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From Foster to Forever

Josh and Darice Hanson never imagined they would be foster parents. The couple had two wonderful children and lived quite happily in their Denver-area home. But then one day, a chance meeting with a woman and a baby would change their lives.

Darice was picking up her mail when she bumped into a neighbor who lived across the street. The neighbor was holding a newborn infant. “Did you have a baby?” Darice asked. “I didn’t even realize you were pregnant!” It turned out that the neighbor provided respite care for foster families who needed to take a break from parenting. She was just watching the baby for a few days. “Oh, I could never do that,” Darice said. As it turns out, her statement could not have been further from the truth.

A few months later, Josh and Darice’s neighbor became ill while she was providing respite care for a baby girl. Josh and Darice offered to watch the baby so the neighbor could catch up on her sleep. “We instantly fell in love with her,” Darice said. It wasn’t long before the couple decided to provide respite care for other families. Respite care quickly turned into actual foster child placements.

The couple’s two children, nine-year-old Hayley and three-year-old Harper, were excited to accept new foster siblings into their home. Haley in particular took her responsibility seriously. When she was in middle school, she took it upon herself to complete CPR and first-aid training so she could watch her siblings while her parents ran errands.

Participation in a monthly support group provided the family with understanding and encouragement. In addition to speakers discussing relevant topics, the group was a place where parents could check in with their peers. “If you’re having a rough time with your case, or having difficulties with your child or issues with your child’s biological family, it’s great to just talk it out with people who have been through it,” said Josh.

Nearly all of the children the Hansons cared for were infants who tested positive for either drugs or alcohol in their systems at birth. Although all their past histories are tragic, Haylon’s story is particularly heartbreaking.

Haylon’s birth mother abused substances on a daily basis, all throughout her pregnancy. She received no prenatal care and gave birth to Haylon at home. When Haylon tested positive for illegal drugs at a hospital, he was stabilized and brought to the Hanson’s home a few days later. Despite all odds, Haylon began to thrive. Today, Haylon is a happy three-year-old who runs all around his home, giggling nonstop. The Hansons call him their miracle baby.

“The need for good foster homes is astronomical,” said Darice. “When you look at the data of how many Colorado kids are in out-of-home care and how many foster homes there are, it’s not even close to being equal.”

According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, there were 5,327 children in out-of-home placements at the end of the 2015 fiscal year. Of those, there were foster homes available for only 3,534. Mount Saint Vincent Director of Foster Care Melissa Maile, MSW, agrees that the demand for foster families exceeds the number of available homes. “Nearly every day, our agency receives a call from a county caseworker with a child who has been abused or neglected that needs immediate placement,” she said. “If we have to turn that child away because we don’t have a foster family available, there may not be a place for that child to go. It breaks my heart every single time.”

For six years, the Hansons have opened their hearts and their home to children in need of a family to love and care for them. Josh and Darice adopted Harmony and Haygen in 2012, Harlow in 2013, Haylon in 2014, and Harkin in 2015. The couple says the official “adoption days” are wonderful celebrations, like a birthday, wedding and anniversary rolled into one. “I think we hold the record for the most people showing up for every adoption,” said Josh. “We had 40 friends and family at Harkin’s.”

When asked if they will take in another child, the couple doesn’t rule it out. Josh says it is the most rewarding feeling in the world to know you’re helping a child. Darice agrees. “It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but it’s so worth it,” she said. “We’re the luckiest foster family in the world because we had five placements and five adoptions. We’re so blessed.”

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