By Tom Busselberg
LAYTON — The news has been filled with stories about potential cuts to public and higher education – and lately about potential layoffs of hundreds of employees in the Jordan School District.
But little, if anything, has been said about potential cuts to the stipends foster families receive.
“It’s difficult enough in this economy to be caring for extra children,” said Utah Foster Care Foundation Northern Utah director Brenda Durtschi.
“Right now they’re (foster parents) getting about $15 a day, and they’re seriously considering cuts. That makes it very difficult for people considering it (becoming a foster parent). We have a lot of really great families who would love to be a part of this,” she said.
“If you’re taking food out of their mouths,” as it were, “there are a lot of things kids deserve to have,” Durtschi said. “If a family has its own (natural) kids in sports, dance, etc., they want them (foster kids) to have the same opportunities.”
And not everyone can afford to make up that difference.
“There is always a shortage of families to take foster children,” she said. “This makes it particularly challenging. We always need families who can take sibling groups, older children. We often call on Davis County families to take some of the overflow” that other counties can’t meet.
Fortunately, there are plenty of families who are willing and able to take foster children.
“I have been doing it for about 11 years,” said foster mom Patty Johnson. “I have had some of the best experiences working in foster care.
“I had the opportunity to work with parents who started out not being able to care for their children. They were into drugs, etc. We did everything we could to help build them up, get them off drugs, do what we need to do,” she said.
“We’ve had quite a few success stories where we’ve been able to send the children home,” the Layton woman said. “I have contact with most of the kids; I see some of them regularly.”
Johnson prefers to be able to work closely with the natural parents while she is caring for their children.
“If we worked with the parents, the success rate was so much better. A lot of times, some of the things we deal with, drugs, generational issues – a lot of people never had the example of what the clean lifestyle is like. We’re willing to help them (parents), as well as children,” she reiterated.
Over the years, 30 or so children have been in the Johnson home. They’ve adopted two of those children, growing their family to seven children.
They’ve dealt largely with babies and children who are medically fragile, mostly those of younger ages.
“They’ve (children) made a huge difference in my life too,” Johnson emphasized.
“I think if someone has any interest at all in helping children in families, this is the way to go,” Johnson said. “It’s not about getting rich. For the most part, when we have foster children, we usually put out more a month than we get.
“Out of that $15 a day, everything comes out: food, clothes, activities. If they’re medically fragile, they need trips to Primary Children’s. And the teens want their (particular) clothes.
“Nothing works all the time, but the program with DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services) looks out for the best interest of the children. They try to build those families back together.”
For more information, contact the Foster Care Foundation at 1 (877) 392-1414 or visit the web at www.utahfostercare.org.