Utah Foster Care has 180 children that need to be adopted

Photo of boy looking out window | Photo by Maria Dubova, Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Would-be parents who are considering adopting a child have an option that is often overlooked: adopting a child out of the foster care system. Currently, there are 180 such children in Utah just waiting for adoption and 25-30 of them are in Southern Utah.

Utah Foster Care in Southern Utah held its first public adoption forum Wednesday at The Falls Event Center in St. George, where a panel of experts, parents and others involved in the process of fostering children toward adoption were available to answer questions and provide information to about 30-35 people in attendance.

“In the past we’ve talked about foster care or adoption,” Ben Ashcraft, representative for Utah Foster Care’s southwest region, said. “but this was the first time we’ve ever held an event that focuses on adopting a child through foster care.”

The panel explained the two types of children in foster care: Those who are temporarily in foster care custody and will likely be reunified with their family; and those whose parents are likely to have their parental rights terminated at which point the children become eligible for adoption.

Utah Foster Care poster | Image courtesy of Utah Foster Care, St. George News

Last year, 604 children were adopted from foster care in Utah, Ashcraft said. While most of those were adopted by their foster parents, others were adopted into new families.

There are around 2,700 children in foster care in Utah at any given time, living with 1,300 licensed foster care families for an average of 12 months.

Most often, children enter the foster system because of abuse, neglect, mental health or addiction problems in their original homes, Ashcraft said.

Experts say there’s an overwhelming need for individuals, families and communities to become involved as foster parents, respite providers, volunteers or mentors of children who need an adult role model.

“The data shows that in this state approximately 60 percent of the children in foster care are returned to their parents, and all agencies involved pursue every effort to return the child to their family,” Ashcraft said, “but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Adoption is generally the last resort after all other efforts for reunification have failed.”

Cliff Farnsworth, regional trainer for Utah Foster Care, is responsible for training and recertification of all foster care parents living in the southwest region.

“If reunification with the family doesn’t work despite our efforts,” he said, “then we have a backup plan for the child already in place.”

An average of 500 to 600 adoptions take place through Utah Foster Care annually, Farnsworth said, and permanency is the goal.

Misconceptions about adopting foster children 

Many misconceptions surround adoption through foster care, Ashcraft said, and one such myth is that many of the children who are waiting to be adopted are disabled or “special needs” children.

But in fact, only one-third of the children in foster care have any kind of diagnosed disability, according to a 2006 report from United Cerebral Palsy and Children’s Rights.

Many other children are classified by the state as having “special needs” but not for the reasons some might think. The term simply refers to a condition that makes the child harder to place in a home, such as being older or part of a sibling group.

Cost concerns

Costs can be a concern to some would-be adoptive parents. But what many may not know is that many of the costs are either covered by state programs or reimbursed after the adoption.

For some, fostering a child first may be more comfortable than adopting a child outright. In that case, training to become a foster parent is free.

Both foster and adoptive families may qualify for monthly maintenance payments and financial aid towards their child’s college education. Other scholarships may also apply that are earmarked for these children.

If the child is special needs, they are eligible for maintenance payments for services or supplies that go above and beyond expenses for a non-special needs child.

Utah Foster Care

Utah Foster Care is a private, nonprofit organization that is part of a team including state and private agencies serving the needs of children and families in crisis. The organizations form a powerful front in the ongoing effort to find permanent homes for foster children who cannot be reunified with their original families.

Utah Foster Care finds and trains families to provide secure, loving homes for the 2,700 children in foster care throughout the state.

Utah Foster Care’s Deborah Lindner said in an October 2016 release: “Judges say ‘Adoption Day’ is one of their happiest days in court.”

Anyone considering adopting a child out of foster care has two options: Foster to adopt or adopt a “waiting” child.

For more information call telephone 877 505-5437 or visit the Utah Foster Care website here.

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

 

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