DENVER, Colo. — In celebration of National Adoption Month and to encourage more Coloradans to adopt from foster care, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) recognized five adoptive families from across the state on Saturday in a virtual celebration. This year’s event also marked the 15th anniversary of the Colorado Heart Gallery with a video that celebrates the work of the volunteers who make this project possible and the youth and families whose lives it has touched.
The five adoptive families from across the state were joined by CDHS leadership, caseworkers and adoption professionals from county departments of human/social services, child placement agencies and the families’ loved ones from across the country for a virtual celebration.
“Whether virtually or in person, I have been so inspired by the stories of adoptive and foster families and I believe these stories can be very inspiring to other Coloradans as well,” said Michelle Barnes, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Since January 2020, 525 Colorado children and youth in foster care have been adopted, and there are currently 408 kids who are waiting for a family. Most children and youth who are adopted from the foster care system are adopted by their foster parents. Social service agencies are particularly in need of families who are willing to care for children with special needs, siblings and older youth.
“The five families we recognized today demonstrate the power of unconditional love and support that really allows children to flourish,”said Barnes. “They have done much more than open their homes and families to Colorado children — they have also provided safety and stability.”
The five families recognized by the State of Colorado for National Adoption Month are:
Byas and Lana Cast, Denver
Byas and Lana have 10 adult children and many grandchildren. Four years ago they decided they wanted children in their home again so they became foster parents. Right away they began caring for three-year-old twins Leo and Sylas. While adoption was not part of their original plan, Byas and Lana were moved to adopt the twins when it became clear they would need a new permanent home. The adoption was finalized in July 2020. The boys are now seven years old and have been welcomed into their large extended family.
Bill and Leilanie Kisamore, Lamar
Bill and Leilanie became certified kinship foster parents in 2015 when their two grandsons needed a safe place to live. At the time, they were the only certified foster family in Prowers county. Over the last five years, they have continued to open their home to children in foster care. Bill and Leilanie have a full house with six kids all age 10 or younger, including their two grandsons, two siblings in foster care and the two children, Chloe and Weston, whom they adopted in 2018. Their days start early with school, work, appointments and lots of extracurricular activities in this busy and active family. With more than 30 years of parenting experience, Bill and Leilanie have also become mentors to many of the biological parents of the children they have fostered as well as to other kinship and foster families in their small, close-knit community.
Martin Lee, Colorado Springs
Shortly after being certified as a foster parent in 2016, Martin began caring for two siblings. Although the first year of foster parenting presented many challenges, he embraced them with curiosity and never gave up. Through training and foster parent support groups, he was able to help find the tools to help his children cope with their past trauma and thrive. Martin adopted Benjamin and Mickaylah this summer and has seen them grow and change significantly over the past four years. The family enjoys staying active together by hiking, swimming, rollerblading and camping.
Bonita and Matthias Miller, Cañon City
In 2013, Bonita and Matthias Miller moved to Fremont County and became certified foster parents. Over the last seven years, they have adopted two sets of siblings from foster care and they continue to foster. Bonita teaches preschool from home with three four-year-olds and has seen the children flourish. The Millers celebrate the anniversary of each child’s adoption as a way to honor what adoption means to their family. They have also instilled in their children that you don’t have to be the same color to be a family, and they keep photos and keepsakes from the biological parents to acknowledge each child’s story and identity.
Jeanette and Thomas Montelongo, Fountain
When Jeanette and Thomas Montelongo married two and a half years ago they both had children who were young adults or teens. At the beginning of last year, they decided to fill their empty nest through adoption from foster care. After first seeing their son Isaiah on the Colorado Heart Gallery, Thomas and Jeanette knew he would be a perfect addition to their family. They started the process of becoming foster parents with him in mind. This summer, Isaiah’s adoption was finalized and the family continues to foster with hopes of adopting again. Adding to their family has brought this large blended family even closer together.
The Colorado Department of Human Services CO4Kids campaign encourages all Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. To learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, visit co4kids.org.