The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The legislative session is back on and in full swing. There are several issues and bills we are watching and tracking this year.

If you would like to receive notices about what is happening with bills, you can go to the Utah Legislature website, search for any bill and track it by clicking the tracking button on the right hand side of the page. The website will send you emails when the status of the bill changes.

The bills we are watching are all listed below. Keep in mind the list is not static. It changes constantly. We work hard to stay on top of issues that may affect your family and we appreciate all you do to keep track and advocate for your family.

Some things I want to highlight:

We continue to advocate for an increase in the foster parent reimbursement rate. We are very hopeful this year!

The Grandparent Rights bill HB0289 is back AGAIN. It can be exhausting to keep fighting this bill year after year after year after interim after veto after year. But that is absolutely the sponsor’s strategy. The moment we stop advocating against this because we are tired is the moment it will pass. This bill, if you are not familiar with it from last year would, under certain circumstances, allow biological grandparents to petition the court for visitation with children after they have been adopted.

We are opposed to this bill. Again.

A couple of years ago, a law was implemented that had an unintended consequence for foster families. The Office of Licensing reached out to is to let us know the consequence of the law. Briefly, the law would mean that in all circumstances when children in care were left for any amount of time with ANY other caregiver, the substitute caregiver would need to have a finger-printed background check. 

This would be a nightmare for foster families. Think of all the informal times when others take care of your kids, carpooling, scouts, grandparents babysitting, neighborhood babysitters, playgroups, etc. It would have been very very bad indeed.

Foster Families of Utah met with the original sponsor of the legislation and asked for an exemption. The sponsor was receptive and that exemption is HB0185. It passed through committee unanimously and passed the Housee of Representatives, also unanimously. It will be introduced in the Senate soon.

The bill did require the the Office of Licensing and DCFS define “incidental care” very precisely and that will have some impact for us. It defines incidental as fewer than 5 hours. It will mean that when you require care for your children in foster care that is over 5 hours, that provider of care will need a background check. We believe that is a reasonable standard and not so diferent from what we already do.

Other bills we are watching:

HB0072 Child Welfare Proceedings Amendments

This bill closes a loophole and requires a certain timeframe for hearings when there are no reunification services and termination is the plan. We support the bill.

HB0073 Child Placement Amendments
Requires DCFS to look for felonies before placing kids. 

HB0101 Adoptive Studies and Evaluations Amendments

Changes some requirements for home studies.

HB0131 Child Placement Provisions

This bill changes priorities and preferences for families for placement. We have concerns about this bill.

HB0145 Foster Children Visitation Amendments

This bill talks about a sibling’s right for visitation with other siblings in other settings. While we think the intention of this bill is good, we have concerns about how this could affect biological and adoptive families after adoption or after permanency is established.

HCR010 Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Identification and Support of Traumatic Childhood Experiences Survivors

SB0075 Child Welfare Amendments

Establishes “Child Protection Units”

SB0085 Amendments to Child Welfare
This bill would allow for a child or children to return to a foster home if they re-enter care even if the foster home is at capacity with their license. We support this bill.

Disclaimer: I’m doing this on my phone from the legislature. Please forgive any mistakes. Also forgive my inadequate descriptions and feel free to further clarify or disagree!

Call if you have questions or would like to become involved. 801-252-5395

Meet Layne, A REAL Foster Parent

At our recent Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference we were pleased to have award winning videographer, Ryan Hender, join us and interview a few foster parents who wanted to share their story with others.  Layne is one such foster parent and this is his story:

Stay tuned for more stories which will also be used by DCFS for recruitment purposes.

Founder’s Award- Laurieann Thorpe

In addition to Foster Families of Utah recently recognizing one outstanding RFC from each region, we were pleased to present a Founders Award to Laurieann Thorpe, who has worked tirelessly in her efforts to get Foster Families of Utah off the ground.  Laurieanne is the former President of Foster Families of Utah and we are fortunate to have her expertise as she will continue to serve on our Board.

In addressing Conference attendees at our recent Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference, Laurieann used her characteristic  humor and as well as her heartfelt passion when she noted “foster parents in Utah foster because they want to help children.”

Thank you for your service, Laurieann!

RFC Recognition Awards- 2016

The role of a Resource Family Consultant (RFC) is essential to foster parents since RFCs are the caseworkers who get to know the foster family and determine which children would be the best fit for their home.  RFCs can also be an important resource to foster families when questions about licensing arise or if foster families have concerns about a child’s case and they need a listening ear.  RFCs may even offer moral support to a foster family by accompanying them to Team and Family Meetings, Court, and Mediation Hearings.

We were happy to be able to recognize one outstanding RFC from each Region and present them with an award at our recent Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference.  These RFCs were nominated by our foster families for their exceptional service.

Congratulations to:

Anna Gibson, Northern Region

Lori Zumbrennan, Salt Lake Region

Keena Butler, Western Region

Catie Eberly, Eastern Region

Melissa Moss, Southwest Region

We appreciate all the work you do on our behalf!

