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Adoption

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Three photos of diverse adoptive families

Adoption creates supportive, loving families for children, teens and adults. There are three types of adoption: adoption from foster care; international adoption; and private domestic adoption. Most adoptions in the United States are through the foster care system.

The Colorado Department of Human Services' goal is to keep children and youth with their birth families. However, there are certain situations in which that is not possible or in the best interest of the child or youth. In those situations, we seek adoptive families for children and youth in foster care. There is always a need for kinship and foster families, especially for sibling groups and teens.

For more information about adoption in Colorado, read through the information below and visit our CO4Kids website.

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Types of adoption
Adoption from foster care

The primary goal of foster care is to reunify children/youth with their parents. However, if that option is not available, adoption or another type of permanent home is the secondary goal. In 2023, Colorado had an average of 395 legally freed children and youth who were waiting for a permanent home. Adoptive and foster parents must be at least 21 years old or older, pass a background check, complete training and complete a home study. Please understand that Colorado County Departments of Human/Social Services primarily certify families to provide foster care, and not directly for adoption unless the child/youth is legally free. 

International adoption

International adoption is the adoption of a child and/or teen from another country other than the United States. There are different types of international adoptions that will determine which type of visa the child/teen will receive in the finalization of an adoption. Colorado child placement agencies that are licensed to complete private adoptions finalize these adoptions and support the prospective families and children/youth through this process. For more information on an agency that will finalize international adoptions and review the international adoption process, please visit CO4Kids.org to locate an agency near you.

Example of domestic international adoption: For example, in the course of completing a family search and engagement following placement of a child or youth in foster care, the county department of human services locates a family member who is a citizen of another country. If adoption is determined to be the appropriate permanency goal, the county department will consent to complete the international adoption process.

Private domestic adoption

Private domestic adoption is a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights by biological parents placing a child or youth into the custody of a child placement agency that is licensed to complete adoptions. These placements are arranged and managed by child placement agencies and private Colorado adoption attorneys. Colorado is an agency-to-agency state, which means that no facilitation from private stakeholders is allowed during the private adoption process. Generally, agencies are involved to provide support to the adoptive family prior to and after finalization of private domestic adoptions.

Interested in adopting?

Meet many of the children and youth in Colorado who are waiting for a family on the Colorado Heart Gallery. The Colorado Heart Gallery is both a traveling photography display and website dedicated to finding families for children and youth in foster care who are waiting for a family. It is a collaboration among CDHS, Raise the Future, counties throughout the state and volunteer professional photographers. Colorado also has partnerships with Raise the Future and Adopt US Kids, two organizations whose websites allow users to make inquiries on specific children/youth.

Please understand that most county departments of human/social services primarily certify families to provide foster care through their department and not directly for adoption, unless a child/youth has already been residing with them and they become legally free for adoption.

Start the adoption process in Colorado

Adoption is a lifelong journey, so it is important to collect as much information as possible before beginning. The following information is designed to explain the adoption process in Colorado from start to finish.

1. Attend an information session

Information sessions are held statewide and can answer many adoption questions prospective adoptive parents may have before deciding on a licensing agency. Most adoption and foster care agencies and Colorado counties have information sessions listed on their websites and/or can provide information about when the agency will have an information night over the phone. Information meetings are also listed on the Information Sessions page of the CO4Kids website. During information meetings, the licensing agency will provide specific information about the types of adoptions they conduct, time frames for adoption, who is involved in the adoption process and an introduction to the child welfare system.

2. Attend training

Every prospective adoptive parent must complete core training in addition to other required training, such as CPR and first aid. The county or child placement agency may also require additional training. The training is an important step in preparing parents for their journey towards adoption. In two-parent households, both parents are required to complete training. The licensing agency will provide critical information during the training that is important and beneficial to prospective adoptive parents.

3. Home study process

The Colorado home study process is tailored to the type of adoption parents are interested in pursuing. The Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) is a structured home study methodology that allows child welfare agencies to effectively and systematically evaluate prospective families for foster and adoptive placement. Prospective parents who are interested in adopting must first become certified. The foster parent training and certification process prepares parents to care for and support children and teens who have experienced trauma, grief and loss, and with whom they have no history. On average, the home study process takes three to six months to complete. Learn more about the SAFE home study process.

