Partner Profile: Investing in Foster Family Support with FosterSource

Fostering children isn’t easy. Up to 70% of new foster parents quit within the first 1-2 years. Cindy, a single mom and foster parent of two kids, understands how difficult it can be and found herself struggling with a variety of things related to foster care during the pandemic – from how to navigate child welfare systems to supporting her kids with special needs.

Thankfully, Cindy met Renee Bernhard, a previous foster parent and the founder and executive director of FosterSource. FosterSource located and paid for a therapist to help Cindy find confidence in herself. “From FosterSource I’ve gotten a lot of things, but what I needed at that time was somebody to help me learn not only what to do but that I could do it,” said Cindy. With the support she needed, Cindy eventually adopted both children.

This is just one of the ways that FosterSource helps Colorado foster families. 

Foster Source founders Renee and Brian Bernhard flourished as dedicated foster parents in Adams County. As their experience grew, Renee and Brian committed to caring for 10 children and adopting a beautiful son. Through their experience, they realized that more is expected, demanded, desired and needed from foster parents – way beyond what the county could assist with. 

The Bernhards started FosterSource 10 years ago first as a support group, held out of their home, for fellow foster parents. FosterSource has grown into a full-service nonprofit organization offering trauma education, relief services and therapeutic services to foster and kinship families throughout Colorado. The agency partners with the Colorado Department of Human Services, many of Colorado’s 64 counties, as well as dozens of child placement agencies, partner non-profits and schools. FosterSource supports foster and kinship families with relief services that provide supplies like beds and car seats, to assistance with rent, food, utilities and transportation; in-person and online training and education to more than 3,500 caregivers from 42 states and equine, virtual and in-person therapy programs like the one that helped Cindy. 

“Investing in the mental health of the caregiver has a huge impact in not only how they’re able to foster but how long they’re able to foster.” Renee

FosterSource launched a Family Advocacy program last year that supports foster or kin parents who are facing various challenges regardless of how long they have been in their role. Caregivers are matched with family advocates who create a meaningful service plan to meet each family’s unique needs. 

“Many times foster or kin parents don’t understand what they landed in when they begin caregiving,” said Bernhard. “Our advocates help them with everything from potty training classes, coaching them with budgeting and even just having an advocate in the courtroom. Oftentimes, the caregiver is the only one who doesn’t have someone at court proceedings explaining their options and preparing them for the next steps.”

FosterSource also recently launched an ambassador program in partnership with Cobbled Streets that provides one foster or kin parent in every Colorado county who will be a FosterSource resource guide and connection to the foster and kin parents in that county. The ambassador will host fun, in-person meetups like bowling or stand-up paddleboarding for families to meet each other and create a network providing resources, respite and support. Essentially, empowering caregivers to create their own mini FosterSource communities.

“Our mission is to create stable foster families and connection is one of the key ways parents say that they feel stable,” said Bernhard. “Child welfare is changing so much. Caregivers feel like they’re constantly asked to do more, and they feel like they’re constantly being judged which is unfair. They need support and education and that’s what we give them. 92% of families tell us that FosterSource helped them become better foster parents, that they’re better able to handle trauma-related behaviors and that they have a better relationship with the child in their care. It’s working.”

If you’re interested in supporting foster families, Bernhard suggests a number of ways to get involved including donating time, money or supplies to FosterSource and supporting foster families in your community. Learn more here:

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