By Haley Sotelo
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY―The maximum number of foster children permitted to be in one foster home in the State of Utah had been three; however, HB139 calls for that number to rise to four and, in the case of sibling groups, five.
Bill sponsor, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, was approached by foster parents about increasing the number of children one family may take in. Many of these foster parents had the capacity to take on more children, said Daw, but restrictions wouldn’t allow it. One of the reasons for the change is the necessity that sibling groups be broken up to comply with current standards.
Daw said that he believes the bill will help eliminate concerns over siblings being split up. “I would say I’d rather take a small step than a big one. Let’s see how that works.”
This change would also save taxpayers money by reducing the number of foster families in need of funding. Still, while the bill allows for more children in a household, the priority of not putting too many children in a single home, remains. The state wants to preserve a family setting for foster children and avoid a group home atmosphere.
Subsequently, this concern was raised by Senator Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, who said people may be concerned that the change could “[open] the doors for people trying to stuff their doors with foster kids to make money.” Daw responded that not only does DCFS closely monitor families to prevent this from happening, foster parents normally lose money rather than profit.
“For the amount that we pay foster parents for taking care of these kids, I can guarantee there is no money-making operations going on out there,” Christensen said. “Unless they don’t clothe them, or feed them, or send them to school, or don’t do anything with them but lock them in their bedroom.”
Crissy Watson is one of Daw’s constituent foster parents. In her eight years of foster parenting, she has taken in 138 kids. Her concern is for the teenagers in foster care—according to Watson, only about twenty percent of foster parents prefer to take in teenagers. This bill should offer more options for older foster children who have younger siblings.
Residential facilities and private group homes cost the state significantly more than foster care placements with families.”It saves the state a lot of money,” said Watson, who added, “I feel really strongly that kids should be in a family environment whenever possible, and if we’ve got families that are willing; that are able; that are capable, then why not just one more?”