SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert has declared June World Refugee Month in Utah to celebrate the diversity refugees bring to the community through dance, music, food, arts, crafts and sports.
A series of events arranged by different agencies are planned at various locations throughout the month. Catholic Community Services is among the participating organizations.
"June 20 is Refugee Day for the unaccompanied foster refugee children and we will be celebrating the youth in the Catholic Community Services foster care program," said Aden Batar, CCS Immigration and Refugee Resettlement director. "It is an educational and awareness day for the community. We have 70 children in the program and they come from different parts of the world, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burma, Iraq, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries. They are refugee children, children who have been trafficked or smuggled into this country. Some of them will share their stories and provide entertainment with their ethnic dances."
All the foster children have legal status when they come to CCS, said Batar. "We enroll them in school to make sure they receive their GED or high school diploma if they are under 18. They can remain in our foster care program until they are 21."
The program is very successful. "Last year 15 youth graduated from high school and are now pursuing a higher education," Batar said. "We teach them how to live independently and become self-sufficient. By the time they leave the program they already have a full-time job. We always try to reunite them with their families, but if we cannot find their families, they usually have bonded with their foster families."
CCS is always in need of foster families to care for the children coming into Utah and into the foster care program, said Batar. "We help families get their license and the training they need. There are only 15 such programs in the United States and this is the only program of its kind in Utah."
For information on World Refugee Month Events, visit www.utahrefugee.org.