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DCFS looking for replacement for Kaysville children's shelter

KAYSVILLE -- The Division of Child and Family Services has more time than originally expected to relocate a shelter for neglected and abused children after a group of Kaysville residents challenged placement of the home in their neighborhood.

"We aren't in crisis mode at the moment," said Neal Ashbridge, DCFS community service manager.But, DCFS workers felt pressed for time when more than 50 residents challenged the relocation of the home at a question-and-answer session earlier this month. The home serves about nine children at a time and more than 250 children each year who cannot be placed immediately into custody of relatives or foster care.

The lease on the home in Roy where the children are kept expires at the end of June. But, after the landlord of that home saw media reports of the dilemma facing the children's shelter, she allowed DCFS to lease the home on a month-to-month basis, Ashbridge said.

Now, DCFS has at least until the end of July to find a replacement.

The media coverage also prompted at least three Davis County residents to call DCFS and offer to lease their homes for the shelter, Ashbridge said.

If DCFS does not find a different home that is suitable, however, and the Kaysville home is still available, DCFS will pursue the lease and use of the property, Ashbridge said.

"I don't think we're really there to ask permission from a group of homeowners if we can rent a private home," Ashbridge said.

Kaysville residents are concerned for the safety of their children and their property values should the children's shelter move into Fairfield Farms estates, Ashbridge said.

At Kaysville's City Council meeting, resident Ron Barney said the group doesn't oppose the existence of the shelter. They just don't want it in their neighborhood.

Fairfield Farms has a restrictive covenant in its zoning ordinance that explicitly restricts homes to single family units, Barney told the council.

John Thacker, Kaysville city manager, said the definition of family under the ordinance allows for an unlimited number of related people and up to four unrelated people under one roof.

Since DCFS says it is common for the shelter to house nine children plus caregivers, the shelter would clearly be in violation of the restrictive covenant, Barney said.

Residents have retained an attorney and will take legal action if DCFS moves the children into the Kaysville home, Barney said.

Barney said this issue will likely sprout up again in the future.

"We are asking the city fathers to draw up a master plan to specify where these types of organizations can be placed," Barney told the council.

Ashbridge told the Deseret News, if push comes to shove, he doubts the shelter can legally be kept out of the neighborhood.

"If we need to, and it's still available, we will use the home," Ashbridge said. "To my knowledge, there is no law that can prevent us. We're not conducting business."

Felshaw King, Kaysville city attorney said the city can make no determination about the legality of the shelter in that particular neighborhood until DCFS submits an official application for approval.

Matthew Morris, DCFS supervisor of shelter facilities, said he was surprised residents objected in the first place.

"I don't know how people can say 'no' to abused children," Morris said.

What shocked Morris most was one resident who asked, "What's in it for us?" he said.

"I don't think the value's measurable," Morris said. "It's the right thing to do."

Still, Morris said the preference of DCFS is to find another location.

"These children have been through enough," Morris said, "and we don't want to subject them to the attitudes of that neighborhood."