ST. GEORGE — First lady of Utah, Abby Cox, visited St. George on Monday to honor Southern Utah foster families as part of her Show Up campaign.
Through Show Up For Foster Care, Cox is working to promote education and awareness and provide resources for foster children and families in Utah. Cox has recently visited foster care locations across the state to hand out thank-you kits and give back to foster parents, including the 110 families that foster children across Washington and Iron counties.
“I think sometimes they feel unseen,” Cox told St. George News of the foster families. “They’re doing really, really important work and lots of times, it’s not acknowledged. And so when they (come) through, I’m telling them thank you by giving them this kit and they’re thanking me, and it’s very emotional because they’re telling their story and they’re feeling seen.”
Cox said she’s been touched by cards and pictures she’s received from foster children across the state during this campaign and added that the experience has been very meaningful.
The thank-you kits contained items donated by Southern Utah businesses including blankets, candles, spice rubs and puzzles. The kits were designed to reflect Southern Utah and included things families can use locally, such as coupons for free meals and services. The kits that were handed out in other parts of the state contained different items more specified to their region. Families who drove up to meet Cox also received individually boxed Pinkbox doughnuts and a Pinkbox t-shirt.
“These families need all the recognition that they can get because they deserve it so much,” lead foster-adoptive consultant with Utah Foster Care Ben Ashcraft told St. George News. “We really appreciate her coming and recognizing them, giving these gift bags. It’s gonna mean the world to those who get those gift bags.”
Utah Foster Care CEO Mike Hamblin added that the child welfare system couldn’t function without the foster families and their willingness to step up. Foster families receive a basic reimbursement to offset the costs of caring for children, he said, but aside from that, it’s volunteer labor.
“For them, I think the recognition is important, just to tell them we know they’re making a difference in the lives of children and families,” he said.
There is always a need for more foster families, Hamblin said, especially families who are willing to care for siblings.
“Utah is famous for having large families, and so the more that we can do to keep those children together, the better off it will be for them,” he said. “It will help to reduce the trauma of their experience, and everything revolves around that.”
Utah Foster Care is also always looking for diverse families from a variety of backgrounds so that they can match children with families who have the same lifestyle. The goal is always to be able to send the children back home to their birth families, and a foster parent’s job is to show up for the children and help them transition back home, Ashcraft said. Foster parents also need to go through basic training before they can accept foster children and pass a home study.
“If you can’t be a foster parent, there are other ways that you can show up to support foster families and children in foster care,” Hamblin said. “We’re just hoping that members of the community will engage with the first lady’s initiative and help these foster families by showing up and supporting them and the children they’re caring for.”
For more information, Utah Foster Care can be reached through its website.
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