A request from the foster care system was made to the Blanding City Council on July 11. City Manager Jeremy Redd presented a request to allow free swimming for foster children at the Blanding Wellness Center.
The City of Moab allows foster families to swim in their facility at no cost. They have a list of the families and allow them unfettered access.
The City of Monticello also allows foster children to swim for free and offers discounts to the families who host these children.
Blanding was asked to allow foster care children to swim for free. The request was to allow families with a Blanding Wellness Center pass to add and drop foster children from their annual pass at no additional cost.
A family pass at the Wellness Center includes four people within a family. Each additional family member is $50 a year.
When foster children are placed with new families, the duration of their stay is unpredictable. A child could be with a family for six days or six months.
Joel Redd, who works for Utah Foster Care as a consultant, said that it is stressful when children are pulled from the only family they know.
Part of their path to move forward and become mentally strong almost always includes a form of exercise said Redd. He added that swimming is a great way for these kids to get that much needed time.
City Manager Jeremy Redd said he thought the idea is a good one, as it would encourage foster families to pay for an annual pass as well as extend a hand of friendship to these families.
David Palmer, who runs the city recreation department, said, “It is not too much to ask them to pay that” and recommended a continued add-drop ability so that the Wellness Center can continue to add and drop foster children as they come and go. Lyman said he fears that people may take advantage of a program like that. Palmer said he would support the City Council decision.
Councilman Joe B. Lyman said foster families do “fantastic things” but asked, “How many other people do fantastic things?” Lyman is concerned about other families in the community not getting the same perks for the fantastic things that they do. He urged the council to be careful about allowances for some groups and not for others.
Councilman Robert Ogle said he does not “like giving people special treatment.”
Councilwoman KD Perkins discussed her time as a foster parent. She said, “The money the state compensated me is not enough to pay for these kids.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Bowers, who has also been a foster parent, agreed with Perkins and encouraged the council to help support these families.
Councilman Taylor Harrison said he wasn’t sure how he felt but is concerned that residents would hear about the break and feel frustrated that they did not get a break. He said that he has also been a foster parent, but he still has to pay for his biological children to swim.
“I do have three kids and I have to pay for my third kid,” said Harrison. He encouraged council to take allow the Wellness Center to add and drop foster kids on a monthly basis. Palmer assured council that that is what the Wellness Center is already doing and not just for foster children.
Council is concerned about “where the line is” if they allow foster children to swim for free. David Palmer is worried about how it would work so people will not take advantage of the system.
The Council voted 3-2 to deny the request but said the Wellness Center can continue to let families add and subtract children who move in and out of their homes, as long as they are the legal guardians of the children.
One foster mother stated online, “I didn’t equate letting a couple of kids swim a few times for free as a hand out. I saw it more as an opportunity to be charitable towards someone that has a lot less and give them the impression that they can belong to something a lot bigger.”
Another resident stated, “I guess I don’t think that is the city’s responsibility. I get that they are coming from circumstances that I cannot even fathom, but giving them or anyone hand outs does nothing good for them.”
Many city residents flocked to the call, offering cash, fund raising, and volunteer hours to help provide the kids with swimming passes.
On any given day, there are approximately 40 foster children in the area that are in need of placement, needing a bed to sleep, food to eat, a roof over their head, and someone to take care of them.
In San Juan County, there are eight families willing to take the children. They range in age from infants to teenagers. Approximately 60 percent will be reunited with their families but 40 percent will eventually need permanent homes.
Joel Redd said he hears all the time, “It takes a special person to be a foster parent”. But Redd insists that is not true. Anyone can be a foster parent, he said, it doesn’t take a special person.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing,” said Redd, “if we didn’t have to ship children up north. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they would stay in town, with their friends, with their church and scout groups? Wouldn’t it be amazing if a community was truly willing to take care of the children. They are not the state’s children, they are all our kids.”
In other news, the council approved a resolution to amend personnel policies and procedures. This amendment applies to Blanding City employees who run for city office. The city council passed a resolution that will require city employees to resign from the City prior to taking the oath of office.
A city employee who is also a member of the city council would be his boss’s boss. The Council said that this blurs the lines of the workplace and can cause problems. Full-time city employees are welcome to run for city office, but they will have to resign from their job if they win.
The Council approved a new commercial waste management contract with Waste Management of New Mexico. The contract states that Waste Management of New Mexico is the only waste collection service in Blanding. The new contract saves the city $907 on the waste management bill and awards commercial properties a five percent discount on own trash needs.
Councilman Robert Ogle thanked everyone who was involved in the July 4th celebration, stating that the scores of volunteers make the 4th of July the success that it is.
Ogle would like to personally thank everyone, but the list is long. He added, “We want to grow, we want to get bigger” and asked Council for their recommendations.
There is concern about safety issues as the event continues to grow. The Council discussed options to make sure kids stay safe at the parade, that parking does not become an issue, etc. Jeremy Redd said the annual five day event is “not worth it if someone gets hurts.” The Council said they would love to hear from residents on improvements and concerns.