Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Foster Care Information

For specific information on becoming a foster parent or respite care provider for Larimer County, please contact:

Children & Family Services Division
Larimer County Department of Human Services
2555 Midpoint Drive, Suite E
Fort Collins, CO 80525

Should YOU Become a Foster Parent?

  • What are your beliefs and attitudes about foster care?
  • What are your beliefs and attitudes about adopting from the child welfare system?
  • What are your reasons for becoming a foster or foster/adopt parent?
  • Are you ready emotionally and is your home ready?
  • What impact might fostering have on your own family? What if you end up adopting a child?
  • What age and behaviors of children vs. your own children would be the best match?
  • Have you talked to your own children and/or family?
  • Is it realistic for you to become a foster parent? Is it realistic for you to become an adoptive parent?

Definitions of Foster Care and Adoption:

Foster Care is a protective service for children and families. The children are provided a substitute family life experience in an agency certified home for a planned, temporary period of time. Parents of these children should receive support in working toward family reunification or an alternate permanent plan for their children.

The primary goal of foster care is family reunification. If this is not possible, then an alternative permanent plan is followed.

Foster parents have the responsibility of helping children and their parents achieve this goal. Foster parenting then, is not a lifetime commitment to a child/adolescent, but a commitment to be meaningful to a child's lifetime. Foster care often means "families helping families."

Adoption is the method approved by law to establish the legal relationship of parent and child who are not related by birth, with the same natural rights and obligations that exist between children and their birth parents. It is a way of securing permanent families for children who need them. Any consideration of adoption occurs only after all comprehensive efforts at returning the child to their birth parents and/or birth family, are exhausted. The majority of children we serve that are currently legally eligible for adoption are older children, children with special needs, or children that are part of a sibling group. The average age of these children is 9 years old. Specific policies regarding foster parents as an adoptive resource are available from the Larimer County Department of Human Services.

Concurrent Planning Families are families that are willing to support the reunification plan, and then if that does not come to fruition, they are willing to open up their hearts and homes to adoption. The majority of children adopted from our program are adopted by concurrent planning families. Our preference is to place children under age 6 with concurrent planning families so that they do not have to move from a foster home to an adoptive home if they are unable to reunify with their birth family. For those families interested in adopting infants, toddlers and pre-school aged children, signing up to be a concurrent planning family will result in your family adopting more quickly. Our goal is to find families for children, not children for families.

About The Foster Care Program:

The Foster Care Program provides recruitment, training, certification, and retention services for family foster care providers. Family Foster Homes provide temporary substitute care for children, ages 0 through 18, who have been removed from their families due to physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, or if the parent is otherwise unavailable. Foster parents offer day to day care and guidance until the child can be reunited with his or her birth family, move to a kinship family or permanent adoptive home, or emancipate. Caseworkers work closely with foster parents to identify and meet the special needs of the child(ren). The children are covered by Medicaid insurance and the foster parents are given a monthly stipend to help reimburse the cost of their care.

Foster parents are the people who, having come to understand all of these realities, choose to become the substitute families for these children in need. Foster parents provide the daily basics: food, clothing, and shelter, as well as the love, stability, guidance and discipline that all children need. Foster parents do all these things knowing that the child may only be with them for a short time. They know that foster parenting will not make them rich or famous. Foster parents are people who believe that children are worthy of their best efforts every day.

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Foster parents are people. They represent different ages, races and income levels. Many foster parents are married, but there are single foster parents too. Non-traditional families, such as gay and lesbian individuals/couples are also foster parents. Many foster parents have biological or adopted children living at home. Some have never had children of their own, and, still others have raised their own children to adulthood. There are foster parents who go to your church, work with you at your office or factory, or live in your neighborhood.

