Foster care is a fantastic system that's set up to help parents that are struggling and it's a great opportunity to help kids.
DUCHESNE COUNTY — The sound of a little boy's laughter fills the home of Todd and Randi Odell.
It's a sound the couple cherishes.
"We found out that we couldn't have kids, and so it was our way of having kids in our home," Todd Odell said, of the decision to become state-licensed foster parents four years ago.
"We recognized that there's a need out there," Odell added. "Foster care is a fantastic system that's set up to help parents that are struggling and it's a great opportunity to help kids."
The couple has welcomed 10 children into their home over the past four years, ranging from toddlers to teenagers.
Sadly, though, there just aren't enough foster parents like the Odells in eastern Utah right now.
Currently there are 134 children from the Uintah Basin in foster care, according to the state Division of Child and Family Services. Seventy of those have been placed outside the basin, because there aren't enough licensed foster homes in the area.
"When (kids) can't stay in the community they have to change schools. They change teachers. They change friends," said Keith Beard, a resource family consultant with DCFS. "It makes it difficult for them to have visits or contact with their parents (and) extended family.
"It just really disrupts their lives a lot more than if they could stay in the community," Beard added.
To try to address the shortage of foster care providers, the Utah Foster Care Foundation has put up billboards in Carbon, Duchesne and Uintah counties recently with messages like: "They're farmers, and foster parents."
"There's an urgent need for good families to care for kids in crisis in the Uintah Basin and throughout eastern Utah," said Faith Spencer with the Utah Foster Care Foundation.
"All rural areas of the state need good families," she said.
Odell will be the first to acknowledge that being a foster parent isn't for everyone.
"But at the same time, if you can do it, it can be a great gift," he said.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: GeoffLiesik