Stitching families together one quilt at a time
The main goal of the Garfield County foster care program is to help families and parents get back on their feet so they can be reunited with their children. Susan Garcia, FEAT (Family Engagement Assessment Team) Manager, said foster care can often be thought of as taking children from families, but that is a misrepresentation of the work they do.
“I think that people don’t realize how hard we work to work with the birth parents of the children…and it’s only an extreme incidence that we place kids in foster care. We have a bad reputation of…wanting to take kids away from their families and that is not our intent at all,” Garcia said.
There are also misconceptions on the credentials needed to become a foster parent. Lindsay Zimmer, a foster care coordinator and adoption caseworker for the county, said things like being married, owning a house or having double income aren’t requirements that need to be met in order to foster.
Becoming a foster parent doesn’t guarantee the future adoption of a child by any means. Garcia said fostering is a full-time job and many families don’t join the program planning to adopt.
“A lot of our foster parents who may have adopted multiple times didn’t get into this to adopt,” Garcia said.
Erin Niebla, a foster parent turned adoptive parent said a positive attitude and openness play a large role in the success of foster families.
Niebla and her husband Edgar worked with the Garfield County foster department for three years. Within that time they adopted two girls, ages 3 and 6, who are now a permanent part of their family. Niebla said the “right time” to become a foster parent doesn’t exist and that others who may be unsure of whether or not they qualify shouldn’t continue waiting for it.
“If you are waiting for the perfect time to become a foster parent that perfect time will never come….you don’t need to have a perfect home, you don’t need to have a perfect family but you do need to have an open heart. That’s really what it is. As long as you are willing to learn the department is more than willing to work with you,” Niebla said.
National Adoption Day
Every year, Nov. 21 is National Adoption Day and coincides with the two-year adoption anniversary for Niebla’s younger daughter Lillian. Lillian, or Lily as Niebla calls her, is 3 years old and was the family’s second foster placement and stayed with them for about a year and a half before her adoption. Her second daughter was adopted this past summer and just turned 6. For safety reasons Niebla requested her name not to be mentioned.
Throughout Niebla’s time fostering in Garfield County there would be children who lived with her and her husband who may have only been there for a month or two before returning to their families and saying goodbye.
“Reunification is difficult because you do get attached to these kids. But all of these kids need someone to be attached to in a healthy, safe way. We’re really fulfilling that need for them. It wouldn’t be honest if I said it doesn’t make you sad when they leave but there’s also a bittersweet joy to it,” Niebla said.
Garcia said every time a child is adopted the department celebrates it, but since Covid-19 started all adoptions have been virtual. This hasn’t stopped a local quilting club that wanted to start stitching for a bigger cause.
“The quilting club had reached out to us because they wanted to give back to the community. They wanted to give these quilts as a transition for something they can carry into their adulthood to mark their adoption,” Garcia said.
Zimmer, who also enjoys crafting, makes adoption boards for children and their families to commemorate the special event.
“I ask them what they want the boards to look like, mostly it’s like… ‘I’ve shared their home for this many days but today I share their last name,” Zimmer said.
Both Garcia and Zimmer agreed that providing the permanency of finding a safe home for a child is one of the most rewarding parts of their jobs. The County is always looking for more foster families to join the program. Interested individuals or families can learn more by visiting the Garfield County Human Services website.
“Every child deserves permanency and wellbeing. We don’t want to see children languishing in foster care without permanency…(National Adoption Month) is to celebrate people having their forever family. To have a place they can call home,” Garcia said.
Adopted children Charlotte and Urijah pose with specially made quilts donated from local crafting group.
-Volunteering your time to tutor kids
-Donating gift cards or rec center passes
-Acknowledging adoptive or foster parents for what they do
-Providing respite care, a break for the families for anywhere from six hours to a weekend off
-Donating gently used infant supplies or kids’ items
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