CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Aetna Better Health, the Medicaid managed care business of Aetna®, a CVS Health® company (NYSE:CVS), and iFoster today announced the results of their year-long study of the Aetna Better Health–iFoster Connections for Life™ program. iFoster is a leading national non-profit providing youth in foster care with the resources and opportunities to become successful, independent adults. Together, the companies helped ease the burdens of youth in foster care by closing technology gaps and increasing resources. In March of 2020, Aetna Better Health and iFoster launched this value-added benefit in West Virginia.
In West Virginia, Aetna serves as the single statewide Medicaid managed care organization to oversee and coordinate the physical and behavioral health care services of children and youth in the foster care system and of individuals receiving adoption assistance. Through West Virginia’s Mountain Health Promise Program, Aetna Better Health of West Virginia supports over 24,000 youth in foster care across the state on their path to better health. Part of this effort includes providing Mountain Health Promise members with the technology and tools they need to succeed.
To date, the Connections for Life program has provided nearly 300 Mountain Health Promise members throughout West Virginia with laptops and tablets to help them access geographically tailored transition resources and improve many social, financial and educational facets of life. These resources are available for all Mountain Health Promise members ages 13-26 through the iFoster portal.
The portal contains helpful resources and information to empower and support foster youth to achieve self-sufficiency. In addition, members can access their own secure digital locker where they can upload and save vital personal documents. Children and youth in foster care, caregivers and supporting organizations can become iFoster members for free and have 24/7 access to the portal.
The Administration for Children and Family Services evaluated the iFoster portal and found it decreases family needs, improves caregiver well-being, and improves child well-being and placement stability. An evaluation by the University of Southern California shows the impact the portal had on improved grades, persistence in post-secondary education, improved employment opportunities, increased social connectiveness and increased life satisfaction.
“We witnessed firsthand the positive impact technology can make in the lives of vulnerable youth in West Virginia,” said Todd White, CEO, Aetna Better Health of West Virginia. “Providing access to laptops, tablets and software not only improves school performance, it sets these youth up for future success and prepares them for life beyond foster care.”
In a recent one-year report of the program, Connections for Life recipients in West Virginia stated they used the device and portal to:
Attend school through distance learning or for completing homework (88%)
Remain in communication with friends, family or their support network (60%)
Find or access resources or employment (55%)
Schedule and conduct telehealth appointments with doctors or therapists (25%)
Both youth and social workers have enjoyed the newfound access to technology, especially with regards to improving their independence, education and career. As one youth said, “I needed this laptop for college. I didn’t have any way to do my homework before and then with COVID, I really needed it.” A social worker echoed this sentiment, noting, “This program has allowed our clients easier access to complete their schoolwork, create resumes and job hunt.”
“The majority of youth in foster care lack the technology needed to establish and maintain vital social connections, participate in school, find a job, access essential community resources and see their care team virtually,” said Serita Cox, CEO, iFoster. “Having the opportunity to collaborate with Aetna on Connections for Life, helps to bridge this technology disparity and empowers youth to stay connected and engaged.”
Plans are underway to expand the benefit in other markets where Aetna oversees and coordinates the managed health care services of child welfare programs and youth in foster care. Currently, Aetna Better Health serves more than 255,000 children and youth in foster care and similar populations across 13 states. Due in part to its reputation for building innovative programs that help children and their families thrive, Aetna is an established leader in managing foster care and child welfare programs.
About Aetna Medicaid
Aetna Medicaid Administrators LLC (Aetna Medicaid), a CVS Health company, has over 30 years of experience managing the care of the most medically vulnerable, using innovative approaches and a local presence in each market to achieve both successful health care results and effective cost outcomes. Aetna Medicaid has particular expertise serving high-need Medicaid members, including those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Currently, Aetna Medicaid owns and/or administers Medicaid managed health care plans under the names of Aetna Better Health and other affiliate names. Together, these plans serve approximately 2.8 million people in 15 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas. For more information, see www.aetnabetterhealth.com.
iFoster is a national nonprofit that connects youth in the child welfare system with the resources they need to succeed. iFoster has built the largest and most inclusive online community of young people and organizations in foster care across all 50 states. On behalf of the community, iFoster negotiates and collaborates with hundreds of partners who can provide the resources, support and opportunities that foster youth need to become successful adults. Visit iFoster.org.