‘Lunch and Learn’ about Southern Utah’s foster care shortage; more than 250 children still need homes

Sad child | Photo by fiorigianluigi, Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Tanner is registered under number 163382, a number the little boy hopes will get called one day. What that number doesn’t reveal is that he is a bright, 10-year-old fifth grader who does well in school, placed second in cross-country, loves to ride horses and that he’s a “country boy at heart.” Tanner is also waiting for a family to find him and to give him a home.

Many children across the United States are born into a home where they are cared for by parents who provide stability and protection; but sadly, that’s not the case for 2,900 children currently in foster care in Utah, and the numbers continue to rise.

Utah Foster Care is hosting a “Lunch and Learn” event  Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at its offices located at 491 E. Riverside Drive in St. George. Lunch will be provided along with a presentation focusing on seeing children through foster care into adoption. Information and support will be offered to those who are interested in becoming a foster parent.

There is a foster care shortage across the state, in large part because there are not enough foster parents to match the growing number of foster kids in Utah. In the southwest region alone there are only 142 foster homes registered to provide for more than 250 children, some of which have been put in temporary “emergency placement,” said Ben Ashcraft, southwest region representative for Utah Foster Care. (see Ed. Note)

Flyer announcing “Lunch and Learn” adoption event being held from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Utah Foster Care,, St. George, Utah, October 13, 2017 | Image courtesy of Ben Ashcraft, St. George News

Ashcraft said that the number of foster homes that are registered currently doesn’t reflect an accurate picture of the issue, primarily because not all of those homes are accepting new placements; others aren’t accepting placements at this time.

This can result from a change in the family, a move or relocation, pregnancy or other change that prevents a family from accepting children for a certain period of time. There are also families that only want to adopt a child without providing foster care or temporary placement.

Ashcraft added that placements are more suitable when there are enough foster homes available for children coming into the system because they can match the child to the family and vice versa. Without that, they are left to shelter the children temporarily and wait until a more suitable placement opens up.

” I’m confident that the Division of Child and Family Services will always place the child, regardless of the shortage,” Ashcraft said, “but they prefer to match the foster family and child to ensure that it’s a right fit and is beneficial for both.”

One likely factor contributing to the shortage is drug addiction and opioid abuse that has been on the rise because parents with active substance abuse issues have a higher incidence of neglect and are unable to properly care for their children, Ashcraft said, adding:

It is then left to the state to place the children in a home where they will be cared for, which is becoming more difficult because the number of children entering foster care is increasing at a higher rate than the number of homes available.

Further, it is difficult to get definitive numbers because they are constantly fluctuating as new children are coming into the system or added to the adoption list while placement or matches for other children are found.

The shortage is two-fold, he said, explaining that “although we need adoptive homes, we also need homes that are open to fostering whether or not it results in adoption.”

There are approximately 150 children in Utah who are legally up for adoption who have yet to be matched to an adoptive family, with more than 12 of these kids located in the southwest region of the state. They are listed on Utah’s Adoption Connection and can be found in the “Heart Gallery” where Tanner’s adoption profile is listed.

More than 600 children were adopted out of foster care in 2016.

In partnership with the Adoption Exchange, Utah’s Adoption Connection provides the link between children waiting for adoption and families wanting to adopt. It also recruits families for children who have survived abuse and neglect and provides training, information and follow-up support.

The luncheon is open to anyone interested in learning more about foster and adoptive parenting.

“Come learn more about the program by meeting other foster/adoptive families and hearing about their stories and experiences,” Ashcraft said.

Event Details

  • What: Utah Foster Care Lunch and Learn event.
  • When: Wednesday, Oct. 18, from noon to 1 p.m.
  • Where: Utah Foster Care, 491 E. Riverside Drive, Suite 2B, St. George
  • Cost: Free

Wednesday’s luncheon is the forerunner to Utah Foster Care’s annual “Adoption Celebration Event” being held for “everyone whose lives have been touched by adoption.” The celebration, aptly timed during National Adoption Month, will take place Nov. 18 at Staheli Family Farm, 3400 S. Washington Fields Rd., Washington.

To find out more information contact Utah Foster Care at  435-216-3294 or by visiting the website at utahfostercare.org.

Ed. Note: Updated with additional information on placement details.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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