The Road to Reunification: A Foster Family’s Role

June 2, 2022

After volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Yvette Berrelez and her husband, Matt, decided they were ready to do even more to help kids in Colorado. Residents of Greeley, the Berrelezes took a leap of faith and became certified foster parents nearly three years ago.

“Our goal is always to help reunify children with their family. We take that very seriously,” said Yvette. “Anywhere a kid goes other than their own home is not their home. They want to be back with their family. They’d rather be with their family than anyone else.”

Yvette and Matt know their role as foster parents is important for both the children they care for and the parents of those children who are working on themselves so they can provide a safe and healthy home for their kids.

“A lot of people have this idea that it must be so hard to foster and that the kids must come with a bunch of behavior issues,” added Yvette. “We have not found that to be the case. Oftentimes, they just need some extra support, structure and love.”

For Yvette and Matt, that extra support includes providing a stable and encouraging environment for the children in their care. Not only do Yvette and Matt offer positive reinforcement to the kids in their home, but they also ensure the children attend all their doctor and therapy appointments, and school activities, while also managing any medications and their progress at school. They help them develop a schedule and feel a sense of structure during a time that may otherwise feel very uncertain and scary.

Yvette also ensures the kids have communication and visits with their parents whenever possible, and she prioritizes open communication with the parents throughout the process.

“It’s always helpful to get feedback from the parents. They know their kids best and can tell us what they like and don’t like,” said Yvette. “That helps us provide the best environment for them while in our home.” She emphasized that most of the parents they work with are just having a hard time with their own lives and need some additional support. “We let the kids know that their parents are doing everything they can to get them back,” said Yvette.

“As a foster care coordinator, I always remind foster parents that our goal is for children to return home to their parents. The Berrelez family has always been on the same page and it’s made a huge difference,” said Lizzett Dominguez, foster care coordinator for Weld County Human Services Department. “They just want to provide a temporary home for the kids and help reunify families.”

Looking back at their journey over the past three years, one experience has stuck with Yvette and Matt as an example of how fostering can lead to successful reunification. In fact, Yvette and Matt are still closely connected with the family today.

Paige and Michael, ages 10 and 11 at the time, stayed with Yvette and Matt for almost two years from 2018 to 2020 while their dad, Jesse, got the support he needed to be in the best situation to care for his children.

Yvette and Matt kept in strong communication with Jesse while Paige and Michael were in their home. “He was so supportive of Matt and I by talking to the kids on the phone to help calm them down,” said Yvette. “He was able to bring peace of mind to Paige and Michael and showed so much love to them.”

After a lot of hard work, Jesse and his kids were reunified. “Jesse has been using the skills he learned and the help he received from the classes and programs he was in to help him be a successful single parent,” said Yvette. “The kids love being at home and are on their way to a great future.”

Two years later, Yvette and Matt are still connected with Paige, Michael and Jesse. They talk on the phone with the kids weekly, help support Jesse when he needs it and have the kids over on weekends. Paige and Michael have even gone out of their way to bring gifts to Yvette and Matt on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and they are always invited to their birthday parties.

“They’re where they belong—at home with their dad. They’re happy there. Seeing them doing well and happy makes it all worth it,” said Yvette. “Their story has shown us that when there’s a really good team—the children’s parents, foster families and caseworkers—all working toward the same goal, reunification is not only possible but truly the best-case scenario for everyone involved.”

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