On average, 10 children enter foster care every day in Colorado. They are taken from their families for their own safety, and the goal is always to get those children back to their parents.
"It's important for children to be with their parents," said Jessica Olds, a Parent Advocate with the Colorado Office of Respondent Parents' Counsel (ORPC).
ORPC was formed in 2016 to provide legal counsel for parents in child welfare proceedings who can't afford to pay for a lawyer. In 2020, ORPC added the Parent Advocate position, to provide further support to parents who are working to get their children back.
"Sometimes it's taking them to appointments, being with them at court, or any tough situation," Olds explained.
She is working on the front lines of these dependency and neglect cases. She supports 23 clients currently, most of them in Adams County's Family Treatment Court, which specializes in reuniting parents and children separated by substance abuse.
"It's very rewarding actually. It really is," Olds said.
She provides the exact kind of support she got herself, just six years ago.
"I was heavily drinking and medicating myself, and the system got involved," she told CBS4.
Her two sons were removed from her care in 2016.
"I was just broken. I was broken. I felt along. I was scared. I didn't know what to do," she explained.
Her team at the Family Treatment Court rallied around her, as she faced her substance abuse, went through rehab, started therapy, and took parenting classes. Now she is the support for other mothers on that same journey.
"Absolutely, I can empathize with them. I can know right where they're at," Old said.
She knows where they're at, but also where they're going. Her relationships with her own sons are stronger than ever. She's become the reliable mother that they need to grow into responsible adults. She's also happy to give back the support that was so freely given to her.
"It warms my heart to see families getting reunified, to see families doing better."
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