In his article, “Rural Colorado struggles to find foster homes as new federal law seeks to keep more kids out of group settings, published on Sept. 30, 2019, in The Colorado Sun, Joe Purtell accurately describes some of the challenges we foster parents in rural communities can face.

My husband, Earl, and I are one of two foster families in Moffat County, so we are well aware of the challenges.

Earl and April Camp

Unfortunately, however, by focusing solely on the struggles, Mr. Purtell does a disservice to kids in rural communities by potentially discouraging those who may be considering becoming foster parents, making it more difficult to recruit new foster families.

Let’s not sugar-coat it. It is true that becoming a foster family is a big change and can be hard — all parenting is. It is also true that there are certification and recertification requirements, and all sorts of rules for fostering.

But my husband and I wouldn’t have continued to do this for more than 20 years if the positives didn’t far outweigh the challenges.

Ask any foster parent and they will tell you the same thing. It is an honor and privilege to be of service to the kids in our community who need it the most.

When you open your home to a child in foster care, you are not alone in helping that child. The state and each county provide free training to help you meet the specific needs of the children in your care, and community organizations will help you meet many of the needs your family may have.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Any situation where a child must be removed from his or her home is a sad and often traumatic one.

Foster families are there to provide stability and a soft landing for children while their biological parents get the help they need in order to bring their child home.

The foster parent shortage in rural communities means that those children are not only removed from their family, they are also removed from their community, including their schools, friends, sports teams, churches, and music or art programs.

They must start over in a new town where a foster family is available. In addition, being farther away from their parents makes visitation more difficult, limits their ability to bond as a family and likely extends the timeline of the reunification process. 

If you think you have something to offer a child, I urge you to attend an information session through your county or a child placement agency to learn about the foster supports and needs in your community.

You could be the glue that keeps kids in your community anchored to their lives during a scary and uncertain time.

The gifts that fostering will give your family include a compassionate perspective, a keen sense of gratitude and the joy of knowing you have forever impacted a child’s life in a positive way. These gifts far outweigh any challenges.

My husband and I have had the privilege of providing a safe and loving home to kids in Moffat County for as briefly as one night, as long as four years, and even permanently through adoption from foster care.

No situation is perfect, but many, many children need what you can offer. Just last week a child we had cared for almost 20 years ago called to thank me and let me know that nobody had ever loved or cared about him the way we did. That is a gift I will treasure for the rest of my life.  

April Camp has been a foster parent in Moffat County for more than 20 years.

April Camp

Special to The Colorado Sun