Helping HandsBy City Weekly Staff
With holidays fast approaching, many of us are looking for ways to give back to the community. The Starlight Program, a private provider that matches foster children with proctor parents and appropriate therapeutic treatment, hosts an annual fundraiser and project called Sub for Santa. "A lot of these kids have very little, if anything," owner and operator Bill Perfetto says. "We work with the community to see what we can get to make sure that each of the kids has something special for Christmas. The state provides roughly $30 per child for Christmas, but $30 doesn't go a long way."
In years past, community partners like Bingham High School have assisted in raising funds for foster children. "They've been amazingly generous," Perfetto says. "The student body group out there is just phenomenal." In addition to raising money for this event, the students at Bingham have also organized transportation to take children to see the lights at Temple Square during the holiday season.
Private service providers like this one are invaluable to children in need. The Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) has custody of many children who, for whatever reason, cannot currently live with their biological family. DCFS often utilizes these programs, depending on the child's needs. Starlight focuses on children who need customized treatment plans to deal with behavioral problems or disorders, emotional issues, abuse issues, lack of independent living skills and academic delays.
Perfetto, who spent 30 years in mental health with the Veterans' Administration before he founded Starlight 11 years ago, is proud of the work they do for the state's foster children. As a licensed clinical social worker, he believes the group's dedication to integrity, compliance with standards and focus on children's and parents' therapeutic needs sets them apart. "We do one thing and we do it well," he says. "We don't dilute the pizza sauce, so to speak."
Once the program finds the best possible foster family match for each child, it creates a plan for whatever additional services he or she might need. "We provide their clinical needs for their mental health and manage the entire process," Perfetto says. "We help them get ready to be reunified with their family of origin, or shape up the biological parents with different services, like peer-parenting. Depending on what the end-goal is for each child, we engage accordingly."
Through the program, therapists generally provide services to the child in the proctor home itself, to increase their sense of comfort and stability.
Perfetto enjoys being an independent business owner after his years of service with government. "I like the freedom to design treatment, to make staffing and business decisions myself," he says. According to him, the staff at Starlight feels like family, and is committed to helping this population of children.
They are accepting donations for Sub for Santa until Dec. 16. If you would like to assist with this project, or if you are interested in becoming a proctor parent, give them a call or check them out online.