Rifle couple is foster family of the year | VailDaily.com

Rifle couple is foster family of the year

Donna Gray
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyJill and Rich Roper have been named Colorado's Foster Parents of the Year for 2007. The Ropers, who live in Rifle, have two biological kids, five adopted kids and have brought over 30 foster kids into their home. Pictured, left to right back row: Gabriel, Jill, Rich, Emily, Richard, Lucas; middle row: Bethany, Mathias, Josiah, Michael, Daniel, Serenity; front row: Matthew and Hannah.

RIFLE ” Last week Jill Roper and her foster son, Marcus, were on their way to Denver.

Marcus was set to have surgery on his eye. He’s been to see any number of doctors since Jill and Rich Roper took him in as a foster child a few months ago.

The Ropers take in kids who have been neglected and abused by their biological parents ” kids like Marcus who have almost insurmountable problems.

The couple, who live in Rifle, were recently named Colorado’s Foster Parents of the Year.

The Ropers ” Rich is the pastor of the Church of Christ in Glenwood Springs ” have been foster parents for more than 20 years and have had 30 children in their care. They’ve also adopted five children and have two biological kids.

In her nomination, Garfield County Human Services foster care coordinator Wendy Christie said, “This couple truly lives a life of advocating for children … They have stood by their sons who were adopted from different heritages” and helped them realize “that it is what is under the color of their skin that makes the difference.”

The Ropers knew early on, in fact before they married, that they would adopt special needs kids. They now focus on kids with Reactive Attention Disorder ” kids who can’t relate to people because for whatever reason they did not bond with their mother or father as infants.

“They grow up thinking they’re totally in charge,” Rich said. “If left untreated, they can become sociopaths.”

The Ropers are certified by the state to care for emotionally damaged kids and “medically fragile” babies. They’ve seen it all and it doesn’t faze them.

“We love it,” Rich said. “At times it’s really challenging and hard on the other kids, but it’s rewarding. Somebody needs to do it.”

A sense of ministry, underlain by their strong religious faith, is at the heart of their work. “We are just so blessed. It’s a mission both of us agreed on,” Jill said.

The Ropers moved to the area from Colorado Springs about three years ago and quickly become mainstays of Garfield County’s foster care program, a program that is understaffed and overutilized.

At present, the Garfield County Department of Human Services has 15 children in foster care in the county and nine elsewhere. It could use a lot more foster homes.

“We’d like to have, ideally, about double what we have now,” said family resource unit manager Blythe Chapman, who supervises the foster care program. “We’d be sitting pretty.”

Who can be a foster parent? Anyone “with a heart for children and who’s flexible,” she said.

But she also cautions prospective foster parents that they can’t make a living doing foster care. The state provides $15 a day per child. “That isn’t very much,” Chapman said.

Jill also echoed the need for more foster homes.

“In this community with its influx of people, it’s just going to get worse. We desperately need more foster parents,” she said.

Perhaps some would say that being a foster parent doesn’t make a dent in the social problem of abused and neglected children. The Ropers disagree.

“Every single life is important,” Jill said. “It’s got to start somewhere.”

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