IN FOCUS Discussion: The shortage in Utah foster care families

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Each year, thousands of children and teens go through Utah’s foster care system. According to the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), there were 1,421 new foster care cases in 2020. Overall, there were 4,226 total children who were in foster care during some point in the year. Most come from traumatizing conditions, such as abuse, neglect, and domestic violence and face risks of physical, emotional, and psychological issues after being separated from their biological families.

During the process of healing, rehabilitation, and possible reunification, these children and teens are placed with foster families to help maintain a safe, positive, and influential environment. Experts say the average stay for a foster child is about nine months to a year, but some may stay longer depending on their situation. However, 2021 is seeing a continue streak of shortage in foster parents, making it difficult for advocates to keep up with the need in the state. Teens face a harder time being placed. According to Utah Foster Care, children over the age of 11 make up nearly half of those in the system, but they only account for 14% of those adopted out of foster case.

Kay Lotulelei, a behaviorist and foster parents joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. She shared why she decided to become a foster parent, how she navigates parenthood between her biological and foster children, the types of problems that foster children typically face, how her background as a behaviorist helps her understand a foster child’s complex emotions, the different experiences between foster children versus teens, and what she would say to those who are contemplating being a foster parent.

Langi Sofele, executive director of Open Arms Youth and Adult Services, and Charles Hosea, executive director of Brighter Futures, talked about their organizations, the latest data on foster children, whether foster parents have a choice on which child they bring into their homes, whether foster children get to see their biological parents while in the system, how long foster children typically stay in the system, and what happens if a teen never ends up finding a family and ages out of the system.

In part two, Sofele and Hosea talked about the benefits of being a foster parent, the requirements of being a foster parent, whether foster parents can work outside the home, the types of training they offer for current and prospective foster parents, and the type of support that is available for a foster parent that may be struggling.

For more information or to inquire about becoming a foster parent, visit the Open Arms Youth and Adult Services website or Brighter Futures website.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Lotulelei, Sofele, and Hosea, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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