State audit shows some counties are not properly conducting background checks on relatives looking to be foster parents

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. A state audit has found that some counties in Colorado are not properly conducting background checks before placing children in the care of relatives. While Mesa County recently had a tragic case where a child died in the care of a foster family, the state ranks Mesa County highly.

Recently here in Mesa County, a mother acting as a foster parent for a family member’s child, Sidney White, was formally charged with first degree murder and child abuse resulting in death, when 11 month old Angel Linae died in her care.

This state audit was the first of its kind, .in response to kids being placed in poor homes across the state, but the Mesa County Department of Human Services say they are working extra hard which reflects in the state's ranking of a success rate of 88%, one of the higher counties in the state.

"I’ve always had that love and that nurturing," said Jody Chelle, who has been a foster mom for 12 years.

For foster parents like Jody Chelle, they've known their whole lives they want to be there to love and support children in need. She says that the process of becoming a foster mom prepares you, but you never stop learning.

"You continue to do training if you're a foster parent every year. You're required to do training, and so that's where it’s really helpful where you can get that training and education you need to continue," Jody explained.

The Colorado Department of Human Services found that only 65% of the required checks were done statewide, which prompted a state audit.

According to the Mesa County Department of Human Services, people looking to be foster parents, even family members, must first go through 3 background checks. These include a Colorado Bureau of Investigation check, an FBI criminal background check and a state welfare check to even be considered.

"They go through multiple levels of checking who they are, before they are even thought to be considered for a foster care program," said Angeline Roles, with the Department of Human Services.

The next step is for future foster parents to go through 27 hours of training. They teach the basics such as CPR, but more importantly how to deal with children who are transitioning to a new home.

Following training, comes a home study report. It includes everyone in the home.

“That’s part of the check as well, to make sure that anybody in that home is safe to be around children," Roles explained.

The Mesa County Department of Human Services says that kinship care, or giving a child in need to a different family member, is what they primarily like to do. However as we've seen in the recent case, sometimes that too can fail.

"Most of the time, when we make those decisions, it's based off of what the parent of the child said. We feel like these people are going to be a caring parent who’s going to take care of our child, and still connect them back to family," Roles said.

Mesa County was one of the higher ranked counties on the list, something the department says they are very proud of. The state audit found that smaller rural counties, such as Delta and Archuleta performed a quarter or less of background checks before placing kids with family members.

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