Understanding Court

One of the breakout sessions at the recent Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference was “Understanding Court”.  This session included a panel of legal professionals who shared their experiences representing foster care cases in court.

Navigating court can be intimidating and confusing even for experienced foster parents. Just the terminology alone and acronyms which are used in a courtroom or court reports can make some foster parents feel like they are learning a new language!  Having said that, here are a few acronyms of titles used in a courtroom which are helpful to understand:

GAL– Guardian ad Litem- Children in foster care have their own attorney assigned to look after their best interests and make recommendations to the judge in court;  These attorneys are known as Guardian ad Litems or GALs for short.

CASA- Court Appointed Special Advocates- the role of a CASA is similar to that of a GAL because they gather information about the child(ren) and advocate for their best interest in court.  However, unlike a GAL who is a trained and paid professional, CASAs are volunteers.

AAG– Assistant Attorney General-  Just as children in the foster care system have their own attorney appointed to them, there is an attorney appointed by the state to represent DCFS in juvenile court cases.  The AAG works very closely with the child’s caseworker in gathering information and presenting it to the court.

Public Defender- A public defender is an attorney who is appointed by the state to represent a foster child’s birth family in a court of law.  Birth families aren’t necessarily required to use a public defender; however, if they cannot pay for an attorney the court will arrange for them to be represented by a state-employed attorney.

Now, on to the panel who shared their wisdom with us at the Conference:

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Seated,  L-R: GAL Cristie Roach, AAG David Tibbs, Former public defender David R. Boyer, JD, and Associate Presiding Judge Julie V. Lind.   Far Right: Moderator, Gabriella Archuletta, JD.  (To see the panel member’s credentials and brief bios, see bottom of the page)

The panel’s moderator, Gabriella Archuleta, opened up the session by asking each of the panel members the question “What are the top two things that you want foster parents to know?”

Some highlights to their answers were as follows:

Judge Lind:   “You have the right and opportunity to participate in the court process.                                   You are the eyes and the ears of the home.”

This was very encouraging to hear coming from the one individual vested with the power to make the final decision in a child’s case.  Judge Lind’s admonition to participate in the court process [and to provide information about the children in our care] was both encouraging and empowering to foster parents who many times feel they do not have any say in their foster children’s cases.

 “We are working on the same goal which is always the best interest of the child.”  Judge Lind asserted.

Public Defender Boyer: “My clients love their children or they wouldn’t be there.”  Unfortunately, love does not always equate with safety and the two most common problems Boyer’s clients have faced are drug abuse and domestic violence.

Boyer pointed out that many times birth parents are afraid of foster parents taking their kids.  He also noted that he’s seen foster  parents play a very positive role in his client’s lives which he tied in very nicely with the theme of the conference and the Keynote Speaker’s address.  In fact, Boyer stated that probably the most difficult cases have been resolved because of the relationship between foster parents and birth parents.

One of Boyer’s challenges in his role as a former public defender is representing what is in the best interest of the parent, but not necessarily the best interest of the child.

AAG David Tibbs candidly acknowledged that “foster parents need to understand that they’ll be challenged in  may they never have before.”   He also described foster parents as “the unsung heroes of the system because so much is expected of them but so little is returned.”  Foster parents, he noted, are on the front line and can help fill in all the blanks.

One bit of advice Tibbs gave foster parents is to “never assume everyone knows what you know.”  He stressed the importance of passing on information about a child’s case and progress not only to the child’s Guardian ad litum but to the AAG assigned to the case as well.  Good communication is an essential skill for foster parents to have in order to advocate for the children in their care!

GAL Cristie Roach shared this poignant thought with foster parents: “Joseph was Jesus’s foster father and he knew that Jesus would be reunited with his father.”

The “Understanding Court” breakout session was a good opportunity for foster parents to hear the perspectives of the legal professionals who represent the best interest of the child, the best interest of the parent, and the best interest of the State through DCFS’s recommendations to the judge.

If you would like to learn more about the court process including what each court hearing is for {The differences between an Adjucation Hearing, a Review Hearing, a Permanency Hearing, etc} and required state and federal timelines for permanency and hearings,  these topics will be explored at next year’s Conference!

Understanding Court Panel Members:

Gabriella Archuleta, JD, MMP- Gabriella Archuletta is the Court Improvement Program (CIP) Coordinator for the Administrative Office of the Courts Juvenile team.  Her work focuses on improving education outcomes for youth in foster care, compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and youth attendance at court hearings.  Gabriella oversees the planning and coordination of statewide child welfare conferences and trainings for juvenile court judges, child welfare attorneys, social workers, tribal representatives, and community partners.  She serves as the Vice Chair of the Utah Coordinating Council for Youth in Custody (UCCYIC).  She graduated with a Bachelor of Speech Communication and Spanish from the University of Utah as a first-generation college student.  In 2011, Gabriella received a joint Juris Doctor an Master of Public Policy from the University of Utah.

