Families fill Vail Valley foster care shortage
Vail Valley CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – John Fay has met with about 120 people in Colorado’s Vail Valley in the last four months trying to get the word out about the need for more foster care support in the county.
It’s been going pretty well, he said.
Fay, a foster care recruiter with the county, started his push to raise awareness about the lack of foster care in Eagle County in March. Each month since he has held a community meeting to explain the need and how county residents could help.
“I’m definitely happy with the turnout,” Fay said. “Our community definitely responded.”
Right now there’s only one foster parent in the county. Ten or 12 would be ideal, he said. Mesa County, which is a little more than double the size of Eagle County, has around 300 foster homes, Fay said.
Foster care is the temporary placement of a child 18 or younger outside of their home often because of neglect or abuse.
Since 2002, the county has received about 350 reported cases of abuse or neglect per year. Of those 350 cases, about 50 or 60 aren’t accepted. Most of the rest are resolved without removing a kid from their home.
But between 15 and 20 kids a year need to be placed in a foster home and because there aren’t enough foster parents in the county, they’re often sent to other parts of the state.
About 10 people attended each community meeting and Fay met with several people privately that weren’t able to make one of the meetings.
“I’m following up with people two or three weeks after to get a feel for what they’re thinking. I told them don’t make a decision that night, it’s such a big decision,” Fay said. “I’m getting a mixture of ‘yeah, we’re ready’ or ‘no, not at this time’ or ‘we’d like to help out in other ways.'”
The more foster care homes in the county the better the opportunities for kids that need help, said Fay, whose worked on cases where kids have had to be placed in homes four hours away from Eagle County.
One of the goals of foster care is to keep the stays as short as possible and get kids back in their homes as soon as is appropriate, Fay said. It’s easier to do that when they’re not placed somewhere four hours away, he said.
So far, five people or families have decidedFamilie to apply to be a foster home.
Vail resident Wendy St. Charles is planning to go through the certification process – which includes background checks, reference checks, 27 hours of state training, and first aid training.
“I’ve had an interest in the foster program for many years and have wanted to get involved,” St. Charles said. “A personal long-term objective of mine is to somehow make a difference.”
People that start the certification process now should be finished sometime in August, Fay said.
“I’m pretty passionate about it,” St. Charles said. “We can do better.”
Becoming a certified foster home isn’t the only way to help, Fay said.
“Another big way that some people have shown interest is helping out with retaining foster parents,” he said. “Getting people on the back end to help these parents feel supported and appreciated by our community.”
Fay hopes a few more families will start the program and he plans to try and find new people again in the fall.
“The push isn’t going to stop,” he said “We want to have a healthy community.”
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or helping with foster care in the county, contact John Fay at 970-328-8840 or e-mail him at email@example.com
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