4. Matching process

Once a parent(s) have become certified, families are able to care for a child or youth who is in foster care. Most children/youth in Colorado in foster care are reunited with their families. If this is not possible, then adoption may become an option. The matching process is heavily dependent on the child welfare caseworker making the matches for a child, youth or sibling group. Once the home study process is complete, certified families can make inquiries on children and youth who are waiting to be adopted and should discuss what type of child or youth they would like to adopt with their county or child placement agency. This discussion could include but is not limited to age, needs, disabilities, sibling groups and gender identity.

5. Placement and post-placement supervision

Prior to placement, foster parents will be provided additional information about the child, youth or sibling group. This information includes the history of each child or youth such as general needs, medical, emotional, disability and all other pertinent information including if parental rights to the children or youth have been terminated. If parental rights are not terminated, then the agency will provide as much information as possible to the prospective family to make a decision to move forward with placement, but the agency may not be able to provide information about the biological family at this point in the case. Ideally, if the placement is determined to be a fit for the family and the child or youth, they will be slowly transitioned into the foster home through scheduled visits and a transition plan. This is often a process that takes many months to make sure all necessary supports are in place for both the child or youth and the family. Prior to the finalization of the adoption and for the duration of the case, a foster parent(s) will have county and/or agency caseworkers visit their home to assist with the transition and provide support and assistance to ensure the child or youth is getting their needs met. Caseworkers are required by rule to visit the child or youth at least monthly in the home to determine safety, permanency and well-being. These visits will include the foster parent(s), but the worker also is required to see the child or youth outside the presence of others to determine the child or youth's safety and well-being. In Colorado, post-placement supervision is required for a minimum of six months before finalization of the adoption can occur.

6. Adoption assistance

A child/youth may be eligible to receive adoption assistance, which may include a monthly financial payment, Medicaid, non-recurring adoption expenses or case services (services which Medicaid does not cover). This is based on the child/youth’s needs and the family’s circumstances. An adoption assistance negotiation meeting with the county department and prospective adoptive parent(s) must occur prior to and an adoption assistance agreement must be signed prior to the finalization of adoption.

7. Finalization of adoption

An adoption hearing to finalize the adoption of the child or youth will be set before the court in the jurisdiction where the child welfare agency is located or in the county where the private adoption is being finalized legally. The child or youth will legally become part of their new family at this hearing.

8. Post permanency services and support

Post-permanency services and support can be provided to continue to support adoptive families after an adoption has been finalized. County departments or child placement agencies provide local resources post-permanency support. Raise the Future also offers community-based network of support services for families living in Colorado.

Adoption assistance in Colorado
What is adoption assistance? 

Adoption assistance is a program that provides assistance to adoptive parent(s) in certain defined and limited ways to provide for the needs of an eligible adopted child/youth. Adoption assistance is intended to help or remove financial or other barriers to the adoption of Colorado children/youth with special needs by providing assistance to the parent(s) in caring for and raising the child/youth.

Per CRS 26-7-102 “Eligible child or youth” means a child or youth who meets the medical and disability requirements for federal supplemental security income or is a child or youth with one or more specific factors or conditions that would make it reasonable to conclude that a child or youth cannot be adopted without providing benefits to assist in the adoption. Factors include but are not limited to:

  • A physical disability, such as hearing, vision, or physical impairment; neurological conditions; disfiguring defects; metabolic disorder; a child or youth infected with the human immunodeficiency virus; or heart defects that have been documented by a licensed medical professional;
  • A mental, intellectual, or developmental disability that has been documented by a licensed medical professional, such as a perceptual, speech, or language disability or any disability that results in educational delays or significant learning difficulties;
  • An emotional handicap, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or other mental health disorder that has been documented by a licensed mental health professional;
  • Hereditary factors that have been documented by a licensed medical provider or mental health professional;
  • An educational disability that qualifies for section 504 of the federal “Rehabilitation Act of 1973”, as amended, 29 U.S.C. sec. 701 et seq., or special education services;
  • Factors that place a child or youth in a “high-risk” category, such as being drug- or alcohol-exposed in utero;
  • Other conditions that act as a barrier to the child’s or youth’s adoption, including but not limited to a healthy child or youth over seven years of age or a sibling group that should remain intact and medical conditions that are likely to require further treatment; or
  • Ethnic background or membership in a minority group whose children or youth might be difficult to place.
What type of adoption assistance is there? 

