MassArt Design Innovation Students Tackle the System

Recently, Divya Mangadu, Kajol Ghiya, Hala Wakidi, Radhika Dhepe, Stephanie Quinones-Millet, Alice Cheng and Yang Yang Liu, seven graduate students from the MassArt Design Innovation program, visited CFCS to present their findings after spending a semester researching how to use design thinking to improve parents’ and children’s experience in the adoption and foster care system. The students focused on three areas that could be improved or enhanced: adoption parties, welcome books and communication among social workers, prospective parents and youth.

The students had some great ideas for improving welcome books. They suggested simple but effective ways to make welcome books more personal and special for the children receiving them, such as including more photos and specific details. A welcome book is intended to help a child transition to a new home, whether they are being placed in a new foster home or with an adoptive family they have not met. Welcome books are often made by foster or adoptive parents, and they mean a lot to the children who receive them – they keep them for months, and sometimes years after moving to their new home.

The MassArt students also came up with some fun, interactive games for children and prospective parents to play together during adoption parties. The scavenger hunt and Lego games they designed could be adapted for any age group, and were easy to learn but very engaging. Having activities that are accessible for all age groups and engaging for children and adults alike would make a huge difference at adoption parties, which can sometimes feel awkward and strained for youth and prospective parents.

The problem of the communication gaps that exist between social workers, children and prospective parents is a little more complicated, and one that even the state of Massachusetts is still trying to figure out. The MassArt students wisely observed that with a centralized communication network, social workers would be able to not only contact each other more easily but also access important case information quickly. This would move cases along faster and hopefully provide social workers with more up-to-date information.

CFCS would like to thank MassArt professors Ben Little and James Read, who set up this wonderful presentation for us. And we would like to extend special thanks to Divya, Kajol, Hala, Radhika, Stephanie, Alice and Yang Yang for their wonderful ideas, extensive research and empathetic approach to the system we work in every day. They are sharing the details of their research and ideas in a multi-part series on MassArt Design Innovation’s Medium page. It’s a great read – we definitely recommend it!