'Goodbye to all'
Shortage of area foster parents means kids must leave siblings, friends and relatives to relocate
For some time a slogan for blood donation through the American Red Cross has been, "the need is constant, the gratification is instant." In Castle Country, the same can be said for foster care.
In Carbon and Emery counties, more than 100 foster children are being managed by just 18 active foster families. This wide gap in coverage often means that even infants are leaving our area due to a lack of available parents.
"All in all we have been hovering around 20 families in the Castle Valley area, which simply is not enough," explained Eastern Region Area Representative Kobi Marchello. "With new children coming into the program all the time and 100 kids in already, the need for new families becomes more dire all the time."
According to Marchello, the problem of new recruits is made worse by the fact that several long term foster families are taking a break after many years of service.
As a demonstration of this, an Orangeville family who has contributed to many families in both Carbon and Emery counties is ready for just such a break. Glenna and Leland Sasser started their foster care career several years ago when they took in a girl through the Indian placement program their LDS church was associated with. After caring for the young girl for several years, the pair became foster parents for abused and neglected children.
The pair started their career while their own youngest child was still at home and decided that teenage boys would be a good fit for their family. Over the years, more than 44 boys and young men have made a home with the Sassers, some for just a few days, others for years.
According to Marchello, the Sassers relay this message to all those who stay at their home: "Our job is to help you get home as fast as you possibly can. Your job is to do everything you can to get there. Neither of us can control what your parents do."
Over the years, the Sassers have grown in their role as foster parents. Glenna Sasser has served as a peer parent which allows her to work with others concerning basic skills such as discipline, budgeting and home maintenance. She performs this service for both parents who have lost their children as well as those who are fighting to keep their kids. The Orangeville mother has also served as a facilitator during her 18 year foster care career proving training and support to families in both Carbon and Emery counties.
"It is hard to replace families like the Sassers," explained Marchello. "We are constantly working toward recruitment but even when new applicants come our way, it does take three or four months for them to get qualified."
While the foundation is working to keep Castle Country kids local, need and sheer numbers are working against them at an alarming rate.
According to information provided by Bonnie Seals of the Department of Children and Families, currently approximately 80 percent of children who come into Castle Valley foster care are placed in homes outside of the area.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that several local families are certified for only one child. Therefore, if siblings are placed in the program, they also end up leaving the area.
"It's important for foster children to remain in their community for many reasons," explained Marchello. "Imagine that you were just taken out of your home and away from your parents, now you are also told that you are going to be take away from everything that you know in your community. Your extended family, your friends, your school, all of that is gone. Leaving the area compounds a new foster kid's nightmare."
One of the major components of the foundation's current recruitment program centers around alleviating the fears of those who are considering becoming foster parents.
"Many people think we are bringing in problem kids from outside of the area but the fact of the matter is that we are only trying to keep our own kids here in the area in order to keep them closer to their families," said Marchello.
The group is also working on a media campaign to address other misconceptions which seem to be keeping area families from joining the program.
In addition to the campaign, the foundation will be hosting its annual Foster Fun Run/Walk this Saturday. The event will begin at the Price City Peace Gardens at 9 a.m. It presents an opportunity to learn about foster care while bringing the family out for food and fun in Washington Park.
The foster care foundation will also be starting classes at the end of May for anyone with a serious interest in the program. Those seeking more information can contact Marchello directly at 435-636-0210.