This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you ever watched the award-winning film 'The Blind Side', chances are you'll never forget the thought-provoking exchange between Beth and Leigh Anne.
"You're changing that boy's life," Beth said.
"No. He's changing mine," Leigh Anne retorted.
And that right there, said Debbie Metzger, is the perfect synthesis of her life as a foster mom.
Metzger, a Utah-based Speech Therapist, has been fostering kids for almost a decade. What makes her experience so magical is that she specializes in helping children with behavioral and adjustment issues, kids who would otherwise remain in residential facilities or institutions because of these problems.
"I went into it thinking it's the right thing to do; I wanted to give back," she said. "But it ended up being the other way around; because the return on investment is amazing. For me, it's really been an extraordinary experience."
It's an experience rooted in the fact that Debbie can honestly say she has had a hand in transforming these kids' lives, and they too, have changed hers for the better, as they unknowingly play a part in shaping her into a more caring, loving and empathetic person.
While neglect and abuse have ravished these children's lives, selfless foster parents like Debbie show what love, structure and good professional therapy in a family setting can do.
I've seen it a million times," she said. "The kids thrive, and it's amazing. It is really beautiful, and that's why I keep doing it."
Debbie's passion is shared by two of her sisters who are also foster moms. Her colleagues Natalie Whatcott and Sarah Sanders also share this passion. In fact, Natalie and Sarah are so focused on playing a part in positively transforming the lives of kids who most need help, that the two of them founded Utah Behavior Services (UTBS).
The organization provides the highest quality behavioral and mental health services in Utah, wrap-around services designed to help families understand, cope with and work toward eliminating the behavioral issues a family member may have.
UTBS also arranges wrap around services for their non-profit, UTBS Heart, which specializes in serving children and youth in a curative foster home environment.
"Some children need to go into a very structured, therapeutic home to be able to learn the skills they need to go back to their natural homes, or to be able to live independently," Sanders said. "And to get these children to that level, we need look at the bigger picture. We need to focus on the entire family and how they function together," she said.
The family approach is at the very core of UTBS Heart and the effectiveness of this approach can be seen in the results - from the 15 year old with mental retardation who joined Sarah's family and developed vital communication skills that significantly enhanced his life; to the once aggressive 13 year old Natalie and her family welcomed into their home eight years ago and is today a well adjusted young man and still a loved member of the Whatcott family; and finally, the non-verbal, nine year old boy with erratic behavior who came to Debbie's home from a mental facility and after a few months of being properly cared for, medicated, given structure and love, he was mainstreamed in school, joined Boys Scouts and adopted into a family as a typical child.
These are not merely feel good stories, but proof of amazing transformations that happen when selfless people extend a helping hand to those who desperately need it and with the assistance of effective support groups and wrap around services are able to love them back to health. That, in effect, sums up the work of UTBS Heart.
"It's about compassion, tolerance and understanding Whatcott said. "And most of all, it's about the true meaning of family. That's what my kids and I are learning on this journey."
Making the decision to foster a child is certainly not one to be taken lightly. It requires even greater consideration and preparation when fostering children with special needs. Those who do take that journey will tell you it is filled with challenges, and is certainly not an easy one, but they will also be the first to tell you that with the right support, and services – like those provided by UTBS and UTBS Heart - it is immeasurably fulfilling, and the children in your care are more likely to succeed.
To find out more about their services and about how you can join them in positively impacting a child's life though becoming a foster parent, please visit http://www.utbsheart.org or contact +1 (385) 355-0655.