More Foster Families, Better Support Needed In Colorado

May 22, 2019

By Ashlette Lopez

My experience with the child welfare system began when I was 4, when my three siblings and I were removed from home and placed in care. We desperately wanted to stay together, but my oldest sister was placed in detention, and the others were sent elsewhere. I remember crying myself to sleep in my cot, missing and worrying about them.

From early on, I always knew I wanted to help children in foster care, and my husband, Eric, and I have been able to do that both as foster and adoptive parents, and as advocates for change to improve the system overall. One night, we saw on the news that my husband’s cousin was going to jail. Knowing that the cousin had three children, aged two, three, and four, we felt we had to step forward. We went to social services to ask for the children the next day. The youngest child who had significant needs was placed with us.

We soon learned how important the foster care system would be for helping us meet our child’s needs. Our son had been exposed to drugs in utero and had been in a medically induced coma at the age of two after he ingested meth. When he came to us, we were told he had cerebral palsy and developmental delays. Since then, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and reactive attachment disorders.

Now ten, Ethan has made great strides in his development. He receives a number of therapeutic services, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and special treatments to address the trauma he has suffered. We could not have met all these needs without the support of the child welfare programs, some critical supports have continued even after we adopted him. In fact, supports such as these have allowed us to provide a family to 29 children in the years since we began this foster care and adoption journey. But there are more things that states like Colorado can do to improve foster parenting policies, so we’ve also spent time advocating for changes to the system.

In 2018, there were more than 4,600 children under age 18 in foster care in Colorado, and 666 of them were not living in a family setting. That’s a lot of children without a family to anchor them during the turbulence of childhood!

This May, we join the national CHAMPS campaign in saying thanks to all our fellow Colorado foster families. CHAMPS stands for Children Need Amazing Parents, and our foster parents are truly an amazing resource when kids are in need.

Children don’t end up in foster care by choice, but we can choose to provide them a safe, nurturing place while they can’t be with their parents. Governor Polis and Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) recently honored foster families in Colorado, and underscored the shortages we’re currently facing. We do need more foster families here in Colorado, and we need to do better preparing them for and supporting in this important work.

Ashlette and Eric Lopez, parents to 3 adopted children and five foster children Colorado Springs.

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