LOGAN – Almost anywhere there are kids, there are kids in need of a good home. Social workers are able to find a good fit for some foster children, but in almost all areas there is a growing need for more foster parents.
Cache Valley is no exception.
Becky Otsuka is the director at Quality Youth Services, a state-licensed agency specializing in finding quality homes for teenagers in the Logan and Ogden areas. Like many other organizations, it is experiencing a pressing, urgent need for help.
“We have a huge shortage of people that are willing and able to provide any kind of care for vulnerable kids in our community,” she said.
Otsuka added that Quality Youth Services operates differently than other organizations – it implements what is called proctor parenting. She said proctor parenting and foster parenting have similarities, but there are key differences. Unlike foster parenting, Otsuka said proctor parenting isn’t traditionally a pre-adoptive setting. Proctor parenting is usually short term – periods of time ranging from three to nine months.
“Our specialty is teenagers,” she said, “and a lot of what our tasks are is to help youth develop adult readiness skills, to move on from state facilities and state services and becoming adults independent of the state. When people think of foster care they think of these beautiful little six month-old babies, but there is a huge amount of children needing services in the state of Utah who are teenagers or younger adolescents.”
Otsuka said many prospective proctor parents are apprehensive about getting involved, fearing that it will cost too much, that the youth won’t be the right fit or that if problems arise they will be stuck in a difficult situation with no help. Otsuka addressed those concerns. She said families are reimbursed for the cost of care, so there is no financial burden. She added that every youth is screened to find the best possible fit for both the teen and the proctor parent. Should problems arise after placement, Otsuka said Quality Youth Services has staff available 24 hours a day to help.
“We have coordinators visiting in those homes weekly,” she said. “We have part-time staff that are there to help with some of the struggles.”
The staff is also available to help out in case of scheduling issues, like a dentist appointment while the proctor parent is at work. The team of support also includes a therapist, a treatment coordinator and a medication prescriber.
“I would love people in the community to understand that we don’t just drop off any youth and disappear,” Otsuka said. “There is a lot of ongoing support.”
About 70 hours of pre-service training is done with the proctor parents to help them prepare. That is another concern some have, that their skills are inadequate for proctor parenting.
“That’s part of our job as a certifying agent is to help people realize what skills they have,” Otsuka said. “We teach a huge amount of preservice training. We do ongoing training after a youth is placed. The concept that ‘I don’t have the skills is not necessarily true.’”
Many people, Otsuka said, think they may not be in a position to be a proctor parent, but volunteers can range from a husband and wife with two kids to a 30-year-old single working professional.
“The more families we have, the more personalities we have, the more interest that we have, the more youth we can serve,” she said.
Another major need is not just a proctor parent that can take in an individual, but someone that can take in multiple individuals.
“There are horror stories about young people with their siblings that don’t have placements together,” Otsuka said, “because we don’t have enough foster or proctor homes to take on a sibling group. If you can imagine, even if you are a 16-year-old boy and not being placed with your 15-year-old sister, it’s a hardship.”
If someone wants to become involved, Otsuka said that person should contact Quality Youth Services. She said the best payment she’s received in her years of working for the organization is having a former youth come back years later and thanking her for the difference the program made.