The basic requirements for becoming a foster parent generally include that you:

  • are 21 years of age, or older;
  • are in good physical and emotional health;
  • meet state and local requirements for housing safety, space and equipment;
  • have the skills, attitude and stamina to effectively deal with the many behaviors and feelings displayed by children and youth;
  • have a non-punitive attitude and can demonstrate some level of acceptance toward the birth parents of the children in care;
  • can work cooperatively with the representatives of the Department of Human Services and other team members;
  • are accepting of the temporary nature of foster care and can help a child transition back to his family or move on to a permanent or adoptive placement.

Children and youth may need foster care placements for a variety of reasons:

  • they have been emotionally, physically or sexually abused;
  • the physical or mental incapacity of their parents;
  • they are abandoned;
  • the drug, alcohol or other chemical abuse by their parent;
  • the child's behavioral or emotional problems; or,
  • the separation, divorce or death of their parent(s).

Children and youth needing foster care placement come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds; from every race, religion and nationality - and every age from birth to young adulthood.

Some children and youth may need specialized foster care services.

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All children and youth in foster care require specific considerations from foster or foster/adoptive parents

Emotional considerations: Separation from their home, family and friends is traumatic. Foster parents help ease the hurt and pain that separation can cause.

Behavioral considerations: Separation reactions vary - some children withdraw, others act-out at home, school and in the community. Foster parents help cope with the hurt, anger and grief the child or youth is experiencing.

Special needs considerations: Some children and youth bring some special needs with them into foster care placements - specific medical, emotional or physical needs, including pregnancy. Foster parents may need special training or support services.

Children with disabilities: We have a special sub-program to accommodate children with disabilities. The purpose of the Developmentally Disabled/Medically Fragile Program is to provide experienced and skilled foster homes for children/youth needing out of home placement who have such special needs. The program focuses on the recruitment, certification, education, retention, and support of foster parents who have experience and knowledge of the special needs of children who are developmentally delayed/disabled and children who are medically fragile. The program also will assess and monitor the accomplishments, challenges, and goals of the child/youth placed in the foster homes participating in this program. Foster homes within the program will receive a higher reimbursement in connection to the specialized services provided.

Sibling groups: Some children have brothers and sisters. We try if at all possible to place siblings together. Sometimes they are close in age, and sometimes there is a gap in age (for example, a 2 year old and their 12 year old sibling). We need families that can accommodate all types of sibling groups.

Adolescents: One of our biggest needs is having foster homes that specialize in adolescent issues. Our goal is to develop specialized homes in Larimer County in which to place "high-risk" adolescents in order to have youth remain in the community and connected to support systems.

Children of color: Statistics show that children of color are over-represented in the child welfare system. For example, according to the Child Welfare League of America, "Although 15% of American children are African American, black children comprise 32% of the 510,000 children in foster care (nationally), and they have consistently lower rates of adoption. On average, black children stay in foster care nine months longer than white children. The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and the Interethnic Placement Act (IEPA), passed in 1994 and 1996 respectively, were enacted to prevent children from languishing in out-of-home care while child welfare agencies found foster or adoptive parents. The law specifically prohibits public child welfare agencies from delaying or denying a child's foster or adoptive placement on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In other words, the laws prevent matching a child's race with that of his or her foster parent." We need families that are open to becoming a multi-cultural family and are open to understand the impact of trans-racial placements. Families that can help teach self-esteem, and are open to developing and promoting positive cultural/racial/ethnic identity in children. Bi-lingual families are also a big plus!

Some Facts

  • Foster parenting is a commitment to help a child and family through an especially difficult period by providing consideration, understanding and guidance to the child;
  • Foster parents may decline a particular placement if they feel the placement is inappropriate for them or for meeting the specific needs of the child;
  • Foster parents do receive some financial support - a modest monthly reimbursement to cover basic room, board and clothing expenses, plus coverage for medical, dental and mental health expenses through Medicaid. Foster parents are not paid for their services;
  • Foster parents may be able to adopt a child in care, however, the goal of foster care is to return the child or youth to his or her family as soon as possible. Again, any consideration of adoption occurs only after all comprehensive efforts at returning the child to their birth parents and birth family, are exhausted.

