Our view: Routt County needs more foster families
Editorial Board • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Alice Klauzer, community representative
• Cameron Hawkins, community representative
Living in a mountain resort community like Steamboat Springs, we can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking life here is all powder days and bike rides up Emerald Mountain, when in reality, our community suffers from many of the same ills that affect towns all across the country. And one of those issues — the need for foster care families — has come to light this past week.
During the month of May — National Foster Care Month — officials with the Routt County Department of Human Services are encouraging area residents to consider becoming foster parents. In a May 14 article in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Lauren Rising, the county’s foster care coordinator, said there are currently four active foster families in Routt County with two on the way to becoming certified, and there is a need for more.
Statewide, Colorado has more than 2,000 foster families, and an analysis conducted by the Colorado Department of Human Services determined the state will need an additional 1,200 foster families in the next two years.
In Routt County, Rising expressed gratitude for foster families, like the Hozas in Hayden, who have opened their home to foster 11 children through the past 18 years. In an interview, the Hozas pointed out some of the myths surrounding foster care, including the misconception that foster care leads to adoption or that DHS is quick to “swoop in” and take a child out of a home.
Instead, foster care focuses on family reunification, and more often than not, a child is placed in a home temporarily while DHS provides the parents with the support, training and tools they need to care for their own children in a stable and safe environment, and in the best case scenario, the child eventually returns to his or her biological family.
Essentially, it’s the role of foster families to work with DHS to help the families and children in need. For the Hozas, the shortest time they spent fostering a child before reunification was 24 hours and the longest was 10 1/2 months.
Local DHS officials said they have no specific number of foster families they need, but instead, focus on securing at least one foster family in every population center in the county so that when a child has to be removed from a home, they are able to stay in the same school district. Right now, there is need for families in Oak Creek and North Routt, and DHS is also seeking Spanish-speaking families and families who are willing to care for different age children, especially adolescent teens.
The first step to becoming a foster parent is to contact the Routt County Department of Human Services in Steamboat Springs at 970-879-1540. There are no restrictions on who can become a foster parent when it comes to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. Foster parents need only be 21 or older, pass a background check, complete training, pass a home study and demonstrate a responsible, stable and emotionally mature lifestyle.
The most important prerequisite for anyone considering fostering a child is an open heart and a desire to make a difference in one child’s life. And once a person indicates a desire to become a foster parent, the local DHS office is there to provide resources, support and training.
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