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Hard Times in High Country

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Overwhelmed foster care system faces crisis

“Mom, can ‘Joe’ come and live with us?” asked Karen Carlen’s foster son one night as he ate his before-bed snack. Carlen and her husband already had a full house after adopting her three nephews and nieces. But after hearing about Joe from her foster son, she could not turn him away. “That’s how it all started,” said Carlen.

Homeless student rate soars

A stunning 25 percent of Payson students are considered “homeless” by the school district, one of the highest rates in the state. The share of students living in unstable households, with relatives or in campgrounds and cars has jumped 10 percent in the past two years. “What’s particularly sobering is the comparison of our homeless numbers with districts many times our overall population — and not just affluent districts, but poor urban ones,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien.

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