Colorado is already facing a shortage of foster families, and a new upcoming federal requirement could put more strain on the issue.
The Colorado Department of Human Services has ramped up the search for foster placements in the past couple of years. The department set a goal in October 2017 of adding 1,200 families to the existing group of 2,000.
When foster homes are not available, displaced children must be put into group settings called "congregate care," which is much more expensive for the state than foster care. Colorado spent $2,125,980 on congregate care compared to $126,783 on family foster care in fiscal year 2016, according to a report released by Child Trends last year.
“And so that really creates that issue, are we best serving these kiddos?” said Alamosa County Foster Care Coordinator Matthew Tulley to the Colorado Sun. “But at the same time, they need a home and we’ve got to find them their safety.”
As of March, 22.6% of kids were in congregate care settings, according to the Sun.
The Families First Prevention Services Act will restrict the number of kids allowed into those group homes starting in January, putting more pressure on the search for foster families.
“Folks are trying to just survive with their own families,” Tulley said to the Sun. “I think it’s also a very daunting task to be a foster parent. It’s scary. It’s unknown. It’s a lot of work, that’s the biggest thing.”