Everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse and neglect. The Las Animas County Department of Human Services (DHS) and its Child Services division, led by Foster Care Coordinator Jamie Pike, are looking for partners in its Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Campaign. The DHS provides assistance to many residences including child protection and support, foster/kinship care, maternity and women, infant and child nutrition.

Partnerships strengthen everyone’s ability to speak with one voice and achieve a shared mission to protect kids in Colorado. No organization is too small, or too big, to discover the unique ways in which they can become involved. DHS needs help from all 501c3 organizations, government agencies, schools, businesses and community groups to end child abuse and neglect. Contact Jamie Pike at: 719-846-2276, extension 7129 for more information.

The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Campaign is a multi-year initiative to promote the statewide child abuse and neglect reporting hotline, so call: 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) for further information.

Pike was asked how many kids were awaiting foster homes or adoption in Las Animas County. She replied in a Thursday, November 29 e-mail message. “DHS cannot wait for foster homes, as children who are removed, it is almost always an emergency situation that can happen at any hour of the day. This is why children have to leave our community because we do not have many options in Las Animas County. Although the goal is to always return home, this does not always happen. It is ideal to put young children in a foster adopt home just in case reunification is unable to be achieved.”

She was asked were there any active foster homes in the County and, if so, how many.

She replied that local options for foster care were limited. “We currently have one active foster home for Las Animas County, one active home that is in La Veta and one that is in the process of being certified in Trinidad. Each home is very limited on the children they can take and often times when a child or children need to be placed in a foster home, they are unable to accommodate the children, which means children still need to leave the community they live in if they should enter foster care.”

She noted that, unfortunately, some local foster kids had been placed in foster care outside of the county. “Our local DHS does not ever have the goal of removing children from their home. Often times, if there are concerns for a child’s safety a caseworker will attempt to do a safety plan with the family to help ensure a child remains safe while in their home. If a child does need to be placed in protective custody, caseworkers will look at family as an option prior to placing a child in a foster home.

“When children are placed in protective custody, often times Las Animas County Department of Human Services has no choice but to send children out of the County. Within the last year approximately 25 children have had to leave their community and have been placed in foster homes in El Paso, Otero, Pueblo, Denver, Fremont, Huerfano and Kit Carson Counties because Las Animas County does not have enough foster homes.”

She described the rewards of becoming a foster parent. “Helping children find a safe and stable home while their family works towards bringing them home. ‘It is not about us, it’s about the children.’ It may not always be easy and you are going to become attached to the children in your home but you need to remember whether we foster or we adopt, foster parents are going to make a difference for a child.”

She wrote about the importance of the Child Services Unit at DHS, including the number of children served in the past year. “DHS is actively looking at family as placement options for children who are removed due to safety concerns and issues but family is not always an option immediately or at all.

LACDHS is also looking for respite homes for children who are unable to stay with family immediately. These respite homes can be short-term placement options of 24 hours to a few weeks while family is being looked at as possible placement option.

“To become a certified foster home, you need to be over the age of 21, any potential foster parent must pass background checks, have room in your home for a child or

children, participate in the home study process and take the foster parent core classes (most of which can be done online).

“The County Department of Human Services wants to be able to support all individuals who are going through the process and can explain the process in more detail and supports offered to potential foster parents.”

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