Foster parenting requires patience, courage and commitment
The idea of taking someone elses child, particularly one from another family one does not know, and often a family in crisis, for some, is unimaginable. For others, it is the main way they see to help a society that puts so much emphasis on family, yet often shows its disdain for it within its popular culture.
Foster parenting is not an easy thing to do; it takes much more than just caring. It takes courage, time, patience and sacrifice. For the foster parent, especially the newly trained one, the chance to help a child with their life, is an experience that will change them forever. It will also change the child forever too.
"Imagine yourself being moved out of your home, often without warning and to someplace you have never been before, to live with people you do not know," says Kobi Marchello, area representative for the Utah Foster Care Foundation in eastern Utah. "Think of how that would feel."
The UFCF is an organization that develops foster homes. While many think they are a division of the states Division of Children and Family Services, and while most of their financial support comes from DCFS, they are a private entity supported financially by many different kinds of organizations and people. As the end of fiscal year 2007-2008 the total revenue and support for UFCF was $3,441,128. Within this support 82 percent of the money came from DCFS contracts, nearly 17 percent came from private contributions and the rest came from other sources such as interest, gain on dividends, etc.
The foundation is about 10 years old, and was founded on the basis that there was a need to find foster parents that would participate in the program.
"Until that point DCFS was trying to develop foster homes," says Marchello. "But as with any organization where people wear a lot of hats it was hard for them to do that along with everything else they had to deal with. It just didn't work well. So that is why UFCF was founded."
Expense wise, the foundation uses less than 10 percent of the money it receives each year for administration.
The bulk of the money is used for recruitment of foster families, support of those families and the training that is done for foster parents and families.
Kids are brought into foster homes for a number of reasons, but the vast majority that enter into the program are placed there because of removal from their own families due to reasons such as drug abuse, violence or neglect.
Often, all three go together.
While foster families are often considered an interim home for children, much of the time the foundation is also looking for people that can eventually adopt kids that are placed there.
Almost everyone in eastern Utah knows someone that is or has been a foster parent. It seems to many that they are special people, who go beyond and above the call of regular life.
There is truth to that, but most are just regular people who found that one day they wanted to help with the burgeoning problem of displaced children in the area.
Many also found that the first step was not that big of one to get into the program.
"The fact is it is not hard to become a foster parent in Utah," states Machello. "But once into the program they find that is much harder to be one."
The steps to becoming a foster parent include fingerprinting and of course an investigation into the prospective parents background.
People wishing to be foster parents can have no criminal background.
Next comes the education process.
Children are not released into homes just because the residents have raised youngsters before or have present families in place.
The education process consists of a structured 32-hour training block.
The training includes an orientation concerning abuse and neglect, how to deal with attachment, discipline and the administrative rules concerning foster kids.
The main thread of information that through the training entirely is that the main job of everyone working with the children, from the child and family services case worker to the foster parents is the reunification of the real parents and the child or children.
There are eight total classes.
In addition foster parents are included in team meetings with those working with the children and with the parents they are trying to return the child to.
After completing the course, there is then a safety and adequacy check made on the home in which the child or children will be placed.
Foster kids must have their own places to sleep and their own storage space as well.
There is also a space requirement in the home with a formula used to be sure there is enough square footage in the residence for everyone who lives there.
Once all that is established, the foster parents are licensed and then the hard part begins. It is time for the foster family to be offered placements.
Edtitor's note: Today's story is the first of three articles concerning the Utah Foster Care Foundation and placement of children into foster care. The articles will also discuss what it is like having foster children in the home.