Mount Saint Vincent Fosters Hope for Kids
May 11, 2018 I Elizabeth Roberts
Author’s note: May is National Foster Care Month.
The term “foster care” conjures up various images in people’s minds. They may think of children with no place to call home, or boisterous families with multiple kids. While these images may accurately depict some situations, they certainly don’t reflect the endless variety of circumstances involving Colorado children and their foster care providers.
A case in point is a toddler who splits her time between her biological father and her former foster parents. John and Karen Smith (not their real names) cared for Anna for a year and a half, starting from the time she was 12 months old. After Anna was reunited with James, her biological father, he often called the Smiths for advice. “Parenting was very new to him,” John said. “He called nearly every day, asking questions and looking for guidance.” Potty training in particular proved to be a challenge, so the three caregivers shared what worked. “Anna’s really smart,” Karen said, “but she’s also pretty stubborn.”
Four years later, with James’ full support, Anna spends one to two nights per week at the Smith’s residence. They help Anna with her homework, or read aloud to her and play games. The situation is a win-win for all parties involved.
Anna’s parental arrangement may seem unique, but it’s not unusual, says Mount Saint Vincent’s Director of Foster Care Melissa Maile. “Having ongoing contact after children return to their birth parents is not uncommon,” she said. “The one common denominator is doing what’s in the best interest of the child.”
Taking care of the needs of children in foster care is a tall order for this state. According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, there were more than 3,800 children in foster care placements in 2017. Finding adults that can welcome children into their homes can be a challenge, primarily because fostering a child isn’t something most people consider. For that reason, raising awareness of children who have nowhere to call home is precisely what Mount Saint Vincent’s Foster Care program staff hope to do.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve received a phone call from a desperate case worker needing an emergency placement,” said Maile. “If I have to turn them away, it’s almost always because we do not have an opening for that child. It breaks my heart every single time. We simply need more foster families.”
The reasons for the lack of foster care provider participants are numerous. According to Maile, some of the biggest deterrents are pervasive misconceptions. For example, foster care providers don’t have to be married couples who own their own homes. “We have providers who are single, married, young, older, homeowners and apartment-dwellers,” said Maile. “The main requirements are stability, adequate housing space, and the willingness and capacity to provide nurturing care. You’d be surprised how many people fit that bill.”
For those interested in exploring the possibilities, or those currently providing foster care, Mount Saint Vincent provides extensive pre-placement training and ongoing support services. With more than 50 years of combined experience, Maile’s staff is well equipped to answer prospective parents’ questions.
According to the Smiths, Colorado’s foster care system can be complicated for new foster families. “We probably wouldn’t have made it without the support of Mount Saint Vincent and their staff,” said John. “They helped us understand what needed to be done.” Karen wholeheartedly agrees. “Whenever we encountered issues, they helped guide us on how to resolve them,” she said.
Mount Saint Vincent’s foster care support group is arguably one of the program’s most relied-upon services. Once per month, providers share stories, learn from invited speakers, gain insight, and forge friendships. “There’s nothing like a shared, common experience to draw people together,” noted one longtime foster parent.
Although the Smiths have their hands full with Anna and the now 3-year-old daughter they adopted in 2016, they continue to be strong advocates for children in foster care. Their initial reason to become foster parents was to provide a loving home for a child in need. For them, that desire has never waned. Because they know that somewhere, right now, a child is waiting.
For details on upcoming informational foster care provider meetings, visit MSVhome.org or call Director of Foster Care Melissa Maile at 303-458-7220 ext. 204.
This article originally appeared on YourHub, the Denver Post’s online local news source and weekly print section. This website is for community contributions. visit yourhub.denverpost.com for more information.
About the Author
Elizabeth Roberts is the marketing and communications specialist for Mount Saint Vincent.