Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 5, 20177min778

The Colorado Department of Human Services highlighted five families for their dedication to foster kids at the Governor’s Mansion in Denver Saturday.

“Touching the life of a child in need is one of the most important and fulfilling things we can do,” DHS executive director Reggie Bicha said in a statement. “These families have done an incredible thing by opening their homes and hearts to some of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens. Our kids are our future, and these five families are a great example of the role models we want helping to shape our future through compassion and care.”

The ceremony was part of the state’s recognition of National Adoption Month.

The families were featured in a series of videos shown at the luncheon to inspire adoptions for more than 100 attendees, DHS said.

DHS featured:

  • April and Earl Camp Sr. of Craig.
  • Amy and Jessica Kobylinski of Colorado Springs.
  • Anita and Jeff Nobles of Denver.
  • Himon Robles of Pueblo.
  • Amber and Maurice Taylor of Peyton.

DHS said there are 276 children and teensin foster care awaiting adoption in Colorado. The foster care system in the state took care of 877 kids who were adopted last year, and 652 have been adopted so far this year.

The state is trying to find more foster parents, especially those who can take care of children with special needs, siblings and older children. Colorado Politics reported last week that Colorado needs 1,200 more foster families in the next two years.

Watch the videos by clicking here. Here are bios of the foster families honored Saturday provideds by DHS:

Camp Family

For 18 years, April and Earl Camp Sr. have been foster parents in Craig. In that time, they have fostered countless children and adopted one child, their 9-year-old daughter, Lucy. April and Earl agree that adoption is a lifelong journey for everyone in their family. Lucy is thriving in their home, and their sons, Earl Jr. (22) and Joshua (37), are proud older brothers. For support on this journey, the Camps turn to the Moffat County Department of Social Services, doctors and specialists across the state, and their own families. April and Earl continue to foster children and teens, and they plan to adopt again if they foster a child who is unable to return to their biological parents and needs a home.

Kobylinski Family

Amy and Jessica Kobylinski had already started the process to become foster-to-adopt parents when they read about a Colorado Heart Gallery display at a library in Colorado Springs. This article prompted the couple to contact The Adoption Exchange, where they told an LGBTQ staff advocate about their desire to adopt a teenager. Almost immediately, the couple were interested in adopting Diamond, 17, but it wasn’t until several months later that they were able to meet Diamond in person. Immediately, the three felt like a family, and Diamond’s adoption was finalized in October 2017. Amy and Jessica are committed to giving Diamond acceptance and unconditional love, and they say Diamond gives them that in return.

Nobles Family

Anita and Jeff Nobles were married for 15 years before they grew their family by adopting siblings Imani, 3, and Tyson, 2. Parenting two toddlers is a challenge. Anita and Jeff say that getting through the day and putting the kids to bed at night is a little victory. For the Nobles, parenting is all about trial and error and thinking creatively in order to ensure their children feel safe and have stability. Anita created a visual schedule for the kids to help them recognize family members and adapt to a consistent routine. They have also relied on the support of their family, faith and community throughout the adoption process.

Robles Family

Himon Robles was a 32-year-old bachelor when his two nieces and nephew moved into his home. Going from an uncle to a parent was an adjustment for Himon and the kids, who were used to their uncle spoiling them and giving them everything they wanted. After caring for the kids for two years, Himon and the kids – Mikayla, 15, Anastaysha, 8, and Joseph, 5 – jumped at the opportunity for adoption. Even though they were already a family, adoption gave them all permanency and peace of mind.

Taylor Family

Maurice and Amber Taylor’s adult children had already left the house when the couple decided to adopt three of their foster children: Max, 9, Tatiana, 8, and Keri, 7. For Maurice, adoption runs in the family – his parents also adopted and he saw firsthand how having a family can change a young person’s life forever. Maurice and Amber continue to foster to provide a safe, loving home for children in Colorado’s foster care system. Maurice and Amber want to let other people know that you don’t have to be perfect to adopt. Kids don’t care about what you have; they just want to be love


Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 23, 20173min711

The new director of Colorado Office of Behavioral Health has another new title: Friend of Children.

Robert Werthwein received the award from Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.

Werthwein was recognized for his work with the Colorado Department of Human Service’s Office of Children, Youth and Families from March 2015 to September 2017, before DHS promoted him last month.

For 24 years, CASA has given the Friend of Children Award “to those who personify the values of humanitarian outreach and volunteerism with children, families and the community,” DHS said.

The award typically goes to judges, law enforcement, doctors, legislators or individuals who work to make life better for kids.

“At CDHS, we’re charged with ensuring every child in our care knows that they can rely on us, that we’re going to work to equip them with the tools they need to succeed and when the burden is too much, we’ll be there to help lighten the load,” Werthwein said in a statement. “Our kids are our future, and we’re going to keep showing up for them every day to help put more Colorado youth on a path to success.”

