Wednesday’s Child: 19-year-old Kaleb dreams of being a paleontologist, hopes to be adopted
SALT LAKE CITY — Children over the age of 18 make up a small percentage of Utahns living in foster care, but it’s this age group that desperately need a family connection as they enter their next phase of life. Kaleb, 19, is one of those young adults who is getting ready for college and hopefully a career in paleontology.
“When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a paleontologist. Back then, I called it a dinosaur doctor — that’s what my mom said.”
At the Natural History Museum of Utah, Kaleb got to show off his impressive knowledge of dinosaurs while getting a behind-the-scenes tour from paleontologist Carrie Leavitt-Bussian, collections manager for the museum. Together, they looked at fossils collected in Utah, including the Kosmoceratops discovered in Grande Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
“This is the only one in the world and it’s about 79 million years old,” Leavit-Bussian said.
“Kaleb is a very intelligent, intuitive kid, and he really aspires to be a paleontologist. He’s been very interested in dinosaurs since he was little and it’s something he would love to do,” said Jynie Palmer, Kaleb’s youth connections advocate with Raise the Future, who accompanied him on his visit to the museum. “He’s going to start at SLCC in the fall, which is a goal of his.”
Kaleb has lived in foster care for many years. He worries about “aging-out” with no real family connections to lend support. “Aging-out” means the child is over the age of 18 and is released from state custody. While these young adults are still eligible for support services from the state, they are considered legally independent.
Kaleb said he would like to have someone to help him with this next step in life.
“Just someone to help me with independence skills and learning. Just someone who cares about me, someone that will pay attention to me and do stuff with me.”
“He’s been in foster care for a while, and at times, he loses hope that there is a family or parents out there for him that will care about him and love him. And he really needs someone who will be there for him and uplift him and just spend time with him,” Palmer said.
Along with an interest in dinosaurs, Kaleb loves hiking and playing video games. He also loves going to the library and learning.
“He loves to go pick out books and go through them. Sometimes I have to give him a limit because he’ll check out 50 books and that’s not an exaggeration,” Palmer said.
Palmer said Kaleb is more of an introvert, adding that he’s quiet until he gets to know a person, but then once he’s comfortable, he’ll talk your ear off.
“It might take a little bit longer to get that connection because he’s been through stuff and may not trust easily, but if you stick with him, he’ll connect, and he absolutely wants that,” she said.
Kaleb said he hasn’t given up hope that the right family or mentor is out there for him. He said it’s one of the reasons he agreed to be featured as a Wednesday’s Child. He hopes that family will reach out to get to know him soon.
“Something I tell him every day is he absolutely deserves a family,” Palmer said.
To learn more about Kaleb, please contact Raise the Future at 801-265-0444 or visit their website.
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