Fact vs. fiction: What foster care is really all about | SteamboatToday.com

Fact vs. fiction: What foster care is really all about

Frances Hohl
Steamboat Today

The Hoza family in Hayden spent 18 years fostering children in Routt County and want people to know how they can do the same thing. Son Blane, pictured at left, is finishing up high school while dad Brian is now retired and mom Michelle works at the nonprofit Newborn Network.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If you ever thought about being a foster parent, Routt County might be the perfect place to experience what some call a tough but often rewarding job.

"Routt County is pretty exceptional in their staff and do a nice job," says Brian Hoza, Hayden's current school board president and long-time foster parent.

"We've learned through training and exposure to various agencies that we have a strong staff and a support system that's better than many counties," said Hoza.

But Brian and wife, Michelle Hoza, have retired from the foster system after 18 years of giving children in crisis a safe place to find normalcy while their own families got the help they needed.

The Hozas are speaking out during May in honor of Foster Care Month with facts and honesty, in hopes that people will consider fostering in Routt County.

Lauren Rising, foster care coordinator for the Routt County Department of Human Services said the county has four active foster families and two families getting certified.

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"I just want to express our gratitude to our foster families, like the Hozas, that have opened their homes and hearts for children in need," Rising said.

And while the Hozas seem like the ideal foster family, raising children of their own while fostering and living in a middle class home in a small town, fostering is about having a will to make a difference, Rising said.

"You need to know that you don't have to be perfect to be foster parents,” Rising explained. “You can also be single, married, in a domestic partnership. You can have tons of parent experience or none at all … rent or own a home. We’ll do the training."

The Hozas started the process of getting certified back when their children ranged in age from 1 to 7. Growing up, Michelle and Brian Hoza’s families had often taken in other children at times, and for them, becoming foster parents was a natural move.

"We talked with our kids because we knew it would affect them, but they were all on board with it," said Michelle.

After fostering 11 children during the last 18 years, the Hozas want to help folks separate fact from fiction in the foster world.

"One of the misconceptions is that it's easy to adopt a baby through the foster system,” Michelle said. “That has happened, and we did that. But foster care is about reunification. You're working to help DHS help the family. That's the ultimate goal."

The Hozas and their four kids adopted a special needs baby after fostering him 17 years ago. Young Blane is now at Hayden High School and enjoys video games, playing adaptive tennis and is doing an internship at Ace Hardware in Hayden.

Blane’s four older siblings are all grown. Three of them are teachers, and another is an engineer.

The shortest fostering for the Hozas lasted 24 hours (two runaways from another state), and the longest they ever fostered a child before reunification was 10 ½ months.

"Foster care is misperceived as 'the most terrible thing that can happen to you,' when in reality it's a safe space. A safety net," Brian said.

To learn more about becoming a foster family in Colorado visit co4kids.org.

The Hoza family on fostering children in Routt County

• “Reunification is the main goal. This perception of DHS ‘swooping in’ and taking kids is not true. The county does a lot of work before foster care. They recognize there’s always trauma in taking kids away.”

• “There’s a lot of training involved, and there’s a lot of support to get prepared and ongoing training on a yearly basis. They’ll also arrange specific training for specific cases, especially when you’re in a situation you’re not familiar with.”

“While we adapted to each child, what we really offered was a safe, stable and predictable environment. We’re taught not to undermine their parents but just help them get on more stable ground.”

• “It’s not about entertaining them all the time or giving them gifts. You don’t want to set unrealistic expectations when they return to their parents. It’s about creating normalcy and structure like regular bedtimes, family meals and helping around the house.”

• “We worked with agencies to get foster children check-ups, physical and mental help.”

• “After helping foster children feel safe and stable, you might transition to having parent visits, sometimes in a neutral place.”

• “As the parents advance in their own treatment plan, then visits could include overnight or weekend visits before reunification.”

• “You kind of pick the types of situations you’re comfortable with and age ranges, and that evolves as you evolve as a family. We started out with fostering young children and the last ones were teenagers.”

• “Your kids learn from the foster kids and they learn from your kids. You have to find a happy medium where you’re not compromising your values and your rules. You can’t have different latitude from your own child.”