St.George, Utah - Caleb Barlow is the first to acknowledge that he's one of the lucky ones. Caleb left Colorado City when he was in his mid-teens. He followed in the footsteps of some of his older brothers who also left, disgusted with the control and the isolation of the polygamist, FLDS community.
But unlike his older brothers, Caleb found a new home with a host family in St. George thanks to the Diversity Foundation. The stability of the family helped him to overcome a series of barriers in the outside world faced by all those who are exiled from Colorado City.
Once called the "lost boys", these teenage refugees from polygamy are now both boys and girls. They are rejected by their family, friends and religious leaders. In the outside world, they find themselves among people they'd been taught to distrust and even fear. Caleb said, "When I first left, I was kind of scared."
Caleb was not only scared, but also feeling guilty and hopeless. The children of Colorado City are told all their lives that everyone outside the group is damned. Now they're on the outside. Shannon Price of the Diversity Foundation said, "These kids are dealing with emotional issues of feeling maybe guilty or feeling abandoned. I had one child who said his mother said the church was more important than he was. That's abandonment."
On top of everything else, "lost children" such as Caleb found themselves years behind other students in school. Glenn Mesa at Dixie High School works with kids from Colorado City who are trying to catch up and fit in. Mesa emphasizes that these are not bad kids, "I've never seen kids that are more respectful, hardworking, appreciative of everything."
If the kids will stay in school, the foundation can help with books, tuition and even some living expenses. But money alone is not enough. So now the foundation is seeking host families. Price said, "A host family is the best chance for their success."
Brent and Debbie Hoffines are Caleb's host parents. They are paid a stipend to help cover the additional expenses of caring for Caleb, but they didn't do it for the money. Brent said of their experience, "Our lives have been touched. And I think we've touched their lives too."
Debbie Hoffines added this advice for anyone thinking about becoming a host parent, "Be ready to get attached. Because you do and they start feeling like your sons."