It all began 10 years ago with an early morning phone call for help. A family member of Ben and Amanda Baldonado was in trouble and five children were in need of immediate care.
The couple quickly responded and welcomed the children into their home. Little did they know at that time, but this would change their lives forever and begin their Foster Care journey.
As the Baldonados began caring for the children through a kinship program, they decided to explore the idea of becoming Utah Foster Care parents. After training, background checks and qualifications were met, the family quickly grew as additional children were placed in the home through foster care.
“I just want to provide these kids with a soft place to land,” Amanda explained. “Home should be a shelter from the rest of the world.”
Since their journey began a decade ago, the couple has housed countless children for various amounts of time. Foster Care children can be placed in a home for as little as overnight to several years.
According to Amanda, the time frame in which children remain in a home depends on the foster parents. “We have a lot of say-so in who comes into our home,” she said. “It is okay to say no. I think some people are scared to become foster parents because they don’t realize they have control over each situation.”
The Baldonados also feel that there is a stigma attached to foster care. Amanda explained that she has been told that foster kids are damaged. “Most of the kids we have fostered have come from damaged environments and are in the system for that reason. Not because they are bad kids,” she indicated. “The number one reason why local children are in foster care is drugs. Many of the (biological) parents are wrapped up in drug use and can’t take care of their kids properly.”
Time and again, the Baldonados have welcomed children into their home who are behind physically, mentally and emotionally because they have been neglected by their parents who abuse drugs.
One child who is currently in the Baldonado home is a prime example. The young boy is almost three, but functions at the level of a child only seven months old.
“When he first arrived, he didn’t know how to handle attention,” Amanda explained. “But since we have had him, he has learned to interact with people and thrives on affection. He has made many advances since he entered our home just before Christmas.”
Foster parents make a difference in children’s lives, but the kids also make a positive impact on the foster families. “It is hard to not become attached to these kids,” Amanda stated. “We are currently in the process of adopting a child we had placed in our home through the Foster Care program. There is by far more success stories than bad.”
Children who are in the program are covered by insurance and receive counseling services. Foster parents also receive compensation for meals, necessities and even mileage used in the child’s interest. Resources are readily available to those involved in the program and training is also at the hands of foster families.
“There seems to be a taboo about Foster Care,” Amanda indicated. “Too many people claim to have been burnt by the system. The Department of Children and Family Services helps with meals, clothing, activities and such. They truly worry about the kids. I think they get a bad name from outside agencies who don’t operate the same way. DCFS wants to help families, not hurt them.”
Over the years, the Baldonado family has created numerous success stories. Two that stand out in Amanda’s mind are the adoption of her child and the return of her five young family members to their original home. “You don’t have to be the perfect parent. Kids just need some place to call home,” she concluded.
With approximately 10 foster families in the local area, the need for additional foster parents is high. The goal is to place children in homes located in their community. Without additional foster families, this goal will not be reached and local children will be placed throughout the state.
For more information about becoming a Foster Care parent, contact Utah Foster Care at (435) 636-0210 or visit utahfostercare.org.