SALT LAKE CITY — For nearly 30 years, minors who are refugees, asylees, special immigrant juveniles and victims of human trafficking have been helped through the Refugee Foster Care Program of Catholic Community Services of Utah.
“This is the only program in the state of Utah and only one in a handful across the country,” said Danielle Stamos, public relations and marketing director of CCS.
This year, one-third of these minors will be coming to Utah from South America; the others will come primary from Africa, Miramar, Iran and Afghanistan, said Meg Buonforte, coordinator of CCS’ Refugee Foster Care Orientations.
These minors come alone “either because their parents have died or are unable to take care of them or have disappeared,” Buonforte said.
Through the Refugee Foster Care program, minors are placed in foster care homes or group homes, and they receive the same services as the children in the Utah foster care system.
“The requirements are the same as if you were foster caring for the state of Utah, … but we have extra training and more information for cultural diversity,” Buonforte said.
Among the types of services available through the Refugee Foster Care program at CCS are legal and immigration assistance, cultural activities/recreation, financial support for housing, food, clothing, and other necessities, medical care case management, independent living skills training, education, ESL, tutoring, job training and career/college counseling.
“This program literally is saving these children’s lives, since they have no other options but to be warehoused in refugee camps for the rest of their lives,” Stamos said.
All the youth who are part of the program stay in it until they turn 21.
The refugee foster care program “gives the opportunity to families to step in and help someone in need,” Buonforte said.
“It’s amazing that someone can make such an impact in someone’s life by being a foster parent and taking them into their home and giving them a childhood and the family life that they, in some cases, have never had before,” Stamos added.
CCS is offering several informational sessions for people to learn about how to become a refugee foster care parent (see the list, above). The presentations will be given in both Salt Lake City and in Ogden.
“We encourage everyone to attend an orientation just to find out if it’s something that they are interested in,” Stamos said.
The sessions are an opportunity for people to learn more about the program and to evaluate whether or not they can become a foster parent who can provide for the needs of the youth, Buonforte said.
“I very much value having people that feel that taking care of these people is not a job, it is a calling. … It is a blessing to have enough to be able to give to someone else,” said Buonforte, adding that “Those parents, along with the training that we provide, have had a lot of success. It’s going to be challenging to have a youth that is not that young learn what is it to go to school regularly, what it is to be part of a family, have parents. … Through the more challenging times it’s wonderful that you have a faith and meaning in being able to give back.”
Catholic Community Services of Utah offers numerous Refugee Foster Care Orientations. RSVP is required; call 801-428-1283 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, visit https://ccsutah.org/programs/refugees/refugee-foster-care
Northern Utah Orientations at 2504 F Ave., Ogden
April 12, 6-8 p.m.
May 9, 6-8 p.m.
June 14, 6-8 p.m.
Salt Lake City Orientations at 745 East 300 South, SLC
April 14, 10 a.m. to noon
May 3, 6-8 p.m.
June 7, 6-8 p.m.
Aug. 9, 6-8 p.m.
Sept. 6, 6-8 p.m.
Oct. 7, 10 a.m. to noon
Nov. 8, 6-8 p.m.
Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m.