Every experience shapes our life's direction.

If it wasn't for experiences with her grandma, Halley fears she would have no direction at all.

The two worked side-by-side in the kitchen baking cinnamon rolls. Grandma Phyllis teaches her all she knows about her skills in the kitchen and so much more.

"She saved me from a really bad situation, and she is still there today, so it is amazing," Haley said.

Grandma Phyllis has been a teacher, encourager and the parent. She has watched Haley grow up through very difficult times.

"I remember when we used to touch noses," Phyllis said.

Haley now towers over her.

Haley was 12 years old when her biological mom placed her in foster care. She felt abandoned and alone.

After a difficult three years at many different foster homes, Grandma Phyllis stepped in to adopt and raise Haley.

"She was always there." Haley said, "I am just thankful for that."

She is 18 now and understands that she is one of the lucky ones. The foster system in Colorado is set up to support until a child turns 18 years old. Then, many find themselves facing a significant transition in their lives without emotional or financial support.

Under the law they are adults at 18 but many don't know how to juggle finances, deal with college applications, or deal with finding a job or place to live.

"I think everyone deserves the chance to live life happily and not have to struggle with those issues of homelessness or financial difficulties and aging out of the system and not have any resources," Haley said.

Having a permanent home through her teenage years has helped set the course for her years ahead and given her a vision for a career helping other kids like her.

"It is amazing how many kids are in foster are and how many don't get adopted or age out of the system," Haley said. "I know what it is like to be one of those kids and I want to be able to help as much as I can."

It makes Haley feel like there had been a purpose for all of her experiences, especially the challenging ones.

She knows how important family is for a child and comes in many different ways.

"Family doesn't have to be someone you are related to," Haley said. "It can be someone who just cares about you."

For more information on becoming a foster parent, visit www.changealifeforever.org.

Some facts provided by the Colorado Department of Human Services:

  • At any given time, approximately 5,400 kids are in out of home placement, which includes kinship homes, foster care homes, group homes/centers, residential child care facilities, as well as juvenile correction placements.
  • There is always a need for foster parents. Because some foster parents eventually adopt and some foster parents move or have a full house, social services constantly needs more foster parents to care for the vulnerable kids in care.
  • All kids in foster care have experienced some type of abuse or neglect as well as grief and loss from being removed from their birth families. Because of this trauma, kids in foster care need foster parents who can understand this trauma and can support and provide for the kids in a safe and caring environment.
  • In addition, foster kids and youth face an uphill battle academically due to changes in placements which can result in school transitions, skill gaps, and emotional upheaval. Stability and support in a caring foster home is critical in helping kids in foster care be successful in school as well as in the home and their community.