How AWS Powers People Search And The Connect Our Kids Mission

November 20, 2019

This is a cross-post authored by Ray Rogers from the AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog. You can find the original article using the link below.

https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/publicsector/finding-kids-in-foster-care-permanent-homes-aws-powers-people-search-by-connect-our-kids/

Connect Our Kids, a Virginia-based 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, is using technology to connect children in foster care with permanent homes with People Search. People Search is a free search engine powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that makes it easier for social workers to find people connected to the child.

Travis Collins, chief technology officer of Connect Our Kids, says the existing problem of finding suitable, forever-homes for children in foster care is a problem that can be solved with the right technology: “There are around 400,000 kids in the US foster care system, and there are about 100,000 kids at any given time waiting to be adopted. Social workers spend a massive amount of time doing paperwork, which keeps them from helping families through crisis to help kids find stable homes. We wanted to create a solution to reduce the paperwork so that they could spend more time helping kids. It’s a solvable problem.”

Often times, a barrier for social workers is knowing how to contact specific people in a child’s life. With People Search, a social worker signs up, their identity is verified, and then they can use the tool to search for names, email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and even social media profiles of people who may know the child.

Jennifer Jacobs, co-founder and chief executive officer of Connect Our Kids, says statistically, this approach decreases the time it takes to find a forever-home for a child. “If we can find 200 connections – extended family and supporters of children in foster care – there’s a half-of-a-percent chance for each person that it will be the right time and period in their life to be the child’s permanent parent.”

As a nonprofit, the team knew People Search needed to run cost-effectively, “We needed a system that would cost us zero dollars when not in use because each search costs $0.40. Some days, there is heavy user traffic and other days no use at all. Using AWS services, including AWS Lambda and Amazon DynamoDB for a caching layer, People Search can be deployed in a serverless architecture so we only pay for what we use,” says Collins. People Search also uses Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Route 53, Amazon CloudFront, and more.

Connect Our Kids People Search system architecture

People Search has the ability to greatly impact the way social workers approach their daily jobs. Collins says, “There are approximately 30,000 foster care-related social workers in the United States. We target providing services to at least 10 percent of them in any given hour, which translates to about one request per second continuously, or about 300 requests concurrently. We target API responses in less than three seconds, and user interface assets in less than on second. We target 99.9 percent service availability per year for People Search, and so far, we have exceeded this availability since launch in May 2019.”

If you are a social worker or a CASA volunteer who works directly with children or youth in foster care, you can sign up to use People Search today. If you are interested in learning more about upcoming tools from Connect Our Kids, use the newsletter subscription form on the Connect Our Kids Contact Page.

Learn more about how nonprofits can start building with AWS.

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