Garfield County needs more foster parents
Colorado Department of Human Services says the state is suffering from a severe shortage of foster homes. The state estimates that it needs about 1,200 new foster families to sign up in the next couple of years to meet the need.
That includes Garfield County, which is feeling the pressure of too few foster parents to take in children removed from their homes for protective reasons. Currently, Garfield County has about 50 children living in out-of-home care.
Statewide, there are only about 2,000 foster families. Garfield County has 10 general foster homes, and 10 “kinship” foster families, which are relatives of the foster child.
Susan Garcia, a unit manager with the Garfield County Department of Human Services and a leader of the Garfield County foster care program, said the county could really use 10 to 20 more foster parents to meet the need.
“Garfield County Department of Human Services staff strives to keep children in our temporary custody in their own communities where they have more frequent opportunities for positive interaction with their families, and to maintain the connections that are so important for them to thrive,” said Mary Baydarian, Garfield County DHS director. “Foster parents are vital partners in achieving this reality.”
Problems arise when there aren’t enough foster homes locally to house these children, such as having to place children in foster homes outside of the county.
While the Garfield County DHS works hard to keep children near their home communities, the department currently has 10 kids placed outside the county. Six are on the Front Range.
The first goal of the foster program is to eventually reunite these children with their parent or parents. That becomes far more challenging if the child has to live outside the county.
“It’s important for kids to stay in their community and home school,” Garcia said. “It’s already disruptive enough that they have to leave their homes.”
The majority of referrals for foster children that Garfield County receives are from Rifle and Parachute.
Parachute has only one foster home, while one woman in Rifle has fostered three different sibling groups at a time, along with her own two children, according to DHS officials.
That’s another impact of not having enough foster families to go around; the ones who are already taking in children are taking in even more.
Garcia has also noticed a trend in Garfield County of DHS having to place higher numbers of siblings. In earlier years, the program was placing only one child or a pair of siblings, she said. More and more, DHS must place larger groups of three to five siblings.
Statewide, CDHS is calling for more Hispanic, black, LGBTQ and Native American foster parents.
In Garfield County, only three general foster homes have bilingual parents. Along with Hispanic and bilingual foster parents, Garfield County also needs more foster homes that can care for children with special needs.
And, ideally, Garfield County could use foster families in each part of the county, to more evenly cover the different communities.
“Kids are resilient,” said Luis Guzman, acting director of the CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families.
“Even if a child experiences trauma at a young age, they can reach their full potential with the support and love of dedicated adults,” she said. “We can’t allow so many Colorado children to end the day without a safe place to sleep.
“We need adults from all communities and backgrounds to step up and help our kids,” Guzman added. “You don’t have to be a perfect [parent] to be a foster or adoptive parent. All that matters is that you are ready to make a difference in a child or teen’s life at a time when they need you the most.”
For more information about becoming a foster family in Garfield County, visit tinyurl.com/garfieldfoster, or call 970-625-5282 ext. 3120.