Single foster parent has been caring for teens for 20 years
December 7, 2021
Twenty years ago, Cathy received a phone call that helped her chart a new path in life. A friend’s kids needed a temporary, safe place to stay until they could be reunited with their family, so she got certified as a foster parent to take care of these children. Having worked at a residential treatment center in her 20s and teaching for 11 years in Denver, Cathy was used to kids and many of those skills have served her well.
“I have a lot of structure because I have a treatment center background and a teaching background, but I'm lenient when I need to be,” said Cathy, who primarily cares for young men ages 14-20. “I also have expectations and hold the kids to those expectations. I push them when they need it, because I want to see them thrive.”
Cathy chose to focus on older kids who could be involved in sports, after school activities and clubs and have jobs to give her more flexibility as a working single parent.
Cathy wants the young people in her home to have as many normal life experiences as possible. She takes them to visit her family on holidays, to Nuggets games, on trips to the mountains, and on vacations. Cathy enjoys helping the youth in her home gain more independence and reach important milestones such as getting a driver's permit, learning to drive, and even getting a job and a car. Many of the youth who have been in her home return as adults and make lasting impressions on the youth that are currently in her home.
“They will return and tell the kids I have now, ‘Listen to her. You’re going to think she’s strict and all she cares about is rules but she knows what she is talking about. Now that I’m a parent and am on my own I appreciate everything she did for me.’ Telling the kids that really makes a world of difference,” said Cathy.
Cathy’s goal for every youth in her home is that they graduate from high school and have a plan for life after graduation.
“Sometimes they lack the ability to see the potential I see in them, so when they graduate, I remind them that they did it on their own. They beat the odds and overcame the challenges they had,” said Cathy who considers all of the young people who leave her home to be family. “Attachment can be however they want it. All of my kids know that I don't need a piece of paper for them to have a family.”
In addition to her adult son Jacob, whom she adopted as an adult, Cathy also has a few friends who come to her home to provide respite care so she can have a break from the kids and they can have a break from her. Cathy has found it is important to take overnight trips sometimes or go to dinner or a movie with friends. She has friends and other foster parents she can call when she needs to talk, and also enjoys spending time with her cat and three dogs. In addition to self-care, Cathy believes being involved in her local community and building strong ties to her local school district and her local police department has helped her and the young people in her home thrive. In addition to advising other foster parents to build a network of friends, family and community around them for support, she also reminds others that you don’t always see the impact you have made on a young person right away.
“I don’t think it takes a special person to do this. If you feel compelled or called to foster, you should just do it,” said Cathy. “If it doesn’t work out with a kid it doesn’t mean failure. I have kids leave my home in handcuffs or by running away, and I felt like I failed, but later they came back and told me that I made a difference in their lives.”