Colorado is giving families another reason to consider welcoming children and youth in foster care. The State will soon offer paid family leave to foster parents and kinship caregivers, so they can have more time to bond with the children and youth in their care within the first 12 months of placement.
Colorado’s new, voter-approved Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program, which started collecting premiums this year, will allow certified foster parents and certified and uncertified kinship caregivers (relatives, friends, neighbors and other people with a significant relationship to the child, youth or family who provide care and protection to children and youth who cannot remain safely in their home) to qualify for up to 12 weeks of partial pay replacement within the first year of the placement.
Currently, there are more than 3,600 children and youth living with roughly 2,147 certified kinship and foster families, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees the foster care program.
Starting in 2024, those families will be able to access paid bonding leave when adding a child or youth to their families. In order to access the benefit, foster parents and kinship caregivers will simply file for paid leave through the FAMLI Division.
“When children and youth are placed with a foster or kinship family, the caregivers often have very little notice. Extending family leave benefits to foster, adoptive and kinship families provides much needed time to help children and youth transition to their new environment, bond with their caregivers and for caregivers to set up childcare when needed,” said Minna Castillo-Cohen, the director of the CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families.
During their leave, the FAMLI Division will pay eligible foster parents and kinship caregivers up to 90% of their wages based on a sliding scale and proportional to Colorado’s average weekly wage. Low-wage earners will qualify for a higher percentage of wage replacement. Benefits are capped at $1,100 per week.
For information on what your FAMLI benefit payment would be, check out the Premium and Benefits Calculator.
Though foster parents and kinship caregivers who work for large employers may be currently eligible for federal unpaid bonding leave benefits, those parents must hope that their employers offer any paid time off for bonding. Without a federal paid family leave program, employers have had to shoulder the administrative and financial burdens of providing paid time off for new parents.
“Paid bonding leave can promote parent-child bonding, improve outcomes for children, and even increase gender equity at home and at the workplace,” said Tracy Marshall, Director of the FAMLI Division at CDLE.
Colorado needs foster families in every community. There is a new federal law, called the Family First Prevention Services Act, that seeks to ensure children and youth who cannot live safely at home are living with a kinship or foster family rather than in a residential care setting whenever possible.
May is National Foster Care Month. To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit CO4Kids.org.