The Boys Next Door

In the rush to ban sex offenders, cities and counties may inadvertently be creating more of them down the line.

Spittle slid down her face as Juliana Ibarra stood, frozen, in the aisle of the Blockbuster store.

She'd run in for a video, looking for an evening's entertainment for herself and her foster kids. Just another Northglenn mom in a hurry.

But Juliana's entrance quickly attracted attention. There were whispers. Hostile looks. Then, "There's that lady with all the kid molesters," a woman said to her companion, nodding in Juliana's direction. And she hawked a wad at Juliana.

Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
John Johnston
Juliana Ibarra, foster mother and martyr for the cause of juvenile sex offenders.
They're Not Columbine Knolls
Jefferson County struggles to find a place for its sex offenders.

Checking It Twice
The sex-offender registry brands kids well into adulthood.

It took a moment for what had happened to sink in.

And then Juliana laughed.

"I have to hold my tongue a lot, because I really believe in what I am standing up for," Juliana says, weeks later. "I've lost some friends since they found out what kind of work I do. I had a friend for twenty-some years, and now we no longer speak. She called me up and said, 'You defend child molesters!' And I said, 'No, you've got it wrong.'

"But people, they ignore what's the truth."

Juliana and her husband, Eusebio, have been martyred by that "truth."

Since December, they have had eggs thrown at their car, trash tossed on their lawn. Juliana was recently refused service at Foley's. The clerk told her, "Maybe you'd be more comfortable shopping at Wal-Mart."

December is when a neighbor realized that the Ibarras' foster sons are sex offenders, when he began petitioning people door-to-door to have them evicted from their home of fifteen years.

And December is when the City of Northglenn passed a law requiring the Ibarras to send at least two of the boys packing or face jail time or a fine or both.

How could she ask them to go? She couldn't even begin to think about it.

"I know each and every one of them and what they've been through," she says, and glances at her charges.

Sean, eighteen, is lounging on the floor and wiggling his toes, making his flip-flops slap against his bare feet. Beside Juliana on the sofa, seventeen-year-old Adam (the boys' names have been changed for this story) fidgets with a teddy bear, one of several stuffed animals decorating the living room. He twirls the bear and folds it onto his lap, not so much playing with it as he is dispelling nervous energy.

"They are regular boys. Good boys," Juliana continues. "They're both A students. Two or three houses down, those kids are always vandalizing around here, drinking and smoking dope."

The boys murmur in agreement.

The Ibarras, along with nonprofit group homes across the metro area, have been blindsided by what started last year as an effort to rid Lakewood of a home full of adult sex offenders. It has since blossomed into a legal movement to purge sex offenders of all ages from group living arrangements in Northglenn, Jefferson County and a dozen local towns.

Juliana has been a foster mom for thirteen years. For her, it was natural. Her grandmother was a foster mom. Her own mother took in kids, and Juliana was raised with foster brothers and foster sisters. Her biological brother and sister are foster parents, too, and a nephew runs a foster-care agency.

In the beginning, when her children were still small (she has two boys and a girl of her own), she took in only girls.

"When my boys became teenagers, I switched from girls to boys," she says. "I like working with boys. They're neater and not as mouthy. It's rare for them to be in my face.

"Oh, I've heard them downstairs sometimes: 'Oh, that blankety-blank.' And I'll say, 'I heard that!' They call me 'Miracle Ear.'"

At that, Adam grins, and Juliana reaches over and playfully slaps his knee.

About three and a half years ago, when Juliana changed agencies and began contracting with the Lost and Found child-placement agency, therapists there encouraged her to take in boys who'd been found guilty of sex offenses.

Initially it wasn't something she wanted to do. "I was just like everyone else," she says. "I didn't want anything to do with sex offenders."

But as she learned more about their backgrounds, she decided she'd give it a try. Lost and Found provided a week of training to prepare her for the boys' special needs and issues, and she began trying to provide them with as normal a home life as possible under the circumstances.

The boys go with her to family functions. They go out to eat, to the mall, to movies. They have chores.

"It's pretty much just a regular household," Sean says.

"Most of these kids are not used to having that," Juliana says. "So much is taken away from these kids. And they will never have it back."

The rush to zone out sex offenders began a year ago this month, when Lakewood officials discovered that five unrelated men, all of them convicted sex offenders, were living in a rental home in Green Mountain.

Sometime around June 4, 1999, convicted sex offenders began filing in one by one to register with the Lakewood Police Department. They all listed the same home address. (The sex offenders, four pedophiles and a rapist, are part of a treatment program called Teaching Humane Existence.)

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My Voice Nation Help

I won't  use a blanket statement like "everyone deserves a second chance", but I do believe that these folks do. Its kind of sad how society can be with labels sometimes. Tearing people down, not giving them a chance when more than one professional has said they can do better, its not fair. People like Harl and his <a href="">child placement agency</a> shouldn't have to have these concerns.