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Utah Foster Care Tears Down Barriers to a Better Life

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation make recommendations to help states improve foster care. (kakisky/morguefile)
A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation make recommendations to help states improve foster care. (kakisky/morguefile)
December 11, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - Kids in foster care don't just need a place to live they need a family to love them in good times and bad, now and in the future so the system needs to do a better job of vetting potential foster parents.

That's one finding of a report from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report also recommends states reduce the use of group homes and give kids over 14 more input into decisions about their own case.

Retired Judge William Thorne, who served on the bench for 34 years, says kids in foster care crave a sense of permanence, personal success and belonging.

"To the extent that we can get kids a place to grow up where they can have a normal life, it helps inoculate them for the problems that life is going to toss at them later," says Thorne.

The report is designed to help states implement a new federal law that requires them to adopt an effective "prudent parent" standard. That means foster parents should have the flexibility to let the kids participate in extracurricular activities, get a driver's license, go to proms, on sleepovers and family vacations, activities that have been out of reach for some in foster care.

Todd Lloyd, senior policy associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says too often, particularly older children in foster care miss out on events that other kids may take for granted.

"Because it has been a system oriented toward safety, protecting children, that it's very easy to create policies that are overly restrictive out of concern for safety, and also the liability," says Lloyd.

Utah has about 2,700 children in foster care at any given time, but only 1,300 licensed foster and adoptive families. If you'd like to help, visit UtahFosterCare.org online.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - UT