Challenges accompany foster parenting decision
There are a lot of questions when household members decide that they want to become a foster family. The decision is a question itself.
Foster parenting is a family decision, not just one for mom and dad to make.
If the family's natural children still reside in the household, they need to be part of the decision.
But even if the children are living outside the home, it is still a good idea for mom and dad to ask them as well.
Afterall, the youth who will join the home should be considered as much a part of the family as anyone who was born into it.
Why is the matter important? Because the tie that develops between foster kids and the families could become the only related bond the youth will ever have that lasts.
In the United States, more tha 20,000 youth "age out" of foster care programs without a permanent family connection.
Research shows they are much more likely than their peers to endure poverty, homelessness, poor health, unemployment and many other adversities.
The tie that develops in the foster family can be of great aide to a child long after the youth leaves the home.
"We often have kids who lived with us stop by and sometimes call for advice, too," said Layne Miller, a Price resident who along with his wife, Karen, have been taking in foster children for about nine years.
"If you are going to pick one thing in your life that is a labor of love, this is it," added Miller
But there is a road for people to travel to reach the point where success comes. And sometimes, there are disappointments, setbacks and even failures along the way.
Foster parents go through an extensive background check and intensive training. But the actual education comes with having the kids in the home, according to program representatives and participants. No one is ever forced to take a child.
"We present foster parents with children as is needed by the system," said Kobe Marchello, area representative of the eastern region for the Utah Foster Care Foundation. "But when they decline to take a child, that doesn't mean they don't have a future as a foster parent. There are many reasons why they may not take a particular child, so we know that."
The Utah Division of Children and Family Services works with UFCF to place multiple children in a family at the same foster home.
Age also has a lot to do with the placement of the children.
"If children are under 5, we are looking for foster families that may be willing to adopt that child if need be," said Marchello. "For kids 5 to 18 years old, we often look for more short term solutions. But if the child doesn't eventually go home permanency is important."
Statistics show that 60 percent of kids placed in foster care eventually do return to their homes.
But another statistic is very striking and it shows the commitment of foster families. Of the ones who are never sent back home to their biological parent or parents, 85 percent are adopted by the family they came to through the foster care program.
Time frames for returning home are almost always set.
Parents who want children back that are younger than three years old must straighten out questionable situations within eight months.
For older children, the time period is one year.
Being a foster parent is not without adversity; sometimes horror stories are passed around and often drives prospective foster care parents away.
But despite the drawbacks, Marchello gives a good reason for people to consider becoming foster parents.
"Nurturing is important to a child," she says. "Making a lasting impact on the life of a child, a positive one, is important. And you never know what that time will be. Even a few short days can make a difference for the rest of a kids life."
Editors note: Today's story is the second of three articles concerning the Utah Foster Care Foundation, the placement of youth into the program and what it is like having foster children in the home.