The number of children in the foster care system in Grand and San Juan counties averages about 27 per month, higher than the state average on a per capita basis. Conversely, there are four active foster parents to serve those children, a number that is lower than the state average.
This is a problem Joel Redd wants to solve.
Redd describes himself as a “recruiter and supporter” of foster parents in the two counties and he doesn’t mince words when asked how well children are being served. “There are not enough foster parents,” he said. Redd is with Utah Foster Care, which is connected – figuratively and literally – to the Grand County Family Support Christmas Box House and Grand County Child Justice Center. Utah Foster Care is a third-party provider and is not affiliated with the Department of Children and Family Services, said Redd.
The Christmas Box House provides temporary living arrangements for children awaiting placement in foster care. Director Sherilyn Sowell said the term “temporary” sometimes means two weeks and sometimes it means up to six weeks.
The need is obvious. So how does one become a foster parent in southeastern Utah? Get started by going to utahfostercare.org and provide the required information. Redd said he contacts people who express interest and he gives them the opportunity to “ask all kinds of questions to make sure you’re comfortable,” he said. “There’s lots of stigma to foster care thanks to Hollywood. These are not kids who are in trouble. These are kids in a bad situation.”
Redd said that if people want to become foster parents, an in-home visit would be scheduled, and he would present questions and address any additional concerns of the potential foster parent. Pre-service training would take place and the home would have to be approved by the State Office of Licensing.
This doesn’t mean DCFS will place random children with a new foster parent.
“They don’t just drop off kids at your house,” Redd said. “You can choose the age, sex and ethnicity,” he said. “You can choose to be a respite home. You could be what the Christmas Box does and would not mind keeping children for the weekend and give a break to licensed foster care parents.” For Redd and his wife, who both work, they only take older children who are in school, as an example.
How many foster parents are needed? “What would be ideal is if everybody signed up and we could make it less traumatizing,” said Redd, who was named one of Utah’s Foster Dads of the Year in 2008. “We could get them to families with similar interests, be it athletics, or a Native American family to foster a Native American child. Let’s reduce the trauma. Ideally, we want to keep Moab kids in Moab where they can go to the same school, keep the same friends. The less trauma the better.”
Here’s another way Redd put things: “Imagine if a 5-year-old child knocked on your door and said they were hungry and needed a place to sleep. Who would turn them away? A foster parent is someone who says they’re ready to do that ahead of time.”
For more information, call 435-261-2368.