This is the second of four articles outlining the need for more foster families in the Carbon and Emery counties.
When the State of Utah places children with foster families, the primary consideration is family reunification. Emphasis is also placed on the need to keep siblings together and moving children as few times as possible while in foster care. The foster family plays a critical role in the healing process between the child or children and the biological parents. "Foster parents must have an equal capacity to love and let go," says Greg Cowan, local representative with the Utah Foster Care Foundation.
With very few exceptions, children placed in foster care will have visits with their birth family. The visits may be short and may be initially supervised in a neutral setting, but may be extended as the birth parents progress toward completion of their court ordered treatment plan. In most cases, regular contact and visitation between children and their birth parents is essential for a child's well being.
These visits become extremely difficult and infrequent when the child has to be placed several hundred miles away due to the lack of local foster homes.
"That's why we need additional families in the community, so children aren't removed from their schools and friends, as well as their families. There is a particular need in Carbon and Emery counties for foster families who can offer a culturally sensitive home for Latino children", says Beverly Hart, regional director of the Division of Child and Family Services.
The foster parents, birth parents, and other important figures in the child's life (teachers, therapist, health care providers, friends, etc.) must work as a team with help from the child's caseworker. Foster parents speak of successful outcomes; the child keeping in touch with them years after returning to their birth family and including them in the significant events in their lives.
In some cases children may become free for adoption while in foster care. Their foster parents may then be given the option to adopt them. The State generally absorbs most of the costs of adoption. Last year, of the 323 children adopted through Utah's foster care system, 66 percent were adopted by their foster parents.
Foster parents are committed volunteers who receive monthly reimbursement from the state to help care for the child. They provide an invaluable service in their community. Since their job can be challenging, foster families need all the support and resources available to them.
The state assigns caseworkers and resource family consultants to support families in their care-giving experience. Additionally, the Utah Foster Care Foundation, the Division of Child and Family Services and the Utah Foster and Adoptive Family Association have successfully developed a peer support network for foster and adoptive parents in several areas of the state.
One such group is being formed in the Carbon and Emery area. These voluntary groups, known as "clusters," have been proven as a valuable resource for foster parents who draw support from each other. On-going training is also offered at cluster meetings.
Next week's article will focus on the need for families, teens and the special training their foster families receive to be successful. For more information about becoming a foster parent or volunteering services, contact Cowan at 636-0210.