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Foster parents feel left out, survey says

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Many foster parents in Utah feel left out of planning for the welfare of the children in their charge, according to a survey released by the state Division of Child and Family Services.

The agency also found that a majority of the 53 percent who responded to the survey are satisfied with the reimbursements they received, which range from $10.50 to $31.25 per child per day.The survey, mailed to 899 foster parents throughout the state in June 1997, was released last week to the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel.

It found that 78 percent of those responding feel "somewhat valued" to "highly valued" by DCFS caseworkers, juvenile courts and others who work in the state's complex child-welfare system.

However, 42 percent said they have too little involvement in their foster children's service plans - the process of finding a permanent home within 12 months of the child's entering state custody.

And although 91 percent of the parents said they have participated in DCFS-sponsored foster-care training, 46 percent said lack of child care - for their own children as well as those they foster - is the main barrier to attending training sessions.

"The survey shows that our work as a division needs to focus on fully embracing foster parents as a member of the team in managing cases," said Kathryn Cooney, director of DCFS policy, evaluation and planning.

Foster parents who elaborated with written comments felt strongly that they should be included in staff meetings on their children's cases and should receive better information on medical and criminal histories of the children in their care.

"We're working hard to get more foster parents involved in the cases early on," said Kit Hansen, president of the Utah Foster Family Association.

Cooney said DCFS will use the survey in creating a plan to address foster parents' training, their perceptions of the child-welfare system and their concerns about reimbursement for services and case involvement.