When a caseworker becomes your friend

Photo: Chelsea Hill, left, with her daughters

By Chelsea Hill, Larimer County Foster Parent

Looking back, I’m not sure exactly why I became a foster parent. I always wanted a large family. My husband and I have four children of our own, but in my heart I always wanted to care for children who needed a good home. Foster care was the best way to do this.

Now, having fostered for over nine years in two different states, even though I can’t recall exactly why I became a foster parent, I do know one of the main reasons that I am still a foster parent today. That reason is Niki Jones. Niki is currently a supervisor in Larimer County, but we met over seven years ago when two of the teens I was fostering were on her caseload.

Niki and I bonded through our shared love and concern for the teens in my home. Both of the teens in my home at the time were going through the process of losing their own babies. Supporting these parents, still children themselves, through this difficult time built the foundation of my partnership with Niki.  Without knowing it, Niki was teaching me how to be a foster parent. She showed me how to love my foster kids.

Since those two teens, only a few other children in my home have been on Niki’s caseload, but she has supported me with many of the more than 20 children who have been long-term placements in my home. She has been there to support me every step of the way. I have called her late at night, on weekends and even during her maternity leave when there were urgent situations and I couldn’t get the help I needed somewhere else. She continues to advocate for me and the children in my home and attends meetings with me when needed. She shares my joys and my sorrows.

I have had my share of challenging and tearful days as a foster parent. I am with the kids 24/7 and sometimes it can feel like no one is listening to me when it comes to what is best for the children in my home. There have been a handful of situations where I have felt completely broken by a decision the department has made about my home or the children in my home, and unsure if I would be able to continue to foster children. That’s why I appreciate Niki’s support so much. She lets me vent, but also tries to explain the department’s actions and walk me through the court process.  I know that she will always give me her honest opinion, even when I’m wrong, and she will always help any way she can. 

Over the years, our partnership has become a friendship. The biggest impact of our friendship can be seen in the children I foster. They have more stability, because with Niki’s support we are able to postpone or avoid displacing children from our home. I am also a better parent to those children with Niki there to guide me, and support me through the process. 

Even though she is always showing appreciation for me as a foster mom, I know that I don’t thank Niki enough for everything she has done for me. She is my mentor, my therapist, my friend. I wouldn’t be a foster parent today without her.

Chelsea is ceritfied by Larimer County. Learn more about their foster care program. 

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