Armanda Varnado said 15 years ago she started to help troubled teenagers in Clovis with food, clothing and shelter and tried to be a positive influence in their life.
Varnado became a foster-adoptive parent around that time. She said she chose to become involved in the Children, Youth and Families Department foster care system for one reason — her sincere love for children.
“I would say it’s my calling because I’ve been involved in kids’ lives all of my life,” said Varnado, a retired government employee who cares for five foster and two adopted children in Clovis. “My son was a football player and some of his friends had situations in their life where they didn’t have a mom or dad there so I would take them in.”
According to CYFD Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruiter Renee Fitts, there are 66 children in Curry County and 28 children in Roosevelt County in the CYFD foster care system.
Fitts said there is a large need to provide foster care and to adopt across eastern New Mexico. Foster care situations are temporary and adoptive care situations are usually permanent.
Eighty-five percent of foster parents will become adoptive parents at some point, according to Fitts. She said foster parents and children usually bond and often try to make the situation permanent if possible.
The primary goal of CYFD staff is to place abused or neglected children or children in need in foster families while a reunification between the child and their biological family is under way.
“In this day in age it’s hard for families economically, so a lot of families turn to drugs and alcohol,” said Fitts, who has hosted 42 foster children with her husband Russ at their home in Roswell.
“When these factor into (home and family) situations, often times they are not able to wake up and get their children off to school or make it to a job where they can make money for their family to survive on.”
To be eligible as a foster or adoptive parent one must be 18 or older, pass a criminal background check, attend free training and participate in the CYFD home study process.
Also, candidates’ homes are inspected for health and safety conditions and all individuals living in the home are interviewed.
Foster and adoptive parent candidates must also have lots of flexibility in their lives and in their daily routine, have a great sense of humor, demonstrate patience and understanding and love children, Fitts said.
It usually takes a person 4 to 6 months to become a licensed or adoptive parent. Fitts said her department has a huge need for foster families who can take in older youth and sibling groups.
Varnado said her favorite part of being a foster and adoptive parent is knowing she has changed a child’s life for the better.
“These kids have choices other than the cards that were dealt to them,” said Varnado.
“My foster kids are part of my family. I raise them like they are my own. If you get in a situation, you don’t just drop the kid off somewhere; you deal with that situation as best you can because they have feelings and need to open up to someone.”
Sherrill Wofford and her husband Alan of Portales became licensed foster and adoptive parents in October 2007. They adopted three children through CYFD in July 2008, two in March 2009 and picked up two foster children on Monday.
Wofford estimated she and her husband have cared for about 20 children since 2007. She said the experience has been one of the most rewarding ventures they have made.
“It’s great to see the changes in the kids’ self-esteem,” Wofford said.
“They’re generally coming from places that are unstable. To see how they begin to grow and gain confidence is just amazing.”
• What: CYFD orientation on foster and adoptive parenting
• When: 6 p.m. today
• Where: CYFD office, 221 W. Llano Estacado, Clovis
• Who can attend: Adults considering becoming foster and adoptive parents
• Cost: Free
• Information: 575-624-3406