Six months ago, I wrote a column about the tragic passing of Kyle Forti. I concluded that Kyle’s life would “continue to shine in all the hearts he touched.”
On Sept. 18, several people touched by Kyle’s light will hold a fundraiser for Foster Together Colorado, a charitable organization Kyle founded with his wife, Hope. Money raised at the event will help recruit, train and mentor volunteers to support foster families.
Foster Together Colorado grew out of Kyle’s grand optimism combined with Hope’s attention to detail and methodical persistence. Working as a team, the two combined to create a workable solution for a long existing need.
The couple knew foster kids need parents. Abandoned either by choice or circumstance, foster children need foster moms and dads who show up and provide the consistency and structure critical to proper development. That’s particularly true during the traumatic life events that typically drop them into the foster system.
In response, Kyle and Hope fostered several children before his untimely death. As a young, professional couple with their own child, they nonetheless developed a plan to work fostering into their lives. Between careers, social commitments, volunteer activities, and the needs of their own son, they made fostering a part of their lives.
Unfortunately, that made them exceptional, not ordinary. As Kyle himself explained, he knew “approximately zero guys ‘like me’ doing foster care — let alone embracing it as an inherent part of who they are.”
Most people would settle for being individually exceptional and making a real, tangible impact for a few children. Anyone who knew Kyle also knew he did not fit into the mold of most people.
Kyle and Hope had a vision of a world where fostering needy children didn’t constitute an extraordinary act of kindness, but a regular part of a normal life for many families. Through their own experience and analysis, they realized the primary hurdle to bringing more people into the foster fold centered around an overwhelming anxiety instilled in many would-be foster parents.
From cautionary anecdotes about children escaping difficult circumstances to the burden of providing necessities such as food, transportation, and clothing, fostering presents daunting challenges. Worse still, the more thought put into preparing for a foster child, the more potential issues arise.
The “broken system” associated with the foster care system in our collective, societal consciousness can be downright terrifying. To counteract that fear, Kyle and Hope created a two-step program.
First, Foster Together Colorado strives to introduce prospective foster parents to “someone like you” — real life foster parents willing to engage supporters and separate truth from nightmarish fantasy.
A skilled political operative, Kyle intuitively realized that most fear — particularly in regard to complex matters — stems from what people don’t know or understand. That fear often evaporates when an expert walks you through the issue.
Second, the group sets up interested supporters to participate in “Random Acts of Foster Kindness” for foster parents in their own neighborhoods.
Whether cooking a meal, driving a kid to an appointment, providing clothing, toys or daycare, every act both provides welcome relief to foster parents and introduces supporters to foster care in small, manageable chunks. Instead of jumping into the deep-end, prospective foster parents can wade in from the shallows until they are ready to swim.
Foster Together Colorado estimates it needs to raise between $250-$500 annually per volunteer to cover all its costs. The more money it raises, the more volunteers it will train and prepare. And the more children it will help.
Into the darkness that often envelopes children in the foster care system, Kyle and Hope Forti provided a brilliant ray of light. Not only did Kyle’s death fail to extinguish that light, but it has spread through the Foster Together Colorado program, his family, friends and every new volunteer or donor who supports its vision.
If you’d like to help spread that light, you can register for more information or donate on the Foster Together Colorado website.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, healthcare, and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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