In light of May being Foster Care Awareness Month, Cedar City resident, Jen Daughtery has been nominated as Foster Mother of the Year by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.
Amy Bates, a Foster-Adoptive Consultant in the Southwest Region for Utah Foster Care, said Daughtery was chosen as Foster Mother of the Year because she goes above and beyond meeting the basic needs for her foster kids.
“They have a child who has been with them since 2014 who was developmentally very behind,” Bates said. “Since placing the child with Jen, the child has been taught all of the basic skills an infant would need to know. She truly puts the child’s needs in front of her own and ensures they get the best of everything.”
Bates said Daughtery also continues to excel with her other kids, which she has adopted and is always great to work with.
Daughtery said she chose to become a foster mother in 2009 because she couldn’t have kids and her mother-in-law suggested becoming a foster parent.
She said she has personally seen the benefit of foster care in her time of being a foster mom.
“Foster care provides these kids a safe space where their needs are met in ways they wouldn’t be at home,” Daughtery said.
Kyle Garrett, the regional director for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, said foster parents are an important piece of what the organization does.
“I can’t overstate how important these parents are,” Garrett said. “They take care of these kids and love them. They really are a key piece.”
Daughtery said foster care has also personally helped her.
“I’m not sure if it benefits me more or these kids,” she said. “These foster kids help me to be a better person. It’s amazing to watch these kids overcome so many difficulties and challenges.”
Bates said she has also seen firsthand what impact foster care has on these kids.
“I’ve seen their lives turn completely around,” she said. “They go from not understanding what family means to feeling like they belong in a family unit.”
Daughtery said there are some challenges in foster care as well.
“For me, the hardest part is once they become a part of my home, I want them to remain that way and become a permanent part of the family,” she said. “But sometimes they don’t become a permanent part and go back to their families and that is challenging.”
Bates said without families and parents who are willing to foster, these children would have to move away from this area and away from their families.
“These are the community’s children,” she said. “Without these families, children are forced move elsewhere.”
Bates said the goal of foster care is to get the family back together again. She said she has seen mothers who have problems like substance abuse, turn their lives around.
“It’s a huge gift to the community and to those children when that happens,” she said.
Bates said she wishes the community understood more that these are their children.
“These children who need foster care are from their areas, their schools,” she said. “They aren’t bad kids, they just are kids who need love and security to grow and flourish in ways they couldn’t without that foster care.”
Daughtery said a reason for the shortage of foster parents has to do with lack of education about the foster care system.
She said before she became a foster parent, she also stereotyped the foster kids thinking they were bad kids.
“I think with more education about the system and about these kids would help more people want to become foster parents,” Daughtery said.
Bates said to get involved with foster care, to go to the website utahfostercare.org.
“They can give me a phone call at 435-463-7404,” she said. “I can walk them through the process of becoming foster parents themselves or how they can get involved in other ways.”
Garrett said another way people can get involved is by noticing abuse and neglect and reporting instances of that happening when it happens.
He said another way to help out is by volunteering their time with the agency.