The term “Orphan” means something different to almost everyone you ask. So we wanted to share with you the problem, some misconceptions and some solutions to Pueblo’s ‘Orphan’ crisis. (For more on Colorado’s state wide information, click here.)
The Orphan Crisis
Traditionally an orphan is defined as a child with no parents, but we recognize that most children that find themselves in “foster care” or “the child welfare system” do have parents in some sense or another. Some of these children truly are orphans who have lost one or both parents. Typically, our state government does not want to terminate parental rights for children who have not been provided with an alternative parenting situation. Our state doesn’t seek to make orphans or wards of the state. Workers in the child welfare system in the State of Colorado typically agree that within a family is the best environment for raising children. Ideally their biological family, but when that is not possible they seek to place them with a suitable family.
We refer to this as a “crisis” because across the state of Colorado there are many more children in need of a family than there are families willing to care for another’s children. We have more churches in the state of Colorado than we have kids in need of care. If even one family in every church would become certified to do foster care there would be no more “crisis”.
- Colorado has an ‘orphan’ problem. The truth is that we have a ‘parenting’ problem. The Department of Human Services is not out to steal people’s children. When generations of children grow up in challenging economic circumstances with broken families, parents with substance abuse or in the midst of domestic violence it begins a cycle of unhealthy parenting. The government is required to step in when family dysfunction reaches a certain level. At Bridges we seek not only to train incredible foster parents but to equip our healthy families to be powerful influences. Our goal is to improve parenting across the board and ensure these children don’t become true orphans. Although it is not always possible, our goal is always reunification of the children with their parents in hopes of long-term success for the family of origin.
- Foster kids are all ‘Problem Children’. The truth is that most children placed into foster care are there due to circumstances beyond their control. Many children in care have developmental or behavioral challenges but not because of who they are as kids, but because of the neglect, abuse, and disadvantages they’ve suffered. The love of well-trained foster parents can help children in their care overcome the majority of these challenges.
- Most foster parents are in it for the money! Although there is reimbursement income provided to help foster parents cover the expense of caring for children this is an unfair and inaccurate perception of our foster parents. Most American families cannot truly afford to care for other people’s children. The individuals who are willing give of their hearts and homes to serve our children are genuinely interested in providing safe and loving homes. Bridges foster parents are heavily screened and must engage in a lengthy training process. When you consider all of the time spent directly caring for the children, interacting with professionals involved in the child’s life, taking the children to their appointments, etc. a person would make more money working a minimum wage job.
- “The System” is broken. Many people working within the system understand that governments/systems are ineffective at raising children and that children need to be raised in families. We can improve the system when strong and healthy families partner with us. Bridges serves foster parents by being a buffer to ‘the system.’ We can’t always ensure the ‘dream outcome’ for every situation but by forming effective partnerships we can improve outcomes. We work with the Department of Human Services, caseworkers, licensed professionals, foster families, adoptive families, and bio families seeking excellent outcomes.
- Foster parents are _____________. You fill in the blank… calloused, crazy, lazy, in it for the money, perfect, married, young, religious, educated, rich, poor, older, nonreligious, stay-at-home….the perceptions are endless. The most effective foster parents and their families are in a place in life where they can help mitigate the chaos experienced by many of the children coming into their care. The more physically, emotionally, and financially stable the family is, the better prepared they will be to manage the difficulties often associated with caring for children from hard places.
Foster parents, whether you are an individual, a couple, or a family, have to be willing to submit to and follow the training provided to them and the rules that govern the process. If you have questions, come talk to us and we will give you honest and straight-forward answers.
The Problem in Pueblo & Surrounding Areas
- We DO NOT have enough homes to accommodate the placements! Every year we are seeing more foster homes close(due to being full and out of space for more placements or due to personal reasons.) than we are seeing certified and opened. This is a problem.
- Child Placement Agencies (CPA’s) are closing! Due to the lack of new families expressing an interest in serving their community as foster homes area agencies are having to close their doors. Agencies serve a vital role as liason’s between the community and ‘the system’ and without them we lose vital checks and balances that prevent the ‘horror stories’ from the news. We need businesses, churches, and community organizations to refer potential foster parents to our agency to ensure we are able to place every child in a home. With area agencies shutting down Bridges is in need of new foster homes more than ever! The problem is these agencies are closing due to a lack of homes not a lack of placements!
- Recruiting & Retention are a challenge! Many foster parents really aren’t adequately equipped before they become foster parents. Occasionally, they start the process for the wrong reasons and it takes time and training to become truly effective foster parents. This is why we encourage you to come into our office for a face to face initial meeting. We want to answer your questions, dispel any myths, and determine if this is going to be a healthy and beneficial next step for your family. We invest time, money, training, and care into each of our homes to retain them. We’ve had some homes foster over 100 children over a period of 20 years! If you think you might be in the position to open your home to children in need, call us today.
How can you get involved?
- Schedule a time to meet with us in our office! (719)583-2200
- Ask your pastor or church to get involved with one of the useful ‘orphan care’ curriculums.
- Participate as a CASA worker or a volunteer recruiter for our agency and help connect us to incredible families who would make life-long foster homes.
WE NEED MORE HOMES! We have homes closing in the next 12 months because they have adopted to capacity. Please don’t hesitate to call and get your questions answered.