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DENVER – Colorado officials are looking to recruit more than 1,200 new foster families to make up for a shortage statewide.
The Colorado Department of Human Services said it needs to add 1,247 more foster families in the next two years. The state currently has just over 2,000.
10,000 kids statewide were put in out-of-home care last year -- including foster care, group homes, and residential child care facilities -- and officials say that number continues to grow.
Currently, 4,889 children and teens need out-of-home placement.
Demand is especially high for families that represent various minority groups -- such as those who identify as Hispanic, black, LGBTQ or American Indian – in order to improve the diversity of foster homes and ensure that children can be placed in a home that is the right fit.
For example, children of American Indian descent must be placed with parents who are enrolled in a tribe and currently, there are only 10 such foster parents in Colorado.
And while there are nearly 2,000 Hispanic children in the foster care system, there are just 450 Hispanic foster families. Similarly, there are 200 black foster parents but 600 black foster children in the system in Colorado.
Though minority families are in high demand, officials say they encourage everyone to apply.
“We can’t allow so many Colorado children to end the day without a safe place to sleep,” said Luis Guzman, acting director of the CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families. “We need adults from all communities and backgrounds to step up and help our kids. You don’t have to be perfect 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.”
There’s also a need for foster parents who can take in children with special needs as well as older children and sibling groups who would otherwise be split up between different homes.
“It's a scary experience for kids to enter into foster care and move from their homes,” Katie Facchinello said. “We want to avoid it at all costs."
Facchinello is a spokesperson for CDHS.
However, there are times when doing so is unavoidable- that’s the case for more than 48-hundred Colorado teens and kids.
“Children are resilient, they can overcome anything if they have a positive adult in their life, and foster parents are amazing examples of those heroes,” Facchinello said.
Heroes like Emily Hendrix. She and her husband currently have eight kids under their Broomfield roof. This includes three of their birth kids, another they’ve adopted, and four they are fostering.
“I always knew that I wanted a pretty big family,” Emily said.
However, health problems prevented the Hendrix’s from having more children.
“I think I just wasn't done mothering people,” Hendrix said as she described why she took on foster care. “With eight kids at home, I definitely get lots of opportunity to mother people.”
It’s all about parenting, though some stereotypes assume foster parents are only in it for the money.
Hendrix laughed, “Unless you took a whole lot of kids and somehow they were really self-sufficient… I'm not sure how you could actually make money doing it.”
Facchinello with DHS also responded to the stereotype, “People seem to think that foster parents might be in it for the money, and that’s just not possible.”
Of the more than 20-thousand kids and families DHS serves in a year, Facchinello said 68-percent are helped in their own homes.
We know that isn’t always the case.
The department said 14 kids enter the Colorado foster care system each day, away from their homes while their parents get the training they need.
Facchinello said, “Reunification is the goal.”
The state has so far given $100,000 in grant money to local agencies to ramp up recruitment and officials said they plan to distribute another $100,000.
To learn more about fostering or adopting, log on to co4kids.org.