By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – Katie Page has a big heart when it comes to some of Colorado’s most vulnerable kids.
The mother from Parker has fostered six kids, adopted one and plans to adopt a second this year. Colorado lawmakers are now coming together to help parents like her.
The Department of Human Services says the state needs an additional 1,200 foster parents, but child care expenses are huge barrier for many.
As a single mom who works full-time, Page says she can barely afford child care now. The average reimbursement for foster parents of kids under age 10 is $12.55 a day.
“Some people think people are in foster care to make money. I can tell you single working parents for sure aren’t. I pay twice as much in daycare versus what they pay me,” she said.
Colorado’s foster care system takes in 6,600 kids every year, but only about 900 of those kids are adopted.
Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat out of Longmont, says it’s time the state prioritized foster kids.
“People talk about our children, these literally are our children – children we’ve decided it’s too dangerous for them to be with their parents – so we have do everything we can to make sure we take care of them the best we can,” he said.
The cause is why Singer and Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet are carrying bills to give foster parents more child care assistance and to give foster kids transportation to school when they’re taken out of their home.
Michaelson Jenet says it will help improve graduation rates and lower the school dropout rate, which is at an all-time high for foster kids in Colorado.
“So that we can actually keep our foster youth in a school where people know them and where they have relationships already built,” she said.
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Tori Shuler is among those supporting the bills. She’s a foster care success story. She graduated college and is now an advocate for other foster kids.
But, only 23 percent of Colorado foster kids even graduate high school.
“I was able stay in the same high school all four years,” said Shuler. “I think if we had more kids be able to tell that story, being in foster care like me, we would have higher statistics in terms of graduation – our graduation rates are much lower than any other at-risk group – and I also think we would have more children going on to higher education, receiving degrees, having careers where they can support their families, and not repeating the cycle of losing their own children into foster care, and I think education is really the key to that.”
Lawmakers are also considering bills that would give foster parents access to more information about the kids they’re taking in and help foster kids with jobs, housing, and finances after they turn 18 years old.
The school transportation bill may have the biggest hurdle. It has a $4 million a year price tag. Supporters say kids who don’t graduate cost the state even more. The bills passed their first committee.