The Role Of The Foster Parent

How is foster parenting similar to parenting your own children?

  • Provide daily care and supervision of a child
  • Provide for child's basic physical needs
  • Work with schools, medical personnel, and other professionals
  • Guide child's development in all areas: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, etc.
  • Provide structure, rules, and discipline
  • Teach values and self-direction
  • Model appropriate family relationships

How is foster parenting different from natural parenting?

  • Must accept child at a variety of developmental levels which may not match his/her chronological age
  • Must accept having only limited time working with the child
  • Must accept agency/department involvement and responsibilities
  • Must comply with certification standards
  • Must keep records
  • Must work with birth parents or family (if appropriate)
  • Will be able to make only limited decisions
  • Must respect confidentiality
  • Must respect and nurture the child's cultural, social and religious background
  • Must report changes in family household to the agency
  • Must be able to offer flexibility and follow though in caring out the objectives of the case plan (transportation, visitation, therapy, etc.)

How is foster parenting similar to a job?

  • Have distinct duties and responsibilities
  • Negotiates with "employer" (Department of Human Services)
  • Held accountable
  • Works with other professionals
  • Keeps records
  • Maintains confidentiality

How is foster parenting different from a job?

  • Involves the entire family
  • Requires warm environment, involving love and commitment
  • "On duty" 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year
  • Requires high level of job interpretation and autonomy

Becoming a Foster Parent

To become a Foster Parent you will need to:

  • Make the initial call to the Foster Care Recruitment Coordinator at 970/498-6959. A packet of information will be sent to you for review.
  • Attend a two-hour Orientation session given by the Agency. Orientations are held each month, generally one evening per month and one weekend day per month. You are only required to attend 1 two hour orientation session. The Foster Care Recruitment Coordinator will provide you with the dates, times and locations of upcoming Orientation sessions.
  • Participate in the First Family Consultation process to get started on the required paperwork, including background checks, health evaluations, etc.
  • Participate in a walk-through of your home to assess any changes needed to insure the safety and well-being of children placed in your home, as well as to comply with the Colorado Department of Human Services Rules and Regulations.
  • Complete CPR/First Aid training.
  • Attend and complete the pre-certification PRIDE (Parent's Resource for Information, Development, and Education) training for foster or foster/adopt families<./li>
  • Complete the SAFE home study process and subsequent approval by our Certification Review Team.
Then, you are ready to go!

What Is Respite Care?

Respite Care is care provided to a foster child for a short period of time by someone other than their foster family. During this time the foster parents are temporarily relieved of their daily parental responsibilities for the foster child in order to rest and refresh themselves. Usually the care would be limited from several hours to several days or a weekend. With periodic time-outs, foster parents are better able to carry out the difficult tasks required of caring for children and youth with special needs.

While respite care is designed principally to provide rest and relief for the foster parents, the foster child also benefits. A temporary change of caregiver gives the child/youth an opportunity to build new healthy relationships and to experience a bit of independence. Quality respite care can nurture the youth's sense of trust and stability through contact with additional stable and caring adults and their families.

Most respite care is provided in the home of an approved Respite Care Provider. However, in some instances it may be more appropriate to provide care in the foster family's home.

Respite Care allows interested individuals and/or couples to provide care for children/youth who have come from abuse, neglect or other family dysfunction, without making the 24 hour/7 day a week commitment that being a certified foster parent with Larimer County requires.

To qualify as a Respite Care Provider an individual must be 21 years of age, undergo an orientation process including a home visit, pass a criminal background check, be CPR/First Aid certified, and attend 6 hours of training. The training will emphasize health and safety, and the care of children/youth that may have emotional, physical or behavioral problems. If you are interested or want more information, please call our Foster Care Recruitment Coordinator at 970/498-6959.

Foster Child Art Gallery (click sample for larger image, ~40k each)

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.