As opioid crisis overloads foster care system, Canon City family opens their home

Posted on February 19, 2020

Chris and Joanna McIntyre have adopted six children from foster care, including their daughter Ariana through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. The family shared their story with Denver 9News.

The lights start to turn on at about 6 a.m. in a historic Cañon City home as the six McIntyre kids slowly wake up.

“And it just depends on the day, said their mom, Joanna McIntyre. “Some days everything goes really smoothly and then other days nobody wants to do anything, and it’s a struggle.”

On this particular Thursday morning, the kids are relatively calm, and slurp their cheerios as the three oldest kids head off to school.

Their family started as most do, with the oldest, Ariana McIntyre. But her parents didn’t meet her until she was 10-years-old.

“Ariana’s birth mom loved her, but loved meth and other things,” said the now 17-year-old’s dad, Chris McIntyre.

Joanna and Chris weren’t even sure they wanted kids when they got married in college.

But as friends of the District Attorney in Fremont County, they learned of the need for foster parents, and spent a year getting all the paperwork together, and becoming qualified.

Ariana was their first, and they thought it was a short-term stay, until they learned she needed a permanent home from her recruiter with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Chelsea Taylor.

Ariana with her Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, Chelsea Taylor (left)

“I think it’s a reality that it’s harder to place older youth in foster care and it’s harder to achieve permanency for those kids,” said Taylor, who is now a supervisor at the Colorado Adoption Exchange, which receives grant money for the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

Their goal is to find adoptive families that foster kids and teens who they have previously connected with in their lives.

“And often youth are like ‘oh, well if it’s not a stranger and if it’s my neighbor or my coach or my teacher or a family friend, maybe I’d be more interested in being adopted or having legal guardianship or some kind of permanency with that person,”’ said Taylor.

Taylor said at any given time in Colorado, there are around 300 to 400 kids within the foster care system who need adoptive homes.

According to the state, 203 kids were aged out of the system in 2019.

“Our youth who emancipate right, are more likely to be homeless, more likely to use substances, more likely to have a child before they’re ready, they have higher incarceration rates,” said Taylor. “There’s really bad statistics around that.”

The McIntyres didn’t stop fostering kids after they adopted Ariana.

“It’s easier to sit and watch Netflix,” said Chris McIntyre. “But I don’t know if that’s the most satisfying thing.”

They went on to foster and adopt Connor, Matthew, Winter, Adam, and Gabe.

Chris and Joanna McIntyre said all of their kids were removed from their first families because of something relating to substance abuse.

Ariana struggles with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and the McIntyres know some of their other children might struggle later on because of drugs found in their system when they were babies.

With six adopted kids, the McIntyres are still renewing their paperwork to foster kids.

“We’ll do what we can because it’s such a need,” said Chris McIntyre.

They couple feels as if this is something God has called them to do, but they also said their family is no different from other large families.

“Our struggles are not much worse than any parents,” Chris McIntyre said.

Read more about Ariana’s story.


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