Benefit race seeks to help find permanent families for Utah’s foster children

Nearly 20 volunteers participated in the "Lake to Lake Relay" from Gunlock Lake to Sand Hollow State Park, Washington County, Utah, March 4, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Ben Ashcraft, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The little 9-year-old girl has an I.D. number – 160491. What that number doesn’t portray is that she is a good student, has long brown hair, loves to string beads or that her name is McKenna. Utah Foster Care in Southern Utah organized a team who completed a 50-mile run March 4 to raise awareness that this little girl and nearly 600 other children like her each need a family.

Booth manned by volunteers for the 50-mile “Lake to Lake Relay” for Utah Foster Care in Southern Utah, Washington County, Utah, March 4, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Ben Ashcraft, St. George News

The efforts of many went into the 50-mile “Lake to Lake Relay” to raise community awareness for this year’s “Utah Heart Gallery,” a collection of photos and stories of children in foster homes who are waiting to become a permanent part of a family through adoption, Ben Ashcraft said.

Ashcraft serves as lead foster adoptive consultant for Utah Foster Care in Southern Utah, a nonprofit agency contracted with the state’s Division of Child and Family Services.

The race involved runners and volunteers comprised of foster or adoptive parents, adopted children and their families and friends, each wearing a tag with the name of a special child chosen from the “Utah Heart Gallery.”

They teamed up and each participant ran a 3- to 7-mile leg of the relay that stretched from Gunlock Lake to Sand Hollow State Park.

“I had the privilege of running 7 miles of the race for 13-year-old Breckin,” Ashcraft said, “and Breckin loves fishing, superheroes and being outdoors.”

Nearly 20 volunteers participated in the “Lake to Lake Relay” from Gunlock Lake to Sand Hollow State Park, Washington County, Utah, March 4, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Ben Ashcraft, St. George News

The “Utah Heart Gallery” is a traveling photography and audio exhibit created to find forever families for children in foster care, according to its website, “and to increase the number of adoptive families for children needing homes in the community.”

The gallery can be seen through the end of March at the Heritage Center, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City.

In Utah, 2,700 children are in foster care, and while many of these children just need temporary homes while their biological parents are working to have their children returned to their custody, nearly 600 of these kids are looking for permanent home.

Unfortunately for many kids, the waiting time for that family can be months or even years. In Utah, that wait is significantly reduced as the state produced among the fastest adoption placement figures nationwide, according to 2013 data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy and research organization.

“Children are able to thrive and succeed so much more when their childhood is combined with permanency and safety that provides the foundation for a healthy adult life,” Ashcraft said.

Studies show that the alternative to having that family foundation may lead to high-risk behavior. Kathy Searle, program director at Utah’s Adoption Connection, a division of Child and Family Services, said the following:

Many youth age out of the system and are not emotionally prepared to be independent. Youth who age out of foster care have higher rates of unplanned pregnancy, incarceration, homelessness and death. It is very important for them to have the backup of a real family.

Utah foster care to adoption – fast facts:

  • The highest percentage of adopted children are between zero to 4 years of age.
  • For youth age 9 and older, the likelihood of being adopted drops significantly to less than 10 percent.
  • Nearly half of all children adopted from care were adopted by their foster parents.
  • Teens who age out have been in foster care an average of more than 3 years.
  • The primary reason children, including teens, are placed into foster care is because of abuse and/or neglect in their biological homes.

Ashcraft said there are two ways to adopt children from foster care, including adopting a waiting child or using foster-to-adopt.

Utah Foster Care in Southern Utah is holding an adoption forum with information about adopting or fostering a child April 12 at 6 p.m. at The Falls Event Center, 170 S Mall Dr in St George. Dinner is included and the event is free.

For more information on fostering or adopting a child who is in foster care, contact the Utah Foster Care offices in St. George at 877-656-8065 or visit their website.

Event Details

  • What: Utah Foster Care Adoption Forum.
  • When: Wednesday, April 12, at 6 p.m.
  • Where: The Falls Event Center, 170 S. Mall Drive, St. George.
  • Cost: Free.


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  • comments March 13, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Nikki and Dominick look like they could be old enough to be a married couple. Do they want to be adopted?

  • comments March 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    We considered doing fostering for a time, but then my wife got online and read some horror stories and it put her off to it. Apparently a good portion of the children have very serious psychological issues. I guess the moral of the story is just be careful.

  • comments March 13, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Would be so weird if they ran it like one of those adopt-a-pet fairs. Like if they put all the children out on display like they do with the pets and then you choose one you want to adopt. That would be so strange. LOL

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