Stephanie and Blair Warren have had a long haul toward becoming a family. And now they are working to encourage others to become Foster Care parents.
Their story starts in Plain City where Stephanie grew up. Blair grew up in Soda Springs, Idaho.
They joke their relationship lasted longer than their matchmaker — Yahoo Personal.
“Yah, that we are on a winning streak because we are still around, and they are not,” Blair said.
They both found jobs in the trucking business. They worked as instructors for new drivers at a local company.
“We were really looking for a house, we looked and looked and all there was were crappy, run down houses,” Blair said. “We finally found one in Tooele. Nice and big and ready to go. So here we are.”
Both found jobs in the area, and with the house settled, they wanted to move to the next stage — starting a family.
“We always wanted to be foster parents or adopt a child,” Blair said. “But we both have fertility issues. But the big reason that we could not even foster is because we were not married.”
Then a miracle happened.
On Dec. 20, 2013, the Utah law changed and same sex couples were allowed to get married.
“We were both stuck at work and could not get away. In fact, I only heard because a friend called and said, ‘When are you getting married?’” Blair said. “And I said, ‘When we can afford to go to Washington state.’ But then she said, ‘But now you can here.’”
Blair and Stephanie were stunned at the unexpected — and thrilling — news.
“We were just so shocked that we were one of the first to allow same sex marriages — after all we are Utah,” Blair said.
So, on Monday, Dec. 23, Blair went to the Weber County Courthouse and stood in line.
“It was snowing and cold and I had to wait for Stephanie to come from across town,” Blair said.
The couple was worried that the state would put a stay on the legal documentation and their chance would be gone. They were worried they would miss a very small window.
“They finally opened the doors,” Blair said. “I went at 3 a.m. to get a place and was the 16th in line. There were thousands of people there.”
They finally met up. They raced from the courthouse across the street where marriages were being offered.
“When we went in and they were opening the doors, there were kids in there holding up signs in rainbows that said ‘Congratulations’ and the LGBT was there and it was so supportive,” Blair said.
The wedding took place so quickly that none of their families could come.
“We did have one friend that was able to come and take pictures,” Blair said. “We even had to find a stranger to sign our wedding documents.”
“When we got married, the look on Blair’s face was pure …” Stephanie said. “I can’t even think of another word to go with that.”
They both wore jeans to their wedding ceremony.
With their years-long dream come true, they could now focus on their next goal — fostering or adopting children.
“One of the first things we talked about if same sex was ever legalized in Utah was a family,” Blair said.
The very next day after the wedding, the couple called and signed up for Foster Care classes.
“They were welcoming and very excited for us,” Blair said. “We started classes and finished about a month later.”
The couple had to meet the usual requirements: background checks, home study and 32 hours in foster training credits. Then they waited.
“We waited three months, but it seemed too long to us! Would we get a boy? A girl? A siblings group?” Blair said.
They got a call about a 10-year-old girl.
“We were super excited and got set up with things for a girl. She was at the Christmas Box House and a caseworker brought her to us,” Blair said. “I was peeking out the window and my heart just melted, and it was love at first sight.”
The couple was able to finalize Haylee’s adoption a little more than a year later. They were thrilled.
Then there was distressing news: Blair found out she had cervical cancer. She went through physical struggles. Then the day she was going back to work, caseworkers called about a little boy named “Cubby.”
“Cubby” has several serious medical conditions that require almost round-the-clock attention. But the Warrens adopted him in 2017. They were delighted.
A little break turned into a long break and the couple considered going off the Foster Care list. But a week after they discussed their plans with a caseworker, they were asked to foster another child named “Rain.” Now they hope to adopt her soon.
With their family complete, the couple were then asked to consider helping other Foster Care parents in their work to support foster children.
Two different caseworkers talked with the couple about becoming the facilitators for the Tooele Foster Cluster. A cluster is a group of parents in the area who can come together for training and support. It takes 32 hours of training to become a foster parent. After each year, the foster parent needs 16 hours of training.
The state offers numerous classes each month, but they are in Draper. A cluster in Tooele makes it easier to do training here, meet with other foster parents and learn from each other.
“We were not really sure how the cluster would accept a same sex couple as leaders,” Blair said. “So we were a little hesitant.”
But they didn’t need to worry.
“We have had nothing but love and acceptance,” Blair said. “It really warms our hearts that we have seen so much of that.”
They went through state training and started the job.
“We just jumped in with both feet,” Blair said. “We plan training sessions that are relevant to Foster Care, schedule different presenters, keep track of who comes and do light refreshments and prizes for each of the sessions.”
They also plan one major party a year with a grant from the state. There are about 30 Foster Care couples in the area.
When a foster parent attends a training, they must sign in and the cluster leaders certify their attendance and the number of hours they trained, Blair said. Most of the training deals with issues children in Foster Care might be experiencing: stress, trauma and educational issues.
The couple wants to point out that the goal of Foster Care is to return the child to the parents, called reunification. If reunification isn’t possible, the state reaches out to other, extended family. If the child still cannot be placed with a family member, then the child can be adopted. Current figures show that about 30 percent of the children in Foster Care are adopted by non-family members.
Blair and Stephanie like to point out that anyone can foster: married or single and that sexual orientation is not a factor. A foster parent does not need to own a home; they can be renting their residence. They encourage all interested people to call the Utah Foster Care Foundation for more details.
“If you have room in your home or in your heart, it is definitely something to look into,” Blair said. “You can be single. You don’t have to commit to full time — you can do respite or emergency care.”
Respite care is when a child goes to a licensed Foster Care family for a short time. For example, a couple took a long weekend with their older child and their much younger foster child spent time with a respite provider.
When the Warrens go out, they tend to attract attention with two teenagers and a toddler with special needs.
“We are a very blended family,” Stephanie said. “We just call it our patchwork family. … But we all love each other, and we are doing the best we can.”