Family Values

When the state's foster-care system doesn't work, there's always the private sector. but sometimes that doesn't work, either.

She also says that with the county, there is little time to meet a child before a placement to make sure the match is right. "You might spend one hour with the kid, no more than two, but the kid doesn't really get to know you. But with a CPA, we ate, we reacted. I was able to watch their reaction."

Sterling lives in a spacious duplex in northeast Denver. African art is placed throughout her home, except in the "Broncos room," which is filled with this season-ticket holder's team memorabilia. It is the only place in the house where foster kids must tread lightly.

Sterling now has two foster girls, one age thirteen and the other fourteen. The older girl was a victim of abuse and has a history of hallucinations; the younger one has been bounced around a dozen foster homes and group homes since she was two. The girls share a neat and cozy room, where two stuffed rabbits hang from one wall and a teddy bear hangs from another. Sterling says that so far, these kids have given her little trouble, although one does have a hair-trigger temper, and she often finds the other wandering the house early in the morning.

When Sterling heard about the Haney incident, she says that at first she gave the parents the benefit of the doubt. Now she believes the couple was in it just for the money.

"It's very disappointing," she says. "It makes it hard for foster parents who really love their kids. It puts a black mark on all of us. It makes people wonder.

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