Colorado’s political world was shocked and saddened by the death of Kyle Forti. The Republican political consultant, who was popular on both sides of the aisle, was in Kenya with friends and died when the helicopter he was riding in during a scenic safari flight crashed. There were no survivors.
“It has the power to really smack you down,” said Forti’s wife Hope. She wasn’t in Kenya. She had just found out she was pregnant with their second child. They also have a five-year-old son.
It wasn’t until after the 29-year-old Forti’s death that a much wider circle of people discovered his passion outside of politics — foster parenting. And now months later, his family and friends continue his work without him.
“It has been a year of total readjustment and change and grief and exhaustion,” Hope said.
In the short term, Hope has had to give up fostering more children. Over the years, the Forti family opened their home to four children. But even though she’s not ready to take in more foster children just yet, she hasn’t abandoned the nonprofit she and Kyle started two years ago to support foster families.
Foster Together connects volunteers with foster families. A recent private home fundraiser brought together a mix of politicos, former candidates and elected officials to mingle with foster parents and children. All gathered to learn more about Kyle’s work.
Hope knows from personal experience that becoming a foster parent is a huge step, her goal is to give people a less intimidating way to help children.
“We wanted to give people in Colorado a simpler way to say, ‘I can’t imagine what those children are going through but let me step into it and go there with them.’”
Volunteers commit to bringing a meal once a month and often friendships form that provide foster parents even more support. Foster mom Megan Harper came to the fundraiser to learn more and said any help for families can make a huge difference.
“Foster families are just regular families and foster kids are just regular kids who for the most part go through regular stuff just like you,” Harper said. “So think, what would I need as a new parent, if I had just had a baby or a four-year-old showed up at my door? Do that for a foster family.”
While Harper never met Forti, a lot of the people working to expand the nonprofit are connected to him. Many are part of Colorado’s political scene and have gotten involved to honor Forti after his death.
Forti was running the campaign for Praj Kulkarni as he sought a Denver City Council seat in early 2019. Kulkarni was already a foster parent before he met Forti and it became something they bonded over.
“Foster care will expose you to harshness and pain that you would normally do everything to avoid and will also expose you to a beauty that you can't even imagine,” Kulkarni said. “So it is the most meaningful thing we've ever done. Hands down.”
Colorado currently needs more than 1,000 additional foster parents to fill its needs, especially families that can take older children or more challenging cases. Foster parent retention is also a state priority. Hope believes groups like Foster Together may make that easier by building a community around those families.
It’s what working on the nonprofit has done for her after her husband’s death.
“On days that feel like it's impossible to get through living in this world anymore, you just know you're all in it together and wait for the next day to be a little bit better.”
Foster Together helped 100 families from 2018-2019. The goal for next year is 400.