Financial adoption assistance (long-term or time-limited): Monthly assistance payment (not to exceed the rate paid in foster care minus respite or the rate the child/youth would receive if they entered care today)

Medicaid: All children/youth who are adopted via child welfare are categorically eligible for Medicaid until 21 (CCR 8.100.4 H. F. and CCR 7.306.41 D. 7.306.42 D.) 

Case services: Provided to support a child/youth’s case plan and are provided to meet the special needs identified when they are placed for adoption and which are not covered by the adoption assistance or Medicaid

Non-recurring adoption expenses: Up to $2,000 per child/youth for expenses the family has incurred that relate directly to the adoption

How is adoption assistance determined? 

Adoption assistance is based on two main factors — the child/youth’s needs and the family’s circumstances. An adoption assistance agreement must be in place prior to the finalization of adoption in order for a child/youth to receive assistance. 

Colorado has created an Adoption Assistance Negotiation Worksheet, which currently is encouraged to be used statewide. This will be required to be used statewide in the near future. 

Please also refer to the Colorado State Adoption Assistance Policy.

Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA)

The Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA) is an agreement among its member states that enables them to coordinate the provision of medical benefits (Medicaid) and services to children and youth receiving adoption assistance and Title IV-E relative guardianship assistance (RGAP) when they move across state lines. Each state has a compact administrator who is responsible for administering the compact within the state. Each of the 64 Colorado counties have their own ICAMA contact person who works with the Division of Child Welfare and the other state compact administrators in making sure children and youth with adoption assistance agreements or Title IV-E RGAP agreements receive the benefits and services they need when they move to or from another state. 

If your child/youth has adoption assistance or a Title IV-E relative guardianship agreement and you either moved to or are in the process of moving to another state outside of Colorado, please contact the county department of human or social services you have the agreement with to make sure your child/youth has their information sent to the new state you will be residing in so they can get the services they need. If your child/youth is Non-Title IV-E, and you move to a non-reciprocal state (Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico) please contact the county department where you adopted, as Medicaid is not a benefit in those states and you will have to work with the county department for medical coverage.

If you are moving to Colorado from another state and have an adoption assistance or Title IV-E relative guardianship assistance agreement, please contact the state you have the agreement with to make sure they send your child/youth’s information to Colorado. 

More resources and contact information
Frequently asked questions

Will my child/youth receive the same Medicaid benefits as they do in Colorado or the state they are coming from?

States provide services as listed in their Medicaid State Plan. If the child/youth received a particular service in a previous state that is not in the current state’s Medicaid Plan, the service cannot be received from the new state but you may access a similar service. 

Who will be my contact person in their resident county if my family has any Medicaid issues not related to setting up Medicaid in my new state? 

If you moved from another state to Colorado, you must contact the ICAMA contact person for the Colorado county where you reside for assistance. Click HERE for a link to the county ICAMA contact list. If you have an agreement with a county in Colorado but now reside in another state, please contact that states ICAMA contact person. Click HERE for a link to the AAICAMA state contacts list.

Does Medicaid continue through age 21 if the youth lives in another state?

As part of their adoption assistance agreement, children/youth who are adopted in Colorado are eligible to receive Medicaid until the end of the month of their 21st birthday in the state that they reside. 

Adoption records search
To request adoption records

The Colorado Department of Human Services can release adoption record information (if located) to adoptees or other eligible parties who are at least 18 years of age. Colorado Revised Statute §19-5-305 details how adoption records may be accessed by adoptees and other eligible parties. Please note that unfortunately all records are not able to be located, and CDHS has no control as to what is in your actual adoption record if it is located. CDHS generally has access to child welfare adoption records prior to the late 1990’s, while local county departments of human/social services house records from the late 1990s to present. If you were adopted through a private child placement agency that is closed, CDHS potentially may have your record. If that private child placement agency is still in operation, you will have to contact them to request your adoption record, as CDHS will not have access to these records. CDHS does not have access to step-parent adoption records that had no child welfare involvement.

