These Denver Foster Families Are Changing Lives (and so can you!)
posted by: Guest Blogger
In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, First Lady of Colorado Robin Hickenlooper and Reggie Bicha, executive director of CDHS, recently hosted an event to recognize five families from across Colorado for their dedication to Colorado’s kids in foster care. As recently as last October, CDHS estimated that 1,200 additional foster families are needed in Colorado by 2019.
A few related statistics:
- On a typical day in Colorado, 14 children or teens will enter foster care when living with a family friend or relative is not an option.
- Today in Colorado, there are 4,889 children and teens in an “out-of-home placement” like a foster family, group home or residential treatment center for their safety.
- Approximately 2,156 of those children and teens are living with a foster family.
- Last fall, CDHS hosted a series of town hall meetings and asked foster parents what they needed in order to be successful. CDHS heard again and again – more support, especially when it comes to paying for child care, and more information so our young people can get the services and care they need. CDHS went to work on finding solutions. With support from the Governor’s office and thanks to the testimony, emails and phone calls from foster parent themselves, Colorado counties are now able to prioritize child care assistance for foster parents and improve information sharing with the passage of House Bill 18-1348. CDHS believes that with these changes will encourage more people to foster and keep our currently certified families committed and active.
In addition to playing a critical role in Colorado’s safety net, each family is sharing their story to inspire others to help address the current statewide shortage of foster families. We’d love to give a shout-out to these foster families! (Note: due to privacy, foster children are not featured in these photos with their families.)
BJ and Sol Baumgardner – Monte Vista, Colo.
The Baumgardners became foster parents 14 years ago. Since that time, they have fostered countless kids and adopted three. BJ and Sol want to provide a home for young people living in the San Luis Valley, so they can stay close to home while in foster care. The Baumgardners speak passionately about their role as foster parents. First, they want the kids to know they are safe, then they get to know each child and understand their unique strengths – all while supporting reunification with a child or teen’s family. All of the kids in the Baumgardner home play sports and sing. It helps to build confidence, BJ and Sol say, but it’s also a great way to have fun and stay active as a family.
Emily and Jeff Hendrix – Broomfield
Emily and Jeff became foster parents to grow their family through adoption. However, Emily and Jeff think that one of the greatest impacts they’ve had as foster parents has been the positive relationships with the parents of children who have been in foster care. They have also connected with other foster families in Broomfield to create a support group and bring in experts to share trauma-informed parenting advice. Emily and Jeff both agree that children and teens who have been abused or neglected will be impacted by that experience throughout their entire lives, but they’ve also seen firsthand how resilient kids are. Each child or teen’s healing journey begins with a foster family ready to provide a home when it’s needed the most.
Carla and John Londo – Colorado Springs
Twenty-three years ago, Carla was working at a child placement agency when she heard about a teen who needed a place to stay that night. Could she and John help? Carla said yes, and they haven’t looked back. The Londos knew early on that they connected best with teen boys, so they made a commitment to each other, to the teens in their home and to their community to stick with these young men and help them grow and become adults. In the more than two decades that they’ve fostered, and after adopting 11 kids, John and Carla have learned that young people in foster care need love, but they also need to feel safe and to know that someone who cares about them will always be there to help.
Anne Marks and Ingrid Olson – Fort Collins
Anne and Ingrid had been friends for 15 years before Ingrid asked Anne if she wanted to become foster parents together. In the past, they had each thought about doing it on their own, but this new idea — two friends who didn’t live together and had never been parents becoming a foster family — sounded impossible. They, and Larimer County, made it work. Anne and Ingrid have found that they have different parenting styles that complement each other. The friends have plans to move to separate homes in order to provide permanency for two teens in foster care, but they’ll continue to serve as certified foster care providers and a family of friends.
Ann and Mario Perricone – Denver
The Perricones believe that everyone should give back to their community, and they give back by being foster parents. For the past 11 years, Ann and Mario have offered a safe, loving home for kids of all ages. Their focus is always on the child’s family — whether that means reuniting with a parent or meeting, and eventually living with, a pre-adoptive family. The Perricones currently do mutual care, which involves caring for a pregnant mom who is in foster care or a new mom in foster care and her baby. The Perricones choose to remain close with the mom of an infant they have cared for, and together, they speak about their experiences with potential foster parents who are going through the certification process.
For additional information, go to http://co4kids.org/foster-care-colorado.