For those who participate in foster care, the experience is often described as one of the most rewarding and fulfilling times of their life. The program allows adults to step in and assist children during one of the most difficult situations a person can face. In the recent past, a dedicated group of foster families have shouldered the load and reaped the rewards which come with caring for local displaced youth in the Castle Valley.
That dedicated group is shrinking and no one is stepping up to take their place.
"We have truly arrived at a dire place for local foster care," said Area Representative Kobi Marchello, the coordinator for foster care in both Carbon and Emery County. "We are at the point where we are having to send nearly every child who is placed in local foster care out of the area."
According to Marchello, for the first time in her career, not one phone call was placed to the organization during the month of March asking about becoming a foster parent. During the same period of time, 10 children were removed from the Castle Valley after being taken into foster care.
"Having to remove a child from the area while taking them into the foster care system makes the process exponentially difficult," explained Marchello. "Imagine that you are already being separated from your family, your source of love and stability. And at the same time you are now being forced to leave your friends, extended family, school and community. It is devastating for a child and it is happening far too often in this area."
Marchello reported that children are much more likely to act out and have problems in foster if removed from their school and friends.
"The reality is this: their whole world is wrecked and then they are asked to behave in a healthy and happy way. It's more than most children can handle," she said.
The solution is simple. Participation is needed.
On Saturday, the Utah Foster Care Foundation will be hosting its annual "Fun, Run Walk," beginning at the Price City Peace Gardens at 9 a.m. The event, which includes food, entertainment and activities for adults and children alike, also doubles as an educational opportunity for those who participate.
"This event is a great way to let the community know about the local foster care situation," stated the area representative. "It also is a great way to explain the many ways an individual can become involved as a foster parent."
According to Marchello, those who become involved as caregivers are referred to as resource families. As such, participants can start out providing shelter care, which typically last from several days to a week while the organization makes arrangements for more permanent care. Individuals can also provide respite care, meaning they assist other foster families with a break for a variety of reasons.
Once a family is ready to step up to traditional foster care, children can be placed from anywhere between eight to 12 months, while their birth parents attempt to work through a variety of issues toward re-unification.
In cases where re-unification is not a possibility, placement becomes an option for foster parents who are looking for a permanent relationship.
"There are many levels of care within the foster care system," explained Marchello. "What is vitally important is that we continue to have the community show interest, because the children just keep rolling in."
The foster care representative reported that between February and April, 28 local children were placed in foster care, many of them immediately sent away from the area. Currently, 29 local families support over 100 children in the Carbon and Emery County System. As Marchello reported they system is at it's breaking point.
"Our local families are maxed out," she said. "Families can only take on so many children at once. After all, a person's home is only so big. We do have a veteran core of families, but we have many who are looking to take a break right now. It is always a challenge to bring someone into foster care, but right now it is a dire situation. We need some help."
Editor's Note: This article is the first in a three part series looking at local foster care issues and foster care families in the Carbon and Emery County area. Those seeking information about foster care can call Marchello at 636-0210 or go online to utahfostercare.org.