Request forms
Confidential intermediaries

The Colorado Confidential Intermediary program is a court-appointed search service that allows a certified confidential intermediary (CI) access to closed/sealed adoption files. Upon court appointment, the CI will review the sealed records, search for eligible biological family members, and reunite adult biological family members. Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute (CRS) §19-5-305, the eligible person(s) can petition the court for a certified confidential intermediary.

Colorado Confidential Intermediary (CI) service and process

Each confidential intermediary is trained per the Colorado Adoption Commission approved curriculum and has a personal connection to the Adoption/Triad community. Each intermediary is unique in their experience, investigative skills, adaptation and sensitivity to adoption issues. Eligible person(s) may select the confidential intermediary of their choice.

Note: The Confidential Intermediary Program is a fee-based search service. Contact a CI for more information:

Brenda Hudson Retrum
Kid-Friendly Adoption Services LLC
Email: bhudsonret@comcast.net
Phone: 303.332.5641
Certified CI since 2015

Candice Rizzuto
NOCO Confidential Intermediary LLC
COIRS Colorado Investigative Resource Services
Website: www.COIRS.net
Email: czoot@skybeam.com
Phone: 970.686.5668
Certified CI since 2002

Who can search for who?

The Colorado Confidential Intermediary program is a court-appointed search service that allows a certified Confidential Intermediary (CI) access to closed/sealed adoption files. Upon court appointment, the CI will review the sealed records, search for eligible biological family members, and reunite adult biological family members. Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute (CRS) §19-5-305, eligible person(s) can petition the court for a Certified Confidential Intermediary. Eligible person(s) defined below can initiate a search and/or be sought after:

  • An adult adoptee (18 years of age)
  • An adoptive parent, custodial grandparent, or legal guardian of a minor adoptee
  • A biological parent or an adult biological sibling or half-sibling of an adult adoptee
  • An adult descendant of the adoptee or the adoptive parent, spouse of an adoptee, adult stepchild, or adopted adult sibling of an adoptee (with the notarized consent of the adult adoptee)
  • A biological grandparent of an adoptee, with the notarized written consent of the biological parent. Written consent is not required if the biological parent is deceased
  • The legal representative of any individuals listed above
Colorado Confidential Intermediary process
  1. The petitioner files a motion with the court of jurisdiction to assign/appoint a confidential intermediary (CI).
  2. The court of jurisdiction will grant the motion to assign a confidential intermediary and assign a CI to the case.
  3. The CI will contact the petitioner to discuss expectations.  
  4. The CI will request, open and review the sealed files with an approved court order/motion.
  5. The CI will facilitate the search process between petitioner and sought-after but does not act as an advocate, advisor or counselor for either party. 
  6. When/if the sought-after is located, the CI will contact the sought-after. 
  7. The CI will obtain written consent from both parties before exchanging information.
  8. The sought-after has a right to consent or refuse contact. Consent or refusal must be voluntary, informed and written on the consent/refusal form.
  9. The consent/refusal form is a legal document and must be filed with the court before exchanging contact information.
  10. At no time can the CI release confidential information to either party without written consent.  
  11. All documents, files and case records obtained during the search process will be returned to the court of jurisdiction.
  12. At no time can the CI release documents, files or case records (obtained during the search) to either party.
File for a Colorado Confidential Intermediary 

Follow the below simplified step-by-step process to file for a Certified Confidential Intermediary.

  • Do not file in more than one court.
  • Contact a Confidential Intermediary if you have difficulties filing or have not heard back from the court within five to six weeks after filing.

