“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.” This oft-quoted proverb conveys in a few words the concepts underpinning the Indian student placement program of the Church.
Each year, approximately five thousand Latter-day Saint youths learn how to “fish” by living with Latter-day Saint foster families. The youths say temporary goodbyes to their Indian families for the duration of the school year and give warm hellos to their new foster families, with whom they live, work, play, and pray while attending school.
This unusual opportunity provides these Indian youths with educational, spiritual, social, and cultural advantages that are priceless! The youths, ranging between eight and eighteen in age, are those who evidence in their own communities an ability to compete in school and adjust to their social surroundings. Continued participation in the program is based upon the student’s upholding the standards of the Church, maintaining passing grades in school, and satisfactorily adjusting in the foster home.
In return, foster families are expected to provide free foster care, including all of the financial assistance that they would normally give to their own children. Participation is voluntary for both the Indian student and the foster family.
“How can I help?” is a frequently asked question concerning this program. Here’s how:
1. Recognize that now is the time to do something. Arrangements for the coming school year are made during the months of July and August.
2. After prayerful consideration and open discussion with all members of your family, if your family wants to serve as a foster family to an Indian youth, contact immediately your bishop or branch president, who will discuss with you various aspects of the program.
Assisting your bishop or branch president will be one of the fully licensed child-placement agencies that have been established in the United States and western Canada. The professional social worker of this agency will play a back-up role for your bishop by providing assistance where needed.
At the end of the school year, the Indian youths return to their natural homes and renew acquaintances and share with natural families the experiences of the preceding nine months.
The program is an inspired one. It changes for the better the lives of thousands of choice Indian youths. It also changes for the better many foster families who warmly welcome into their homes Indian youths who want help in meeting today’s world.