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CEDAR CITY — If you have lived any amount of time in Cedar City, chances are that at some point you have spotted Amy Bates driving her 12-passenger van around town.
Amy and her husband, Eric, are Utah foster parents. In addition to their two birth children, they have adopted eight children from foster care. And while raising their 10 children, Amy and Eric continue to provide foster care for other children in need.
They have cared for a total of 74 children over the last 19 years.
“I have been so blessed to be a foster/adopt parent,” Amy said. “Although it’s crazy and busy at times, I cannot imagine my life without all of the ups and downs that foster care has brought.”
Amy had a profound interest in foster care from a very young age – in large part because her grandparents were foster parents. “I have just always known it was something I wanted to do,” she said.
She even talked about her intentions on her first date with Eric. “(The) poor guy thought (a) big family meant four or five kids,” Amy joked.
Eric and Amy met, married and began doing foster care when they both lived in Virginia. Amy was actually taking classes to become a foster parent when they became engaged. They moved to Cedar City 16 years ago and have been helping the children of their community ever since.
Although it’s crazy and busy at times, I cannot imagine my life without all of the ups and downs that foster care has brought.
–Amy Bates, foster mother
Several of their adopted and foster children have special needs resulting from circumstances such as fetal alcohol syndrome, being shaken as babies, and neglect. Their van provides special accommodations required for the children's needs.
The family lives in a modest middle-class neighborhood, and Eric works for the state of Utah. They are not wealthy, and what Amy and Eric give is everything they have.
Why do they do it? Amy says the answer isn’t simple.
“I am constantly amazed by their resiliency and strength,” she said of her children with special needs. “They are all wonderful individuals who have a lot to offer.”
While she gives a great deal of herself, the resulting perspective has proven invaluable to Amy. “I see the beauty in the small steps rather than waiting for huge progress,” she said.
At the heart of everything, Amy is a mother to so many because her children need her and because she loves them.
As for the foster children that need temporary care, Amy and Eric’s efforts benefit more than just the children. Amy sees foster parenting as full-family support. Recently, she heard from the single mother of a child she fostered 10 years ago. The mother couldn’t miss work and needed someone to watch her child. Amy was glad to help out. “I love to support families. I love to see the kids and their parents be successful," she said.
Amy said she sees herself and biological parents as part of a team, working together for the best interests of the child.
She now works for Utah Foster Care as a foster-adopt consultant and is a passionate advocate for foster care.
“I feel strongly that every child deserves a family," she said, "something so simple, so basic, that we all should have.”
And Utah has a huge need for foster parents. “There are so many kids without a family in our own state," she said.
Sitting in Amy’s warm, comfortable home, with her children coming in and out of the room, it was clear she has given them, and others, more than just than food and shelter. She has loved and cared for them as individuals, and in so doing has changed the course of their lives.