Simplified step-by-step instructions

  1. Fill out three copies of the appropriate JDF court form. A notary is not necessary (unless otherwise stated on the form). Keep a copy for yourself. For a full list of forms, visit the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
  2. Print three blank copies of JDF #345. Do not fill out — leave blank.
  3. Enclose two stamped envelopes, as described below. Failure to send stamped/addressed envelopes will cause cancelations and delays
    • One envelope addressed to yourself.
    • One envelope addressed to your CI. 
  4. Ask your CI to send you a CI assignment motion.
  5. Mail the above documents to the appropriate court of jurisdiction. 
Court forms

Download the appropriate court forms listed below from the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

  • JDF #343: If you are an adoptee
  • JDF #341: If you are an adoptive parent or custodial grandparent
  • JDF #344: If you are a birth parent or biological grandparent
  • JDF #344A: If the birth mother used a known fictitious name
  • JDF #342: If you are a sibling or half-sibling of an adoptee
  • JDF #352/JDF #353: If you are an adult descendant, legal guardian, spouse, an adult stepchild of an adoptee, adopted adult sibling of the adoptee, or adopted adult sibling of an adoptee. Petitioners listed above will also need to have the living adoptee sign a consent authorizing their search, using form JDF #353. If the adoptee is deceased, the petitioner will need to provide death documentation.
  • JDF #345 — All petitioners must print/send three blank copies of JDF #345 "Order of Appointment of Confidential Intermediary" to the court of jurisdiction.
Court of jurisdiction address

Mail the completed forms to the appropriate court of jurisdiction.

Filing birth relative: File in the county where the child was relinquished.

Filing adoptee or adoptive relative: File in the county where the adoptive parents lived at the time of the adoption. 

What to expect after you file

  1. CI will contact you (within 5-6 weeks) to confirm the court appointment/assignment. (COVID delays 1-2 additional weeks.)
  2. CI will discuss the search process, expenses and expectations. CI will then begin the search process.
  3. Once the sought-after is located, the CI will contact you before they make contact to discuss expectations and contact arrangements/preferences.
  4. CI will attempt to make contact with the sought-after. 
  5. Once contact with the sought-after has been established and before contact information can be exchanged, the sought-after will need to sign a consent/refusal form, and the CI will file the form with the court of jurisdiction.
  6. The petitioner may decide to pursue an additional search for additional biological family members. Additional search fees may apply.
  7. Upon case closure, the CI will return all records to the court of jurisdiction. 
  8. At no time can the CI release confidential information to either party without written consent.  
  9. All documents, files and case records obtained during the search process will be returned to the court of jurisdiction.
  10. At no time can the CI release documents, files or case records (obtained during the search) to either party.
Adoption record search resources

CDHS does not have access to original birth certificates, and this may or may not be included in your adoption record (if located). To obtain the adoptee’s original birth certificate only, please contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

CDHS does not have access to your final decree of adoption (unless included in your adoption record). To obtain your final decree of adoption, please contact the district court in which your adoption finalized.

The Colorado Voluntary Adoption Registry, located at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will release information if both parties register. The purpose of the voluntary registry is to facilitate contact between adult adoptees (who were born in Colorado), siblings/half-siblings, and their birth parent(s). They also facilitate voluntary contact between a former foster child who may or may not have been adopted, who is 18 or older, and who is searching for a birth sibling who is 18 or older, who may or may not have been adopted and who may or may not have been in the foster care system. Relatives of deceased adoptees and relatives of deceased birth parents can also register. Relatives include spouse, birth parent, adoptive parent, sibling or a child who is 21 years or older. How to apply: All parties must submit a notarized Colorado Voluntary Adoption Registry Application, photocopy of a valid ID, non-refundable processing fee and proof of relationship.

Records can also be requested from the Colorado State Archives. Call 303.866.2358 or use this form

Adoption Search Resource Connection (ASRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing no-cost search assistance and emotional support for adult adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents seeking insight into the adoptee and birth parent experience. They are an all-volunteer group that is "passionate about our mission to bring Truth, Education, Advocacy, Community and Healing to those impacted by relinquishment, adoption and foster care." A wide range of resources is available, including links to recommended reading, music, therapy resources, and community.   

CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) is a national nonprofit support group not limited to birth parents but all members of the adoption circle.

International Soundex Reunion Registry is a computerized matching service of adoptees with birth parents or siblings who are registered. Must be at least 18 years old to register.

