Helping Hands: Summit foster care families offer loving homes |

Helping Hands: Summit foster care families offer loving homes

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Over the past 16 years, Terese Keil has cared for about 100 different children. They show up at anytime of day, and stay anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Keil is an on-call foster parent here in Summit County, and provides a safe and caring home to children in need for the first 10 days of every month.

According to Mary Lou Taylor, foster care coordinator for Summit County, the perception most people have of foster care – the daunting image of four children at a time – is incorrect. Families in Summit County typically only have one child at a time, and most placements are short term, lasting from a few days to a few months.

Summit County’s foster program is currently in need of families willing to care for teenagers, children up to age 5, or provide on-call care. Foster parents who provide on-call care – like Keil – carry a pager for six to 11 days a month, and provide emergency care while situations in the child’s family are being resolved.

Taylor said there are about 15 to 20 children a year in Summit County who need placement. The need for temporary care can stem from a variety of situations, such as a the arrest of a parent or a runaway child found in the area. The need for long-term care usually results from abuse or neglect in the home, but is a much less prevalent occurrence. In the past few years, the program has only seen a few long-term placements, which lasted about a year.

“A lot of people don’t realize there’s such a need up here,” Keil said. “We have the same problems as any metropolitan city.”

“Our hope is to maintain a safe, caring environment for the child until their home is stabilized,” Taylor said. “Families always have the choice to accept of refuse a placement and they can make stipulations (such as a child’s age or gender) as to the best fit for their family.”

She said teens who have drug or alcohol problems are typically kept out of the foster program, and are usually placed in juvenile detention facilities or therapeutic programs in the Front Range.

“Most people do it because they truly want to give to the right children; they usually feel called upon,” Taylor said.

Foster parent Mary Lorch, who has been involved in the program for almost 10 years, said she’d had an interest in providing foster care since childhood. She provides urgent care, short-term and long-term care. She has currently been caring for the same child for a year-and-a-half.

“It’s hard sometimes, but it’s an incredible learning experience,” she said. “It’s a reward on your heart.”

Lorch said she recently saw a woman she and her husband had cared for about nine years ago. The woman, a teenager at the time, told Lorch she’s doing very well now, and that Lorch had made a difference in her life.

“You just hope and pray that they’re going back to a good environment, whether that’s back to the parents or permanent foster care,” Keil said. “Most of the time, the situations are just fine. Sometimes, there will be some difficulties, but you have such a support system here in Summit County.”

Taylor said potential foster parents should have some knowledge of child development and have the ability to provide physical care, emotional care and appropriate supervision. Interested parents must go through a free, two-day foster care training in Denver (hotel and meals are provided). They must become trained in CPR and First Aid, go through a background check and have their home verified as suitable.

“If you have any warmth in your heart for opening your house and your heart to children in need, we need you,” Keil said. “It’s not something you have to be scared of. If you’re considering doing this, talk to us. We would love to have more parents.”

Interested persons should call Mary Lou Taylor at (970) 668-4155, or email her at Terese Keil is also willing to chat with potential parents. Her contact info can be obtained through Taylor.

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