COVID-19 Laptop Assistance

  • Challenge

    For many foster youth, distance learning threatens to be all distance and no learning. Most foster youth do not have a laptop or computer. So when Califorrnia responded to COVID-19 by moving all classes online, thousands of foster youth faced the prospect of having to drop out of college. John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) immediately moved to prevent that happening.

  • Response

    First, we partnered with another nonprofit, iFoster, who could supply thousands of ready-to-go laptops. Then working with staff at public colleges and universities throughout California, we identified which foster youth needed laptops. Taking no administrative fee or overhead, JBAY, through iFoster, has been able to buy and deliver Chromebooks to students for just $175. For those without WiFi access, iFoster has been able to provide free smartphones with unlimited data plans to serve as hotspots to accompany the laptops at no charge.

  • Results

    In the first month since launching the laptops for foster youth campaign, JBAY raised more than $450,000 from foundations and individual donors, enabling us to provide more than 2,500 students with laptops.

    At a press conference on April 13, Governor Gavin Newsom singled out John Burton Advocates for Youth for thanks. Noting that JBAY “has already procured 2,565 laptops”, the Governor praised us for working with the government and others “to provide those most at need, particularly in the foster care system, the support so that they can continue to practice their distance learning.”

  • Next Steps

    There is still more to do. JBAY has identified more than a thousand students who still need laptops. If they do not receive them soon, they will be forced out of college. Studies after Hurricane Katrina found that it was the most marginalized students who were hit hardest by school closures. And for those who have worked so hard to get into college, being forced to drop out can have a profound impact on their careers and lives.

Devices for K-12

JBAY has expanded the program to offer devices to foster youth in K-12. If your agency has students in need of devices, you may use the form found HERE to submit a request. Please note that students in K-12 must be current foster youth. Please review the cover page of the referral form for additional instructions.


Governor Newsom thanks JBAY for its work getting laptops to foster youth during his COVID-19 briefing:

“When the COVID-19 Shelter in place order took place, I was overwhelmed with the number of emails I received from students panicking… Through the wonderful effort and support we received from JBAY and iFoster, we were able to secure 13 laptops and smart phones for foster youth students. The process was simple and they were quickly delivered right to our student’s doorsteps! The support offered by this program was the defining marker between whether or not a student stayed in school this semester.”

Mercedes LezamaProgram Coordinator for START - Foster Youth Services, Diablo Valley College

Yes, the laptop works great! And I really do appreciate this contribution of the laptop. I am truly thankful for your help, so again thank you so much.

Datayia M.Student at Diablo Valley College

The laptop helps me keep track of my daily homework tasks and zoom meetings. Also it is reliable and I don’t have to stress on doing the assignments over the phone. The phone is an extra bonus for me since my kids are all home from school. We now have enough devices so everyone can do their school work and stay productive throughout the day!

Ariana C.Student at Diablo Valley College

John Burton Advocates for Youth thanks all the donors and funders who contributed to the laptops for foster youth program, including the following foundations:

  • California Community College Chancellor’s Office
  • California Wellness Foundation
  • ECMC Foundation
  • May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
  • Pritzker Foster Care Initiative
  • Walter S Johnson Foundation