David R. Boyer, JD- David R. Boyer is the managing attorney of Alpine Ridge Law Office, LLC.  Prior to founding Alpine Ridge Law Office, Mr. Boyer worked as a Parental Defense Attorney in Provo’s Fourth District Juvenile Court.  Mr. Boyer served on the National Drug Court Professionals training and implementation team and was instrumental in the National Training and Formation of State Family Drug Court Teams.  In 2012, for his dedication to representing indigent parents, Mr. Boyer was voted Parental Defense Attorney of the Year by the Utah Parental Defense Alliance.  In 2013, Mr. Boyer was appointed to the Utah Parental Defense Alliance board of directors and currently represents Utah’s 5th and 6th Judicial Districts.

Judge Julie V. Lund- Judge Julie V. Lund was appointed to the Third District Juvenile Court in November 2010 by Governor Gary R. Herbert.  Judge Lund graduated in 1981 from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a B.A. in Political Science and received a law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1986.  She was employed in a civil litigation practice until 1995, when she joined the Child Protection Division of the Utah Attorney General’s office.  Judge Lund was named the Attorney of the Year in 2003.  She served as division chief for three years prior to her appointment to the bench.  Judge Lund is a past president of the Board of Trustees for the S.J. Quinney Colege of Law and a member of the executive committee of the Salt Lake County Bar Association.  She presently serves as Associate Presiding Judge and as a member of the Utah Sentencing Commission.

Cristie Roach- Cristie Roach has served as a Guardian ad Litem for over 9 years.  She is currently the Managing Attorney of the 4th District Juvenile Court.

David Tibbs, AAG- David Tibbs is a county lawyer who has been with the Utah Attorney General’s Office for thirty years, the last twenty with the Child Protection Division in Manti, Utah

Donna Foster- Conference Keynote Speaker

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Donna Foster

Our keynote speaker for the Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference at the Provo Marriott was author, trainer, and former foster parent, Donna Foster, of North Carolina.

I think everyone in attendance at the conference would agree that Donna’s warm and welcoming personality as well as her delightful Southern accent and sense of humor made listening to her a pleasure.  Seriously- watching Donna Foster speak and engage with her audience was like watching a stand-up comedian- she was an absolute hoot!

Donna’s address was entitled “Celebrating the Challenge: Keeping the Child’s Connections”.  Although the words “celebrating” and “challenge” used together might seem like an oxymoron, Donna was able to offer a balanced perspective of addressing the very real challenges foster families face while offering practical solutions of ways to decrease stress while fostering.  For example, Donna shared a handout with foster parents with suggestions for self care, including the acronym QTIP, which stands for “Quit Taking It Personally” in regards to the children in our care or the birth parents we work with.

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Donna Foster had the ability to help her audience see things from the perspective of both foster children and birth parents.  One way she was able to do this was including a brief overview of the loss and grief process that children and their parents experience.  She also discussed some of the common fears foster parents may have.

Donna was very candid in sharing how her thinking about fostering has evolved over the years.  When she first began fostering, she felt there were 2 Golden Rules which every foster parent should live by:

  1. Don’t get too attached to the child or we’ll remove’em.  (Ha!  Every foster parent knows that NOT getting attached to the children in our care is next to impossible.)
  2. Take care of the children but don’t get involved with the birth parents.

For those who have fears or resistance to building a good working relationship with birth parents, Donna Foster shared these words of wisdom:

“Birth parents are more than what happened to them.”

and

“If you love the child, find a way to love the parents.”

In conjunction with the “Building Bridges” theme of the conference, Donna Foster focused the bulk of her address on ways foster parents can work effectively with birth parents in their unique relationship of “shared parenting.”

Because every situation is different and everybody’s personal preferences will vary, Donna included two handouts with her presentation with suggestions of what foster parents can do to build a relationship with birth parents.  If you’ll notice, some of these suggestions apply to face-to-face, ongoing contact while other suggestions are things you can do with limited contact.

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Donna clarified some of the goals and responsibilities that foster parents should have when working with birth parents.  While it is not a foster parent’s family to “fix” a child’s birth family, we do have the responsibility to give them the chance to parent.  “If I love the child I’ll give that family every opportunity to parent.” is the kind of attitude which is most beneficial to a child.

To learn more about Donna Foster and her work, refer here.

Foster Learning, Building Bridges Conference

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN for the Foster Learning, Building Bridges conference sponsored by Foster Families of Utah and Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services!

This conference will be held on Monday, October 3rd at the Provo Marriott from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m..  Cost for the conference is only $15 per single ticket and $20 per couple which includes breakfast and lunch.  Up to 8 hours of in-service training can be earned in the different break-out sessions listed below:

event schedule

This conference is a great opportunity to mingle with other foster parents, receive instruction from or share concerns with DCFS, and to get to know more about how you can advocate for foster care.  Plus, you can get up to 8 hours of training and free breakfast and lunch!
To register CLICK HERE or go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foster-learning-building-bridges-tickets-27270713438
We hope to see many of you there!