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Foster kids get help with a dose of reality

OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - The Utah Department of Child and Family Services held its annual youth summit today.
OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - The Utah Department of Child and Family Services held its annual youth summit today. 

The agency's goal is to help foster kids get the help they need, by facing reality.

For one Utah man, the summit has lead to success.

"Definitely need insurance," said Sammy Dao while walking to a simulated insurance office." He is a foster car alumnus who grew up in and out of foster homes.

"It taught me a lot of goals in life," he said.

Sammy started young.  He first entered foster care at age five when his mother was abusing drugs.  After years of home hopping he finally found a permanent place.  Then a run in with the law sent him back to foster care which is where he decided to make a change.

"I graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and I played sports in high school which helped me a lot," he said.

Right now, four thousand Utah kids are in foster care.  40 percent of those kids are teens.  That is why DCFS has stepped in.

"We want these youth to know that there is a future for them and give them some skills and tools and opportunities to have that future," Jennifer Larson said.

As the agency's adolescent services coordinator, she said foster kids often need reality training.  Without a permanent family, she says they often lack the skills they would get from caring adults. 

For that reason, DCFS offered reality training today, with a simulated budged complete with expenses and emergencies.  Foster kids were also connected with resources, information on educational and employment opportunities, and attitude training.

Larson said, "These events have to take place so that the youth can learn what they need to know to be able to survive on their own."

Sammy is surviving just fine.

While reviewing his expense options at a so-called grocery story, he told ABC4 that he has a job, a home, and he's engaged.  He's also studying Social Work at Weber State so he can pass on what he's learned. 

"To tell others that it's okay to mess up while you're in care," he said.  "Because later on you're gonna learn from that mistake."

That's a lesson from a leader that Larson says foster kids need.

"The thing that is going to make a difference is the meaningful adult relationships they can have," she said.  "That is the number one determining factor in whether or not a youth will be successful."

There are several ways to help Utah foster kids both young and old.  To be a foster parent find contacts and information here. To mentor a foster child you can register with the Utah Youth Mentor Project here.  You can also become an advocate for children in the system as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.  For more information click here




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