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Local CEO passes experience to students

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James Belarde is an adjunct faculty member at CSU-Pueblo and a Colorado native, born in Walsenburg. Belarde also serves as the CEO of the Loving Homes child placement center, a local non-profit. Belarde has been in the social work field for more than 30 years but is fairly new to the teaching realm.

Belarde currently teaches a course in human behavior and social environment. He said he enjoys teaching at the university and plans on teaching as long as the university allows him to.”I love it,” Belarde said. “I’ll stay as long as they give me the opportunity.”

According to Belarde, his experience here at the university has been nothing but a positive one.

“I have an office which is nice,” Belarde said.

Teaching has always been an interest for Belarde and it was not until a conversation with a CSU-Pueblo faculty member that he would be given the opportunity.

He said he had done everything but teach. When a position became available he was contacted by Judy Baca, the chairman for the social work department, and was offered the job.

Belarde has worked with students from the university as interns for years. He said he hired a graduate from CSU-Pueblo about a month ago. For this reason he said he takes every class lesson and finds a way to apply it to everyday life.

“I want to make sure that once they graduate they’re comfortable in the work environment,” Belarde said.

While Belarde is teaching, he is continuing his work as a CEO for Loving Homes. Loving Homes was founded by Janelle Peterson in 1989. Peterson was a community member with a master’s degree in social work. According to Belarde the organization recruits families to adopt children and to become foster parents as well.

The organization’s main function is to find homes for kids without stable living environments. Loving Homes provides placement for children statewide. Their market ranges from southern Colorado to Fort Collins and Greeley.

In order for a family to adopt a child or become a foster family, they must complete six steps. The family must contact the agency to request an application. After the application is submitted and approved the family must attend a core training class. The two day class covers everything from what to expect and state rules and regulations. Then the family must identify their interest as to what age of child they would like to foster or adopt. After the completion of the aforementioned steps the family must finish any additional paperwork and receive their license.

Once a licensed is received, the family goes through a trial period in which both the agency and the applicant are in agreement that everything is going to work out for the family and child/children.

Generally, a substantial portion of the children Loving Homes places into care typically suffer from a disorder known as reactive attachment. This disorder develops during the first two years of a child’s life when there is no consistent caregiver in the home.

As the CEO of Loving Homes, Belarde is in charge of the general operations of the organization. He currently has five social workers, group home staff and one administrative assistant working with him. Not only is Belarde the CEO, but he also doubles as the home visit supervisor.

Belarde said he stumbled into the field of social work after a bad experience with a teacher while in high school. Belarde said he was the type of kid who liked to make people laugh and it lead him to trouble on occasion. According to Belarde one of his teachers had told him that he should have done everyone a favor, and quit school.

After this conversation Belarde was sent to the counselor’s office where he was asked what he wanted to do when he graduated. Belarde said this is when he decided that he wanted to help other people.

Belarde started at Loving Homes as a clinician, and after 13 years he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. After serving five years as the Chief Operating Officer he was promoted to CEO and has held the position for more than two years.

Belarde said he enjoys his job at Loving Homes and does not plan on retiring anytime soon.

“Best decision I’ve ever made,” Belarde said. “Over 30 plus years and not even close to burnout.”