ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah has always had a “barn raising” mentality, and when things need to get done, “we do it,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said during a press event Wednesday as he called on the community to fill the dire need for foster homes in which to place some of society’s most vulnerable members — children.
Since the pioneer days, communities across Southern Utah have risen to every challenge, and if there is a need, it is filled — “we are known for that,” Pike said.
Pike spoke on the issue at a press event held Wednesday at Utah Foster Care’s office at 491 E. Riverside Drive in St. George.
The community is now faced with a challenge, which is the need for additional foster homes to match the expansive growth in St. George, as well as the surrounding communities, he said.
“This is our community, these are our children,” Pike said.
The event was officiated by Dan Webster, Utah Foster Care’s Director of Foster Family Recruitment, who traveled from his office in Murray to appeal to families across Southern Utah to become involved in fostering a child to solve the shortage of foster homes across the region. Presently, the area has more than 200 children in foster care.
“There is always more children than homes to care for them,” Webster said. “But with the tremendous growth in the Southern Utah region, the number of foster care homes has not kept up with the demand.”
“The bottom line is we need more homes for these children locally,” Webster said.
The shortage of foster homes is due to a combination of factors, including the significant growth of the area and a stark drop in the number of foster parents attending training classes.
Over the last six months, that number has dropped by more than 30%, he said.
Having enough foster families locally is an important element whenever a child is removed from their home and placed in the state’s care. Webster stressed that children placed in foster care adapt more easily and experience a far less dramatic shift if they are placed in a local home.
If one is not available, then they have to be relocated to a family in another area, which places them farther away from their family, teachers they like, friends they know and so on, Webster said.
“If we can keep them in the same neighborhood, same schools, same friends they like to play with, then that is a great win for us as a community,” he said.
Pike supported those comments by saying that for any community, children are the most valuable resource and that those in foster care are in that situation through no fault of their own.
“I think that’s important for us all to remember,” Pike said.
Additionally, he said, the love and support of a caring foster family “has the potential to turn that child’s entire life around.”
Misty Greer, a foster mom who has provided a home to children for more than 12 years, also spoke during the event and recounted an experience that highlighted the shortage and need for foster families, particularly those willing to take sibling groups. Eight out of 10 children in foster care have brothers and sisters, according to Utah Foster Care.
Greer and her husband, who have six children, three biological and three they adopted, were contacted just before Christmas and asked if they could take in three children, she said. They were asked after the agency had checked all over the region, even up to Richfield, for a foster home that could keep the siblings together.
“Of course we said ‘yes,'” she said. And the family of six children became a family of nine.
“So we got them, and we have a lot of kids at our house right now so it’s chaotic, but it’s fun,” Greer said.
The foster care shortage extends into the need for homes that can take teens and other challenging placements statewide, including foster families that can care for sibling groups, as the emergency placement at the Greer house illustrates.
Pike appealed to the public to attend Utah Foster Care’s annual “ask a foster parent night” which will take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Washington County School District offices at 121 W. Tabernacle St., in St. George. Dinner is included, and the event is free.
The dinner and forum will provide people with information about fostering children from a panel of experts, including foster parents that will share their experiences. Staff members will also be on hand to answer any questions about qualifications and the foster/adoption process.
“It’s really the best way to find out what foster parenting is really like day to day,” Webster said.
- What: “Ask a foster parent night” panel discussion and dinner.
- When: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 6-8 p.m.
- Where: Washington County School District offices at 121 W. Tabernacle St., St. George.
- Cost: Free.
- Details: Those interested in attending in St. George can RSVP by email to [email protected]. Include your name, the number of people attending and identify “St. George” as your area, as the RSVP email is a general email used in forums across the state.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.