Every year, thousands of Colorado children are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect by their parents or caretakers. These children are often placed in foster care, group homes and/or residential child care facilities. Many have been exposed to drug addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and domestic violence. Some have been denied access to food, medical care and education. To ensure the needs of these youth are met and to counterbalance any potential negative impact of the foster care system on youth, there is a growing national consensus that child welfare agencies and caregivers need to facilitate age-appropriate experiences for youth in foster care so that they can achieve the key markers of child and adolescent development. To improve the quality of foster youths’ experience, legislatures in approximately 20 states have enacted laws for foster youth. Colorado is one of these states.
However, nearly 10 years after passing the “Protections for Youth in Foster Care” law, Colorado has yet to deliver on its promise to foster youth. The Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman (CPO) reviewed the law and regulations that dictate how foster youth are advised of their care and protections. While well intended, Colorado’s current law falls short of protecting foster youth from the challenges articulated above. Specifically, the law does not create comprehensive mandated protections for foster youth. This omission has also resulted in a disjointed system that provides foster youth inconsistent – and sometimes inaccurate – information.
Without complete and accurate information, foster youth are not as equipped to advocate for their care. For Colorado’s law to fully inform foster youth about the standard of care to which they are entitled, the law must be amended. This brief will outline the current omissions in Colorado’s law, as well as the confusion caused by those omissions. It also provides a list of key components necessary to ensure that Colorado’s law is providing proper protections and information to foster youth.