The Vision 2040
We envision a world in which every child grows up in a loving family.
Transforming Global Child Welfare through Technology and Collaboration
We believe our technology initiative will drive and influence a global collaborative effort forming the energy and experience to make our vision a reality. Our guiding principles focus on a pragmatic country-by-country approach, which serves as the roadmap for fundamentally transforming millions of children’s lives. Our solution is scalable, replicable and can be customized to meet each country’s specific cultural and procedural needs.
Defining the Problem
Today there is no longer any doubt about the impact of children being raised in institutions, be they private or public. The detrimental impact of institutional care has been validated by scholars like Dr. Dana Johnson, BEB board member and President of the Adoption Medicine Clinic at the University of Minnesota, showing that children growing up in institutions trail in mental and physical development. Children being raised in institutions struggle to learn fundamental life skills as they never witnessed those skills in their crucial development years. Having been denied the love and security of a family that is required to mature and develop, these children age out of the system between the ages of 15 to 17, usually unequipped for the world they emerge into. They are often those most easily trafficked, sexually exploited or recruited, and usually end up in penal institutions or forever on the fringes of their society.
The scope of this problem remains difficult to measure, as in much of the world there are no systems in place to count, manage and monitor these children. Estimates on the number of children being raised in institutions or outside family care vary widely, but we believe the current population to be greater than 20 million children globally.
Efforts to legally place children from institutions into families, foreign or domestic, have ground to a virtual stop. Last year, the adoption of children into the U.S. reached a 20-year low of approximately 4,000, down from a high of 23,000 in 2004. Adoptions into Western European nations have followed a similar arc. Most developing countries have a process for domestic adoption, but cultures that are reluctant to accept adoption as a practice, thus the number of children legally adopted within these countries is minuscule. Collectively, these factors have consigned millions of children to institutions as the default option.
In 2006 our founder, Craig Juntunen, a retired business executive living in Arizona, was made aware of the impact on children when raised in institutions. Craig and his wife Kathi, at a stage in life when most people are focused on increasing their leisure activities, instead chose to adopt 3 children from a Haitian orphanage. After experiencing the lengthy, expensive and bureaucratic process of adopting internationally, Craig was outraged, and founded Both Ends Burning (BEB) to give a voice to those wanting to improve the system. Subsequently he produced the movie “Stuck”, which showed the time, cost and frustrations of 3 families as they tried to adopt internationally.
The movie raised awareness of the issue and eventually led Craig and BEB to start the Global Working Group (GWG), a consortium of organizations, countries and individuals focused on the welfare of children in 34 countries. This group first met together at a symposium at Harvard in 2014, with the goal of better understanding the challenges of the current systems and discussing possible solutions. The GWG was asked a simple question at that event – why are so few children being placed in families from your institutions? Their answer: we need data, we have no systems to safely manage their placement, and we don’t even know how many vulnerable children are in our systems.
During the same time, a for-profit, NYSE Exchange-listed software company was steadily growing in its presence in courts and justice in the United States. Tyler Technologies (TYL) is the largest software company in the world solely focused on the public sector, and by 2014 was serving around 40% of the courts in the USA, including some of the largest court systems in the country. Also, on a pro bono basis, Tyler had recently worked with Buckner to establish the systems necessary for a foster care system in Guatemala. Buckner’s President, Albert Reyes, also sits on the BEB Board of Directors.
In late 2015 the Board of BEB approached Tyler to ask if they might be willing to use their expertise to help build a global system that could address the challenges facing the movement of children into families. Tyler agreed, and at the second summit in Los Angeles in April of 2016, a prototype of “Children First Software (CFS)” was demonstrated to the attendees, showing the possibilities of a system designed to match children with families. It was met with enthusiasm by the countries in attendance with several volunteering to be pilot countries for its launch. After that, the name of “Both Ends Burning” was changed to “Both Ends Believing”, as there was a new found belief that a solution was at hand.
Our Solution: Children First Software
Children First Software provides partner countries using it control over the care, placement and ongoing monitoring of children placed within families, both foreign and domestic. It provides families and adoption agencies using it confirmation that children are legally eligible and enables access to digital records of the child’s history prior to placement. This is done through 5 separate CFS modules:
Profile: a complete digital record of the child’s history, including all birth, family, health and education records. All data fields are configurable including any unique identifiers, fingerprints and DNA. For the first time, these children are not digitally anonymous.
Planning: a configurable module designed to place every child on a path to a family. The system allows each country to define the steps required to determine if a child can be reunified with their biological family or is eligible for foster care, domestic or international adoption. Children are then placed on a “track” to a family, with dates when key activities are to have occurred. This allows countries to identify which children aren’t moving steadily toward a family.
Family Registry: Utilizing existing family vetting processes performed by qualified adoption agencies and the well-regarded Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) tool, the Family Registry module is designed to electronically gather all of the information available about families wishing to adopt or foster a child. The tool also collects extensive compatibility information that is useful in later steps in the process. This information is in turn provided to the countries participating in CFS.
Placement: the “matching” system, connecting children eligible for placement with qualified families hoping to foster or adopt. Utilizing the digital information available from Profile, Plan and Family Registry, the Placement module provides countries and their justice and social service agencies the solution they need to ensure each child is placed with the family best able to meet their needs and fulfill their potential.
