+ million in more than 165 early- and later-stage social enterprises.