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Mount Saint Vincent

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Ninety-four children and one Sister

at Mount Saint Vincent

“Children are in foster care through no fault of their own. Whether it was abuse or neglect, something was done to those children, and as a society we have the responsibility to care for these kids.”

Sister Michael Delores Allegri adores children. It’s no wonder, then, that she has surrounded herself with children of all ages her entire adult life.

Sister Michael’s career began in 1964 when she first taught high school in Topeka, Kansas. It was a position she would hold for the next 23 years. She retired from teaching but felt too young to quit working altogether. Fortunately, a new and exciting opportunity presented itself at Mount Saint Vincent.

Mount Saint Vincent provides clinical treatment for children with severe emotional and behavioral challenges due to trauma, mental illness, abuse or neglect. Sister Michael was asked to help out with the K–8 school’s summer program in 1985. “I absolutely loved it,” she said. She ultimately was called back to Kansas, but eight years later, she found her way back to Denver. This time, she would stay for good.

Sister Michael always had an interest in providing foster care. So in March of 1999, after taking the required training, two little girls came to live with her and another foster mom. Sister Michael was 57 years old at the time. Twenty-two years and 94 children later, the 79-year-old sister is still going strong. When asked what she thinks is the biggest misperception people have about foster care, she says it’s the belief that children in the foster care system are someone else’s problem. “They don’t understand that children are in foster care through no fault of their own,” she states. “Whether it was abuse or neglect, something was done to those children, and as a society, we have the responsibility to care for and raise these kids.” According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, there were 8,500 children in out-of-home placements in 2020. There were foster homes available for only 2,500 of them.

Sister Michael believes that foster parenting is a calling, and although not everyone is able to be a foster parent, there are other ways to help. “Anyone can help support foster families in their community; there are many options that are easy to do,” she said. Ideas include donating diapers, baby formula or gift cards. “Just the other day, we had a three-year-old who arrived with the clothes on his back and shoes that were a size too small,” she said, “New children’s clothing is always needed.” Even small tasks like offering to make a meal or run an errand are greatly appreciated.

The best predictor of foster parenting success is a family’s capacity to love and care for a child. To illustrate, Sister Michael recounted a situation that took place years ago. Just after Thanksgiving of that year, a foster family was involved in a terrible car accident; the mother suffered fatal injuries and the father was paralyzed. Sister Michael knew she couldn’t let a frightened five-year-old spend Christmas in a crisis center. So she sat her four foster children down and ran through the logistics — there was one more seat in the van, there was enough room in one of the bedrooms for another bed, and there was enough space at the dining room table. Then Sister Michael’s four-year-old foster son piped up, “And we have enough love!” Sister Michael smiled. Because she knew that in the end, that’s really what it’s all about.

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