Monitoring: the final module is designed to provide ongoing reporting and monitoring to participating countries on the welfare of children placed through CFS. This information will allow us to continue to learn from experience and evolve better practices in the years ahead.
The world is often viewed through a simple lens of developed and developing countries. This closely mirrors the distinction in international adoption between receiving and sending countries. Hans Rosling’s book “Factfulness”, prompted the Both Ends Believing team to acknowledge that the world does not fit so neatly into two discrete camps, but that instead countries can be viewed on a continuum. This has important implications for BEB’s work.
Rosling classifies countries based on per capita income and other measures of well-being. Both Ends Believing has the potential to work with all 105 Level 1 – 3 countries which represent a population of 6.2 billion with an estimated number of 20 million children currently living in institutions. Our experience with the Global Working Group suggests that these countries typically lack the technical and financial resources necessary to develop the level of software found in CFS.
Rosling’s framework helps inform our approach to each country as the manner and pace we undertake with a Level 1 country may differ from that of a Level 3 country.
Tyler’s experience in public sector rollouts of transformational technology change is extensive. One of those most similar to CFS, led by Mark Schwartz, currently serving as BEB’s President but formerly of Tyler, was the introduction of e-Filing to the legal community. This decades-long technology effort transformed how the legal community interacts with courts, moving a tradition-bound profession into the 21st century. This technology effort and others have generally followed the “Tipping Point (TP)” pace of adoption outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name. The TP identifies 6 stages: Innovators (first 2.5%), Early Adopters (next 13.5%), Main Majority – early (35%), Main Majority – late (35%), Late Adopters (13.5%) and Laggards (2.5%).
We believe the adoption of CFS by our targeted countries will follow the same pattern. Given our population of 105 level 1-3 countries, each percentage point is roughly equivalent to 1 country. Today, BEB has exited the Innovator stage as we now have 5 countries in production. Our success so far with the Innovators (DR, Honduras, Haiti) and the growing pipeline of Early Adopter countries (Uganda, Benin, Colombia, Peru, Zambia) has given us a rough timeline for what we believe the pace and costs of adoption might be.
Our pace for building the CFS features and capabilities, from minimally-viable-product (MVP) to fully featured software, correlates with the pace of country adoption. We have found that the best way to develop required features is when they can be immediately tested in the field, giving the development team real-world feedback on how new features are working. The nature of software development allows a solution to mature in depth and breadth over time, and we expect CFS to follow that same pattern as more countries move into production. Other guiding principles support our implementation approach:
Given finite resources, there is a tension between going deep and going wide. While we intend to do both, deepening our penetration with a close circle of countries will take precedence over broadening the circle.
We will follow the innovator through early adopter process by partnering with leaders among the 3000+ USA adoption services. Our current Adoption Agency Innovators are Nightlight, America World and All God’s Children.
Level 3 countries have proven interested and capable of developing domestic family placement options, including both foster placement and domestic adoption. With this in mind, developing these capabilities in Level 3 countries will be treated as a priority, and the CFS application is configured to provide this option available in countries wishing to utilize this option
It is not our inclination to “market” CFS. Instead, we will educate countries, let them evaluate the value proposition, and decide if it is a priority for their country
We have chosen to not make BEB a for-profit solution, as the unintended consequences when money is introduced into the child placement process are legion. The product is licensed to each country for $1, also giving BEB and TYL complete control over the license code.
We will maintain our focus on CFS and avoid mission-drift. Our intent is to “stay in our lane”, where possible partnering with the hundreds of other non-profits working on behalf of vulnerable children and working to strengthen families in countries implementing CFS.
While emphasizing the “technology” pillar of our mission statement, we will not lose sight of the “collaboration” pillar. We desire the welfare of children in all corners of the globe and seek to partner with like-minded organizations to best leverage our technology for the holistic benefit of all orphans and vulnerable children.
Our Vision of the Future
Five dimensions will set the pace for our success in achieving our vision:
Countries selecting CFS and successfully implementing all 5 modules.
Adoption agencies seeing value in participating in CFS and registering their families for placement with CFS.
Steady growth in the depth and functionality of CFS to satisfy unique requirements that will be encountered as additional countries are added.
In-country implementation resources to train local staff in the use of CFS and move each country into production.
Funding necessary to make all of the above happen.
Assuming a pace of implementation by country based on our experience so far and based on the Tipping Point theory of technology adoption, we believe this will be a 25-year journey (from 2015) to eliminate the placement of children in institutions. We exited the Innovator stage in 2018 and are currently expanding the number of Early Adopters.
By 2024/25, 18 countries should be implementing the software and eliminating the placement of children in institutions. The geographic impact will have expanded from today’s base in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa to also include Southeast Asia and the former Soviet republics. We would expect to have at least one country reducing the number of children living in institutions to zero.
By 2028, only 13 years from its launch, approximately 40 countries could be on a path to eliminate the placement of children in institutions. Over 1.0M children will have realized their dream of a permanent, loving family. By 2040, our vision would be that CFS is implemented in all 105 Level 1 to 3 countries, successfully facilitating the movement of millions of children from institutions into families.
While our work may never be complete, we will know we have played a significant role in transforming the lives of millions of children and their families, a transformation that will impact their countries and extend to future generations.