Did you know that May is National Foster Care Month?
Most people don’t, so to learn more about foster care, Boy Scout Troop 804 in Moab recently met with Geri Swift of Utah Foster Care.
Swift talked with the boys and their leaders about what it is like to be a child in foster care, and suggested the things they could do to support children during an often challenging time in their lives.
Unfortunately, she said, some people think that children are in foster care because of something that the child did. The truth is that most children are in foster care due to abuse or neglect, she said.
Often, their parents’ drug or alcohol problems have played a role. According to Swift, the goal of the foster care system is to provide a safe place for children while giving their parents time to overcome their problems. It is a huge success, she said, when parents are able to do this and their children can return home. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and a new permanent home is needed for the children; usually through adoption.
All children deserve a chance at a good life with loving and nurturing parents, she said.
Ideally, children in foster care can stay with a foster family in their own community, where they can continue to attend their same school, with the same teachers and friends. However, when there are no foster families available in their own community, children have to be placed in a different town. They not only are moved from their home and family, but everything that is familiar to them, Swift said.
The boys in Troop 811 learned that being the new kid in school or church can be hard – especially for children in foster care who are doing it alone. So while every new child in their school or church may not be in foster care, they can help every new kid by welcoming them and being a friend, Swift said. The Scouts learned that they can help children going through a tough transition to a new place, no matter where they’re from, by following the Scout Law and being friendly.
Troop 811 also tied ribbons on a fence at the baseball park across from the Grand County Public Library to remind everyone of children who need loving homes, along with friends who are there to help them out.
Braxton Thornlay, a 17-year-old high school student from Taylorsville, collected school supplies for children in foster care as part of his Eagle Scout project.
He has a personal connection to the issue: His 6-year-old niece and his 4-year-old nephew were both adopted from foster care.
“Both have their own unique needs and struggles,” Thornlay said. “Both have witnessed drug abuse, broken families, and abandonment; yet, both still believe in Santa Claus, see adventure as an empty playground and sticks that can be used as swords, and laugh with the entirety of their hearts at the simplest of knock-knock jokes, preferably those that are both nonsensical and whimsical. Most importantly, both have been given a chance at life that they didn’t have before.”
In eastern Utah, there are about 300 children in foster care, according to Swift.
Foster and adoptive families receive free training. Foster parents are even reimbursed for the cost of providing care. According to Swift, you can be single or married, you can be a stay-at-home or working parent, you can rent or own your home, and you can specify the kinds of children that would fit best with your family. There is even a foster family support group, called the “Peanut Cluster,” to help families caring for children in foster care.
“There is a special need for families who will welcome sibling groups into their homes so brothers and sisters can stay together,” Swift said.
Troops meet with children’s advocate
For information about how you can become a foster family, contact Geri Swift at Utah Foster Care at 435-259-3345, or go to utahfostercare.org.