Cate McClure was raised in a large family. She had three biological brothers and sisters, and four others who were adopted or were foster brothers and sisters.
Growing up, she learned that every child deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy family, and she was inspired to help give children that chance.
McClure and her husband, Tim, decided to be foster parents for children in Routt County. The McClures also manage the Iron Horse Inn and have two daughters of their own, ages 14 and 17.
Since coming to Steamboat Springs last spring, they've had two boys stay for a short-term emergency situation and one boy who has lived with them for about three months.
"It was great. He's a good kid, he's got a great heart, he wants to help all the time," McClure said about the boy.
"All of these kids, no matter what they've been through, the one thing they're looking for is someone to care about them for who they are, not to judge them and say, 'Well, you're never going to change, you're never going to make it in the world.' And that's what they've been told all their lives," McClure said.
On Monday night, Routt County families who give foster children that care and encouragement were honored during a foster family appreciation night sponsored by county officials.
The celebration took place at the Iron Horse Inn and honored nine families with donated dinner-for-two certificates.
"(Foster families) are important because they provide a service that they don't get very much compensation for," said Pat Chase, the foster care coordinator for Routt County. "They provide a home for children (who) otherwise wouldn't have one. They open their homes and their hearts to these kids."
Foster families take in children of all ages who need a place to stay for a few days, weeks or months. When a child is suffering from physical or sexual abuse or from neglect, county workers consider the situation and decide if the child can stay with his or her birth family.
Depending on circumstances, county workers may move the child to a foster family, and later return the child to his or her birth family or to a new adoptive family.
Routt County has four children in foster families now and is looking for another family to take in a 13-year-old boy. Last year, two children were adopted.
There is a need for families who are willing to work with challenging teenagers and older children, Chase said.
Becoming a foster family is a long process and involves a home study, a criminal background check and multiple training classes. But even with the work, it can be a rewarding experience, Chase said. Children often stay in touch with their foster families after returning home.
For any families who decide to take in foster children, Tim McClure has some advice: Give those children unconditional love. That doesn't mean love them and never discipline them, he said, but it does mean love them and don't judge them, he said.
"Most kids are there (because they) were taken away from parents. Unconditional love is usually something they don't have a clue about," Tim McClure said. "As much as you can, give unconditional love."
Anyone interested in becoming a foster family may call Routt County Human Services at 879-1540.