Private adoption assistance application process

Children and youth who are adopted privately may be eligible for adoption assistance. The eligible child or youth must have been in the custody of a county department, a person to whom the custody of the child has been given by proper order of a dependency and neglect court, or a nonprofit child placement agency, and is legally available for adoption (parental rights have been terminated/relinquished), including the resolution of all appeals. They must still meet the criteria of an eligible child/youth as identified in CRS 26-7-102 and may be eligible for Financial Assistance, Medicaid, Case Services and Non-Recurring Adoption Expenses (as discussed in the Adoption Assistance in Colorado section on this page). 

In order to receive any form of adoption assistance in a private adoption, a child/youth must also meet Title IV-E requirements. An adoption assistance agreement must also be signed prior to the finalization of adoption (45 CFR 1356.40). If an adoption is finalized prior to an adoption assistance agreement being signed by the family and county department of human/social services, a child/youth will not be eligible for assistance even if they would have met criteria.

Families who have hearings to terminate/relinquish parental rights and finalize adoption on the same day are not eligible to receive adoption assistance as the Colorado Department of Human Services and the local county department must have sufficient time to determine a child/youth’s eligibility and complete the adoption assistance application process. If you would like your child/youth to be considered for adoption assistance, the hearings must be completed on different days (suggested at least 30-60 days apart).

Please see the Private Adoption Assistance Application Process document (also available in Spanish) for more information. 

To apply for private adoption assistance, download the Application for Private Adoption Assistance (also available in Spanish), and submit your completed application along with your supporting documentation to sheila.dalton@state.co.us.

Adult adoption

You are never too old to be adopted. Adult adoption is a court process that creates a legal relationship between a person older than 18 who wishes to be adopted and an adult(s) who wishes to adopt. When a petition for an adult adoption is granted by a judicial officer, usually a judge, a formal and lasting relationship is formed. An adult adoption also has the additional benefit of allowing the adult adoptee to receive the emotional and psychological benefits from having a legally recognized family.

Overall, an adult adoption can be a quick process and can often be completed within 90 days. Adult adoption requires the consent of the adult wishing to be adopted as well as the individual, or individuals, wishing to adopt. Once everyone has discussed the level of commitment involved and is in agreement with moving forward, they should review the instructions and forms for adult adoption located at the Colorado Judicial Branch website. Completed forms must be filed with the local court that hears juvenile matters. When the forms have been properly filed with all parties in agreement a judicial officer, usually a judge, will decide whether or not to grant the adoption.

  • A lawyer is not required but should be consulted if the family encounters any difficulty understanding the process or pursuing adult adoption.
  • A home study is not necessary to complete the adult adoption process.
  • The adoption generally does not require an actual hearing, but one can be requested when the paperwork is filed. A hearing may provide a formal symbol to the young adult of the commitment being made. A name change is not required in an adult adoption, but can be requested by the individual being adopted when completing the paperwork.
  • Adult adoption in Colorado does not affect the rights of biological parents, and they do not need to be notified of an adult adoption proceeding.

Before completing an adult adoption, check with the agencies and/or organizations that provide benefits and ensure that the benefits will not be impacted.

  • Medicaid: Adult adoption does not affect Medicaid eligibility.
  • Chafee Independent Living Program: For young people who were in foster care on or after their 18th birthday, adult adoption does not affect eligibility for Chafee services. Chafee services are available until a young person turns 21.
  • Independent Status for Financial Aid: Adult adoption will not affect a student's eligibility for independent status if they were in foster care at any point after their 13th birthday. Independent Status allows the student's financial aid to be calculated without regard to parental income.
  • Education and Training Vouchers (ETV): Adult adoption will not affect eligibility for ETVs, which must be received prior to turning 21 and can be extended until age 23, if the young adult is continuing to pursue a degree or certificate.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A young adult receiving adult SSI should not have their benefits affected by adult adoption.
Adoption forms

Forms related to adoption frequently used in Colorado.

Colorado adoption contacts

For additional information regarding child welfare adoption in Colorado, please contact:
Sheila Dalton, Adoption Program and ICAMA Administrator 
sheila.dalton@state.co.us

For additional information regarding private adoption in Colorado, please contact:
Kate Bradley, Adoption and Licensing Supervisor
kate.bradley@state.co.us

If you have another question, concern or complaint, contact us here.