Nearly half a million U.S. children are in foster care, and 34,000 of them are in Texas — a statistic that tore at Salesforce Product Manager Yves Hughes’ heartstrings.
With an MBA in Technology Management, Hughes has built a successful career as a product owner and even ran his own web development firm. But, lately, he has become known for another reason: the heart-warming adoption of four siblings, which became official a week before Christmas in 2020.
A decade-long adoption journey
Hughes and his wife, Khalila, married 10 years, did not have any children prior to the sibling adoption.
“When we first got engaged, we discussed kids,” said Hughes. “My wife has two brothers and a cousin who lived in the same house. She said, ‘Four would be ideal.’ I said, ‘Four is a lot.’”
Later, when the couple moved to Plano, Texas, Hughes attended a Salesforce fundraiser featuring keynote speaker Steve Pemberton.
Pemberton talked about growing up in foster care, couch surfing, and being alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. With guidance, however, Pemberton went on to become a C-level exec at Walgreens, run for the U.S. Senate, and wrote a book that became a motion picture.
“He got the waterworks going…the Texas allergies,” Hughes, who has an adopted sister, chuckled.
It also inspired him.
“I thought, we have a house, a pool, we live in a great school district. We are so blessed, we should do something. It takes just one person to change things. This was the tipping point,” said Hughes.
A surprising turn of events
It was at a Home Depot years later when Hughes first received the now-legendary call from Child Protective Services (CPS).
“They said, ‘No pressure, but we’ve got a sibling group of four.’”
Despite the comment, the pressure was on. Time was of the essence.
“Usually they’re in a very dangerous situation, as with our kids,“ Hughes shared. ”There was no electricity, no running water, no food. There was little supervision and there was a house fire.”
CPS tried to find a capable relative to take the children but found none. This landed then 4-year old Zayden, 6-year old Aaliyah, 12-year old Marcus, and 13-year old Nyla in a CPS agency office just before Halloween.
The Hughes’ couldn’t imagine the kids spending the holiday in an office building. Together, they decided to take all four into their home.
Building beyond barriers
Coming from such a difficult situation, there was an adjustment period for the foursome. The kids had never experienced an environment where adults were dependable.
“The first thing the kids said when we had dinner together was, ‘Wait, you guys are Black and you eat dinner at the table together every night?’ I think we expose them to a lot. Meeting all the kids today, you would not know any of them have ever been through anything. It has a lot to do with love and patience, and consistency. We tried to not take any shortcuts.”
Today, the children are thriving.
“The kids are always singing and dancing. That’s their thing,” said Hughes. “We’ve got a little Partridge family here.”
Finding innovation, inspiration from the foster-to-adopt process
Arriving at this point was quite a rigorous (and autonomous) journey for Hughes and Khalila, even beyond the expected adjustment of adopting.
The process of becoming a foster parent includes in-person training, at-home inspections, tests, and mounds of paperwork. It was eye-opening for the couple.
“I’m in a bunch of foster parent Facebook groups, and one thing that always stood out is people don’t talk about the process. Even mortgage applications show you what you’ve got to do next. That could be unnerving.”
Noticing systemic flaws got Hughes thinking that there was an opportunity to change a troubling pattern.
“I read that ~70% of applicants — people who expressed interest in fostering — never actually followed through. We should help,” he thought.
Improving a cumbersome process — with a familiar platform
Foster parents also have to report a lot of information to state agencies on a monthly basis. Their experience with critical record-keeping inspired the lightbulb moment.
“My wife and I found ourselves writing notes in our iPhones to keep track of the kids’ activities. I couldn’t believe there was not a simpler way.”
So, Hughes and his wife decided to design software to make the process easier.
Not long after, Hughes formed a nonprofit organization, which is currently awaiting 501(c)(3) status. His aim is to create a two-fold app and site on the Salesforce platform that will work as a playbook and support network for foster parents.
“The biggest reason I want to build it on Salesforce is the security of the platform. You have a plethora of data about kids, from every action to medications they’re taking, and you don’t want to compromise that information.”
The biggest reason I want to build it on Salesforce is the security of the platform. You have a plethora of data about kids, from every action to medications they’re taking, and you don’t want to compromise that information.Yves Hughes, Product Manager, Salesforce
In addition to Hughes’ experience as a front-end web developer and product manager, his wife Khalila holds a Masters of Science in Document Design and is currently a User Experience designer at AT&T.
“Nothing gets approved without her,” said Hughes. “We’ve been through various versions with her feedback, that’s what makes us such a good team.”
FosterSupport.org is born
Built using Salesforce Lightning Web Components (LWC) Open Source and hosted on Heroku, FosterSupport.org is the incredible result developed from one couple’s experience.
The website assists with every step of the foster home licensing process, applying rules that differ from state to state. Once you become licensed foster parents, you can then track and complete the required quarterly training. LWC makes it possible to seamlessly pull in content from https://foster.blog, a WordPress blog highlighting stories from those involved in the foster care system.
“My ultimate goal is to increase the number of kids placed in a family. We think this can be global. I’m going to build it off state requirements, but quickly roll it out to the rest of the U.S. — and Lightning Web Components makes it easier to localize and expand to other places,” he shared.
“If you were to take a simple concept of visiting a site with the action of, ‘How do I become a foster parent?’ Then you put in your zip code, stats would be presented, as would a ‘contact this agency.’ Pulling in that data from Salesforce or APIs and displaying it in a personalized easy-to-use way because of micro-frontends and Lightning Web Components will make this thing rock. It should make it really simple, as simple as getting a mortgage.”
Hughes plans to keep using Salesforce as the journey continues.
“We can continue building web apps using the tools we’re familiar with such as NodeJs, Angular, and React while leveraging the power of Salesforce to protect sensitive data about foster families,” he said. “Soon, we’ll have data visualizations from Tableau incorporated.”
Once complete, the app will be submitted to the app store and Google Play, and made available for download. “This has been like my weekend gig … pulling all-nighters to build this has brought the college years back to me,” chuckles Hughes.
For that, potential foster parents and children awaiting placement can be very, very thankful.
To get involved in the FosterSupport.org project, contact Yves Hughes via firstname.lastname@example.org.