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For the past two years, in celebration of National Foster Care Month in May, I have been honored to recognize foster families from communities across Colorado. These families inspire all of us to do more to care for children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

On an average day in Colorado, five children enter foster care, because their parents need time to learn new skills to become the parents their children need them to be.

If a child cannot live with a parent, social service agencies look for family members or other adults the child knows, such as a teacher or neighbor, to care for the child. While a familiar adult is always the first choice, when that isn't possible foster parents fill the void. Sometimes with just a few hours notice, foster parents open up their hearts and their homes to vulnerable children.

But I have come to learn after meeting many foster parents that they do so much more. Foster parents provide the love, patience, forgiveness, stability and safety children need to overcome their past traumatic experiences. Children in foster care may never have had the chance just to be a kid. Foster parents give them that opportunity.

I believe that our communities are happier and healthier when our children are happy and healthy. For many children, foster parents provide the safe space they need to reach their full potential.

There are nearly 2,000 families certified as foster families in Colorado, yet we continue to have a shortage across the state. Right now in Colorado, 2,058 children and youths are in foster care. An additional 824 young people live in residential treatment facilities or a group home where they receive the behavioral support they need to stabilize from the trauma they have endured. Many of those 824 children could live with a family in foster care, but there is no foster family to receive them into their home.

The need is especially great for foster parents who are willing to care for teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.

There are few limitations on who can become a foster parent. You can be married, partnered or single. Own a home or rent. Colorado does not discriminate based on gender identity, orientation or expression.

I encourage anyone who has thought about becoming a foster parent to visit CO4Kids.org to learn more and meet some of Colorado's exceptional foster families.

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Robin Hickenlooper, Colorado's first lady, is very involved in building awareness of the need for more families to foster the almost 3,000 kids looking for a placement in Colorado.

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