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More homes needed for foster teens

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Jode Littlepage is missing something most people take for granted -- family pictures.

"You spend a lot of time in adulthood trying to blend in and then those things come up like family pictures, childhood pictures and it kinds of spins you 180 degrees," she said.


Littlepage spent her entire childhood in foster care in California and now works with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services to help teens in foster care transition successfully into adulthood. "I know when I was a teen I was a good kid. I would've loved having a great foster home," she said.

The Utah Foster Care Foundation recently launched a year-long campaign to find more foster families to care for teens and give them lifelong connections.

According to the foundation, out of Utah's more than 2,600 children in foster care, 1,156 are age 14 and older. Between 300 and 400 of these teens do not live in a family setting.

Out of Utah's more than 2,600 children in foster care, 1156 are age 14 and older. Between 300 and 400 of these teens do not live in a family setting. -Utah Foster Care

Kelly Peterson, CEO of the Utah Foster Care Foundation, said unfair stigmas surround teenagers in foster care and that's why they started this new campaign.

"There's the message out there that teenagers can be difficult, or there's delinquency. But a lot of our teens come into our care for the same reasons their younger siblings come in for and it's for abuse and neglect."

Littlepage says teens in foster care often face a bleak future. "It feels like you are almost given a scarlet letter when you become a foster child," said Littlepage.

According to the Pew Charitable Trust Report within two years, six out of 10 foster care kids who age out of the system will be homeless, incarcerated or dead.

Peterson said foster care teens in Utah face better odds because they are given financial support and aid until the age of 21, but she said they still need to know someone cares about them.

"To think that they can go out and live independently in a society today without any support--that's not ok."

Fostering a teen
The #1 reason families choose not to foster teenagers is because they fear the children have done something to "land them in foster care". But the truth is teens, like most other children in foster care, are typically in foster care due to neglect or abuse in their homes. - Utah Foster Care Foundation

Miguel Khecan, 24, said his foster care parents gave him support, stability and real-life education when he entered the system at age 17. "They put that seed into my mind that I could be whoever I wanted, whoever I needed to be because there are no limitations in this world for us."

Khecan will graduate from Utah Valley University in April and said his foster care parents are still just a phone call away. "They take care of me whenever I call them. I don't need the financial support of course, but they'll call me to see how I'm doing."

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Utah Foster Care Foundation and how you can.

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Candice Madsen


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