May is National Foster Care Awareness Month.
As May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, the local organization has set up events and classes, working to keeping the community informed about what has become a constant need for new foster families in the Castle Country.
In Carbon and Emery counties alone, 120 foster children are cared for by 20 non-kinship foster parents. In the four county area of Eastern Utah, the number of foster children jumps to 288, showing just how vital the need for new foster parents is.
While those who become involved in the program often describe it as one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of their life, the area is in constant need for more participants. According to Utah Foster Care Foundation Area Representative Kobi Marchello, the continual need for foster care families is caused by two main factors.
"People are afraid to take a child in and then become attached, knowing they may have to let that child go," said Marchello. "I would say that is the main factor keeping people from giving foster care a try."
She also reported that potential foster families are also scared of taking in a child who has been through the trauma that many foster kids have because of the special needs they may require.
"I can see where people are afraid to take in kids who may be troubled, but it is important for potential parents to know that environment plays a huge role in these kid's behavior," continued Marchello. "Many times troubled kids make large strides when given the opportunity to live in a stable environment."
To provide accurate information about foster care in the area and spread awareness about the program, the local organization is using Foster Care Awareness Month, to both participate in a state-wide March for Kids and to plan upcoming foster care classes. The march will take place on Friday, May 9 at noon and will mirror similar events in Salt Lake, St. George, Ogden and Provo.
Locally, those interested will march from Washington Park to the Price City Peace Gardens where the families will be planting a flag which represents the number of foster children in the area. Once at the Peace Gardens, the organization will honor the foster mother of the year.
"We are keeping her identity a surprise," said Marchello. "That way we can catch her off-guard during the event and let her know just how much we appreciate what she has done for children."
According to Marchello, becoming involved in foster care is not as difficult as many think and does not take the commitment many potential parents fear. Marchello can be contacted at 636-0210 for more information, or interested parties can go online to www.utahfostercare.org. The group is looking to teach a foster parenting class in June if they are able to get enough interested parents. If not, the class will be held in July.
According to the area's representative, there are many different levels of care, allowing families to try the program out before becoming committed.
For instance, 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 if a child cannot be placed with a kinship representative or foster family 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 its breaking point.