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Inside Sources: Fixing foster care will help children find a loving home, says Sen. Lee

Utah Foster Care says all of its state funding will start going to The Adoption Exchange instead, starting this summer. Photo: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — Knocking down obstacles in the foster care system is needed to connect more children with loving homes in Utah and across the country, says Utah’s senior US senator.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson signed a proclamation declaring November as Adoption Awareness Month in the county. 

She is not the only one working to give more children a stable family.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee joins Boyd Matheson, opinion editor at Deseret News, on Inside Sources to discuss efforts to improve the US and Utah foster care system through the Joint Economic Committee’s Social Capital Project, which Lee chairs.

Lee cited two facts in his Deseret News guest opinion article:

  • The median length stay in the Utah foster care system for children is 13 months — one of the lowest in the country
  • 80% of children in the Utah foster care system who are in need of adoption are adopted within two years, a rate that outpaces all other states.

Lee said in 2019 there were more than 400,000 children in foster care in the country, which is higher than it has been in nearly a decade. But fortunately, far more Americans are looking to adopt than there are children in need of adoptive homes, he added.

Adoption in Covid era

“How has the foster care system been impacted by the pandemic?” Boyd asked. “Surely, that’s created some stressors and tensions in some homes and created opportunities in others.”

Lee said he doubts the pandemic would change the overall number of adoptions but agreed that covid has increased tensions in homes, making it more important now to reform the foster care system.

Lee cited a multifarious collection of different state laws for meeting requirements for adoption.

Wyoming, for example, prohibits children of any age from sharing a bedroom with a child of the opposite sex.

“Utah requires foster parents to hold quarterly fire drills with children and then report back to the state,” he said. “These safety standards, of course, are important, but some appear to be simply red tape rather than guardrails. That makes me worry whether we’re pushing a lot of good opportunities — a lot of good potential foster parents out of the way through this red tape that might be offensive to some.”

He added too much red tape has the potential to scare away those wishing to adopt children.

He said several faith-based foster care and adoption providers have been threatened or compelled to stop providing services because of their religious beliefs about marriage, which he said is not only a violation of the First Amendment but places a limitation on organizations willing to adopt children.

Infant adoption

Lee said children younger than 1 year are the largest group entering the foster care system each year. He added that some parents fail to meet the duties of parenting a child.

“Some families might well be better off and their children might be better served if the child had been placed for adoption at birth rather than being removed shortly thereafter because of parental abuse or neglect,” Lee said. 

Lee said expanding the understanding of what adoption is and isn’t, is vital to successfully reforming foster care. 

He said many expectant mothers with an unwanted pregnancy have incorrect or negative views about adoption, such as the birth mother will lose forever her right to contact her child or, alternatively, that they would necessarily receive contact from the child later in life.


With COVID impacting our social and domestic situations, it is more important than ever to watch out for children’s safety and wellbeing. If you notice child abuse or neglect, please reach out to the Utah Department of Child and Family Services hotline at 1-855-32-33237.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 11:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.