SALT LAKE CITY — In the ongoing need for foster parents, Utah Foster Care is especially in need of homes for older children and sibling groups.
Utah generally has about 2,700 children in foster care at a given time, with about 1,300 available foster parents, according to a Utah Foster Care spokeswoman.
"Kids are constantly going in and out of care. There are foster parents going in and out of their licenses, so it's an ongoing need," said Deborah Lindner, Utah Foster Care communications director.
Among the greatest need for kids in the Utah foster care system are families who can take older children and help keep siblings together, Lindner said.
"While it looks like we have a lot of foster parents, not all of them are able to take sibling groups, (and) not all of them are able to take children over 8," she said. "We're looking for people that are there to help kids, to give them what they need. In most cases there are siblings, and they can do best when they are able to stay with their brothers and sisters."
Many parents who sign up will set an age restriction on the children they are willing to take or are only available to take one child, making it difficult to keep siblings together, Lindner said.
Utah's hybrid foster care system — a nonprofit organization to recruit and train foster parents along with the state system — is unique, Lindner said. The setup allows the organization to recruit and train hundreds of parents.
Utahns who want to learn more about becoming foster parents can visit utahfostercare.org or call 877-505-5437. The agency also has statewide offices where prospective foster parents can meet in person to assess their options.
Lindner emphasizes that someone doesn't have to be a "perfect parent" in order to foster a child.
"These kids are looking for imperfect people to provide them safety, a roof over their head, some kind of routine, where they may not have had that before," she said. "I think after most people go through our training, they say, 'I think I can do this.'"