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Fostering Hope provides an "instant family" for foster kids 

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click to enlarge A foster mom with her recently adopted son (names withheld for confidentiality). - COURTESY FOSTERING HOPE
  • Courtesy Fostering Hope
  • A foster mom with her recently adopted son (names withheld for confidentiality).

Consider all the people who got you where you are, and those that would be there for you should anything go wrong.

Then imagine they're all gone. Imagine you're a boy who grew up without a family. Abandoned at 6. Adopted, but abused. Back in foster care at 12, now with a distrust of adults and little chance of being adopted again.

Now imagine what that was like for him and around 20,000 other kids that "age out" of the U.S. foster system annually. In Colorado, most of these kids emancipate by age 18, though the state allows kids to stay in the system until age 21. Their worldly possessions may fit in a single bag. Once on their own, they likely have no place to stay, no adult to offer a word of encouragement. Their chances of success? Slim.

In 2017, only 23 percent of Colorado foster kids graduated high school in four years, and a survey by the National Youth in Transition Database found that 53 percent of the former foster kids it interviewed had been incarcerated, The Denver Post reported. Studies also found prevalence of youth pregnancy and homelessness among kids who grew up in the system.

A single supportive adult can make a world of difference for these youngsters. That's the concept Fostering Hope was built around.

Brian Newsome, Fostering Hope's development director, points out most people don't really raise their kids alone. They rely on help from aunts and uncles, grandparents and family friends. But foster kids and parents often lack these support systems. And they often face bigger challenges: kids with severe trauma, disabilities, behavioral problems. One local foster mom, he recalls, had 44 appointments in one week for her kids. Often, the parents burn out, forcing kids to a different home.

"It can be isolating as a foster parent because you can't go out and do the things that most normal families are able to do," he says.

The Fostering Hope Foundation works with 20 to 30 local faith communities to provide at least three volunteers for each foster family (usually about 35 families at any one time, about a third of El Paso County's foster homes). Partnering with churches, Newsome says, creates stability, because if a volunteer leaves the program, the church can quickly replace them.

Those volunteers become the kids' extended families. They cheer at basketball games and help with homework. And they're a shoulder to cry on for frustrated foster parents.

Recently, Fostering Hope, which served 645 kids through the end of 2017, released numbers on its effectiveness. Only 16 percent of kids in the program experience homelessness in their first two years on their own — and the program just unveiled transitional housing that should cut that even further. Just 18 percent are incarcerated in the same time period. A remarkable 100 percent of the kids have received a GED or diploma.

Remember the imaginary little boy from the beginning of this story? He's actually real, and with Fostering Hope's help, Newsome says, he learned to trust again. When he was still little, his new "family" took him to baseball games and museums, nurturing his interests. Fostering Hope gave him a car later, and a father figure helped him fix it up.

At 18, the boy still has people to call, who love him. This year, he's going to college.

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