The Colorado Department of Health Services (CDHS) recently recognized five foster families in honor of National Foster Care Month. Out of 50 nominees statewide Velma Armijo, a Southern Ute Social Services employee and foster parent, was among the five who were recognized by the state.
At a luncheon celebration held at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, May 14 First Lady of Colorado Robin Hickenlooper and Regie Bicha, executive director of CDHS recognized Armijo and the other four families for the care they provide Colorado’s foster children
Armijo has always wanted to be a foster parent or to adopt, but it wasn’t until she came to work for Social Services at the tribe that she really seen the need and decided to go through with the process, she said.
“It was easier for me to be a foster parent, because I’m not a case worker,” Armijo said.
Armijo has been providing emergency foster care for the last eight years. All of the foster children she has taken in throughout the years have been Southern Ute tribal members.
Emergency foster care is care that is needed at that moment in time, usually for a few days or few weeks, and once a more permanent placement is found the child is moved to that home or facility, Shelly Thompson, Social Services Division Head said.
However, in some instances Armijo has been turned into long-term foster parent, because she didn’t want to see children go to a facility.
“I don’t believe in shelters … I couldn’t let them go to a shelter,” Armijo said about an emergency placement that turned long term.
Thompson agreed with Armijo, shelters are always a last resort.
“I don’t like to send children to facilities,” Thompson said. “If a kid is moved to the shelter that means they leave the community they leave the school, and leave pretty much everyone they know … and that’s not good for their mental or emotional well being.”
Social Services is always looking for new foster parents, which would help keep children in the community and away from shelters. Right now Southern Ute Social Services has more foster children than they do foster families: the division has five foster families, Thompson said.
When asked about the struggles she faces with foster parenting, Armijo said she doesn’t focus on herself; she’s in it to help the kids.
“This is not about me; this is about them. For whatever reason they were sent my way … I’m here to help them,” Armijo said. “It’s about taking care of the kids and their needs.”
Armijo is the first foster parent from Social Ute Social Services to be recognized by the state. The state has been recognizing foster families for the past six years.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent you can call the Southern Ute Social Services Division at 970-563-0209.