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Colorado Foster Parents Honored, Get Bill Of Rights

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – On May 3 Gov. Jared Polis signed the Foster Parents' Bill of Rights. The new law allows for foster parents to make reasonable parental decisions for the children in their care. It allows them more access to information, additional training, and the opportunity to foster the same children if they return to the system. It puts into law some standards that allow foster parents to be powerful advocates for their charges.

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"The Foster Parent Bill of Rights allows for some prudent parenting, so some decisions to be made by a foster parent that any parent might be able to make for any young child if it were their own," said Minna Castillo Cohen, Director of the Office of Children, Youth & Families within the Colorado Department of Human Services.

There are currently about 1,900 homes in Colorado that are licensed as foster and kinship care homes. That is not nearly enough to serve the need.

"We always need families in every community because when a young person is removed from their home, it feels best to stay in their home community," Castillo Cohen explained.

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Bob & Molly Cortinez run just that kind of home. The couple built it especially to be a group home, so they could take in more youth living in foster care. In the 36 years they've been licensed foster parents, they've had nearly 900 young people in their care.

"I don't think it's hard. You just treat them like your own kids and they'll act like you want them to," Molly Cortinez told CBS4.

The Cortinezs wrap the children into their family, providing structure, family vacations, and powerful advocacy. Now they'll have the Foster Parents' Bill of Rights at their back.

"I think that foster parents have to be a little bit pushier; and, I think, at times, I'm a bigger mouth than I should be," Molly explained.

Cortinez
(credit Office of Children, Youth & Families)

The couple has never adopted any of the children in their care. They are strong advocates for reunification, but also keeps in touch with many of the young people who were once in their care. They encourage all the teens that they work with to consider going to college and help them to navigate making that dream come true. The Cortinezs were honored by the Office of Children, Youth, & Families during a ceremony in May for Foster Care Month.

In addition to the Foster Parents' Bill of Rights, Governor Polis also signed a bill that will give foster youth access to more financial assistance in order to pay for college in the state.  SB22-008 also creates the foster care student navigator office within the Department of Higher Education, which would help students living in foster care pick a university,  choose a course of study, and help fill out applications.

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