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SALT LAKE CITY — There are hundreds of children living in the foster care system in Utah. Finding them permanent and loving homes sometimes takes a little creativity. That's why three different community groups are working together to make it happen.
In the mountains above the Salt Lake Valley is Camp Tracy. Normally, it's used as a Boy Scout camp, but on Wednesday, there was a lot more going on than earning merit badges.
"I haven't been adopted yet and I really want to be adopted," said Wells, a 17-year-old boy living in the foster care system.
It's called an adoption party, and it has one goal: building families.
"Everyone is a little apprehensive about being here because it's kind of like speed dating or something like that," said Kathy Searle with the Adoption Exchange.
After seeing the success of similar parties in other states, they decided to give it a try.
"We thought, why not?" Searle said. "It might not be the best way to do it, but we haven't really come up with better other ways that work."
The Department of Child and Family Services, the Adoption Exchange and the Sugarhouse Rotary Club all work together to make it happen. They're now in their fifth year and they say it's making a difference here in Utah.
Sophie, a teen living in foster care, attended one of the previous parties where she got to know the LaForge family. They've since adopted her.
"You have someone that actually cares about you and stuff like that," Sophie said.
Sure, there's hot dogs, games and canoeing, but organizers say all of it serves as a way for the kids to really showcase their personalities. It also helps prospective adoptive parents get to know the children outside the confines of an office.
"We haven't talked to a lot of kids yet, but you talk to them to see how they are and see if their interests are the same as ours," said Dan Heiner, a prospective adoptive parent.
Nationwide, DCFS statistics are grim. Many children who age out of the foster care system end up in jail, homeless or dead within a year. It's something these community groups don't want to let happen here.
"If one child can find a family from an event like this, then it's a success," said Searle.
If you would like to know how you can help the many children living in the foster care system in Utah, contact the Adoption Exchange.