Since earning his doctorate in clinical psychology, Werthwein has worked to strengthen child-welfare programs and improve treatment for at-risk children. At the Office of Children, Youth and Families, Werthwein focused on juvenile justice, child welfare, human trafficking and other complex issues.

DHS referenced his work on House Bill 1207, the legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, that removes incarceration as an option for children younger than 12.

The rule already applied to children 10 and younger. The bill signed into law by the governor in May.

“Dr. Werthwein worked tirelessly to advocate for 10-12 year olds in the juvenile justice system, keeping those youths with low-level offenses from mandatory detention facilities,” DHS said.


Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 20, 20176min322

Here’s a taste of good government that could make your mouth water and put a smile on your face, for a change. Cooks from 14 Colorado Department of Human Services facilities squared off  Wednesday in Wheat Ridge to show off dishes they serve to those in their care.

Folks are so eager to badmouth public servants, based on the actions of a few. To do so, however, they must overlook the pride, dedication and caring of so many, like those who make sure the state’s neediest and most neglected are cared for with love, compassion and respect. DHS is trying to shine a light on its staff members who, themselves, are shining lights.

Baklava from Mount View Youth Services Center in Lakewood took home the prize Wednesday at the Wheat Ridge Regional Center. Mount View is a detention facility for youth, many of whom likely haven’t had a lot of award-winning attention in their lives.

“I fix baklava for the kids on special occasions,” said Dina Lampropoulou, who joined with Jim Cronin on the Mount View team. She said she was “very excited” to win.

The dish is close to her soul; she’s originally from Greece. A sign on the Mount View booth at the contest noted “America is the melting pot.”

Mount View shared the award for most spirit, a recognition called Say Yes to the Zest, with the Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora, which showed off its patriotic pride in its theme.

“The work our dietician team does is so important,” said Reggie Bicha, DHS’s executive director. “A good and nutritious meal is one of the best ways to make somebody feel nurtured and to give our clients a foundation so that they can benefit from the great work our clinical staff does.”

Adams Youth Services Center came in second with roast pork mole pupusas, a recipe the center got from one of the young people in the facility. There were two honorable mentions: Grand Mesa Youth Services Center for its carne asada tacos and Pueblo Youth Services Center for a red velvet cake.

Bicha judged the contest with Tony Gherardini, DHS’s deputy executive director of operations; Melissa Wavelet, the agency’s director of the Office of Performance and Strategic Outcomes; Denver Post food writer Allyson Reedy and 9News multimedia journalist Noel Brennan.

Among the other dishes they judged were lasagna, smoked meatloaf, cheesecake, taco soup and chicken enchiladas.

. Other competitors were Gilliam Youth Services Center, Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center, Platte Valley Youth Services Center, Zebulon Pike Youth Services Center, Pueblo Regional Center, Wheat Ridge Regional Center, Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan and Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

Fitzsimons won the contest the first year of the 3-year-old contest , and Spring Creek was the winner last year.

Here’s the recipe (by special request of Colorado Politics, because our readers deserve the best):

Mount View Baklava

1 pound of phyllo pastry, thawed or frozen
1 cup of butter melted at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 cups of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/4 cup of honey

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Layer sheets of phyllo one at a time in a greased 11x7x2-inch baking pan brushing each sheet evenly with butter and folding over the ends, if necessary, to fit in the pan.
2. Keep unused sheets covered with plastic wrap while assembling the baklava to prevent drying.
3. Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar and cinnamon, stir in walnuts.
4. Sprinkle mixture evenly over buttered phyllo in the pan.
5. Layer remaining phyllo, one sheet at a time, over the nut mixture, brushing each sheet evenly with butter.
6. Cut diagonally into squares, completely through all layers.
7. Bake in preheated oven until crisp and golden, about one hour.
8. Combine remaining sugar, the water, lemon juice and honey in a small saucepan; cook and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.
9. Heat to boiling then pour evenly over the baklava.
10. Let stand loosely covered for 8 hours or overnight.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct that Fitzsimons won the contest the first year.

Colorado PoliticsColorado PoliticsJanuary 27, 201731min579

DENVER — Lots of editorial activity out there on the Colorado politics interwebs lately. The Denver Post goes after Donald Trump ("... time for him to start acting presidential" - ouch!), and ICYMI, the Post also saying State Treasurer Walker Stapleton was right about PERA. And even though we just slapped you, don't forget to consider Neil Gorsuch for SCOTUS! they add. Meanwhile, Westword gives us their top 10 reasons why Gov. John Hickenlooper should make a bid to take on The Donald in 2020! Wow ... a heaping helping of opinion to digest this week. Read on for all of that below.