Foster parents a respite for kids

After the birth of their second child, Jorja and Clint Harrison wanted more. But after two complicated pregnancies, they decided to forego another and adopted a little girl from Ethiopia instead.

“And we still didn’t feel like our family was complete,” Clint Harrison said. “But unfortunately we didn’t have the money to be able to just keep adopting internationally.”

The Harrisons decided to become licensed foster parents, to continue building their family while providing kids in need with a stable home environment and support system. In the 10 years since, they fostered 59 kids, three of whom they adopted. 

Sarah Bailey, a recruitment and retention specialist for the foster agency Kids Crossing, which has offices in Southeast Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo, said the need for foster families like the Harrisons is “huge, not only locally but nationally.”

She said Kids Crossing is constantly on the lookout for new foster parents and seeks, “anyone willing to provide a healthy, stable, temporary home for kids while they go through a very difficult time in their life.”

Some of the children who come through Kids Crossing and other foster agencies only need short-term care. Others require long-term care, while still others seek adoptive homes. Many just need a safe and caring home environment while their families address legal barriers to reunification.

And because many children in foster care have experienced trauma and can have a variety of physical, mental health, emotional or behavioral needs, Bailey said foster parents typically experience all the normal challenges of parenthood. But they must also navigate the foster system, arrange visitations with biological families, deliver kids to therapy appointments and help them cope with their trauma.

But along with the immense difficulties come life-changing rewards.

Jamie Kopinski’s family began fostering more than four years ago, and typically caters to older kids and teens. By serving as a temporary mother to the youths who come through her home, she’s able to support her foster kids in activities they might not otherwise get to experience. 

“I get to be all sorts of different kinds of moms,” Kopinski said. “I got to be volleyball mom for one of our girls, and I got to be gamer mom for one of the guys who lived with us. 

“A lot of times they have not had an opportunity to pursue their interests because their life has been hard, and they’ve got different struggles coming into care. But being able to help encourage them and see the confidence that they get and to be able to have those experiences they wouldn’t have normally had, is really awesome.”

“We have had almost 60 kiddos now, and every single one of them was important,” Harrison said. “You have to be ready to love and to lose, but on the flip side, there’s a whole lot of love.

“You’re getting to show that child what unconditional love, and a healthy home, looks like. ... So essentially you’re changing these children, as well as the family as a whole.”

Reporter

Zach Hillstrom is a Colorado Springs native and graduate of Colorado State University-Pueblo. He has worked as a reporter for Southern Colorado print outlets since 2015.