Foster care

There is an increasing need for foster parents across the state. Every year we have numerous children and teens referred to our program that we are unable to serve simply because there are not enough foster parents to care for them.

Foster care is meant to be a temporary situation where children are placed in safe and stable homes until a more permanent arrangement can be made. Our goal is for children to reach permanence. Permanence is reached through the child reunifying with their family, adoption, or guardianship. In some cases, the foster parents are able to adopt or obtain guardianship of the child. Depending on the child’s permanency goal, the child may be in your home a few months or in rare cases, several years. The average length of stay is between 6-9 months.

This is a possibility when a child’s permanency plan is adoption. If a foster family has expressed a desire to be an adoptive resource for the child, the child’s team may decide to pursue this option. Children must live with the foster family for at least six months before an adoption can occur.

Each child’s needs and strengths are assessed by the state or county agency to determine the amount a foster parent is compensated for their time and expenditures. Foster parents use this stipend for the care of the child; including food, shelter, clothing, and other daily living expenses. This reimbursement amount may change during the duration of the child’s stay in foster care, depending on the child’s needs. All foster parents are expected to be able to meet their family’s needs without the addition of the stipend. The child’s medical needs (doctor, dentist, eye doctor) and psychological services are covered through Medical Assistance.

What it’s like to be a foster parent

Family Works serves children and teens ages 0-21. Most all of the children we serve have experienced abuse and/or neglect, and therefore, may have a variety of emotional and behavioral challenges. In addition, we often have siblings who may be referred to our agency if there aren’t any other homes that are able to keep them together. The types of situations we encounter are so varied and unique that there is a good chance there is a child or teen who would be a great fit for your home! Children and teens in foster care need a supportive and loving home to help them work through their trauma and learn healthy ways to manage their emotions. Foster homes have proven to be a wonderful healing environment for children and teens. 

Our agency does not require you to be a stay at home parent. Many foster parents work full-time. You must, however, have a flexible enough schedule to be available to meet the needs of the foster child. This may require time off work for sick days, no school days, meetings, appointments, or court hearings.

Generally speaking, the children and teens we support require very close monitoring and supervision. Because of their past, they often need guidance in making positive decisions on a daily basis. Supervision expectations are decided on with the treatment team and are outlined in the child’s treatment plan. Supervision expectations may include: line of sight, in ear shot, or not being alone with other children/pets.

Foster care is governed by Wisconsin Administrative Code Ch. DCF 56. This set of rules guides foster parents as well as foster care agencies in the care of foster children. While foster parents are expected to be able to follow this code, we help you learn and understand it. Foster families who violate this code may be unable to continue caring for foster children.

It is in the child’s best interests for their parents and foster parents to be supportive of one another and to work collaboratively. Foster parents are expected to support the child’s relationship with their family and help facilitate contact when appropriate. There are many reasons a child may be removed from a family’s home and when this happens, there is bound to be some adversity. The best and most effective way to overcome this is to form a partnership with the child’s family and help support their efforts.

In many cases, foster parents are encouraged to maintain contact with children that were previously in their care, and continue to be a support to that child. Separation from caregivers can be particularly difficult for a child and so we attempt to minimize those effects whenever possible. When a child is reunified with his or her family, it is up to the family how involved a foster parent can be. In many cases, the child’s family and foster parents have formed a supportive relationship that encourages contact between the child and their previous foster family.

Becoming a foster parent

Our foster families come in many different shapes and sizes! You can be single, coupled but not married, or married. Anyone in the home who has a parenting role (i.e. spouse or partner) however, must become licensed.

Foster families can be homeowners or renters. Foster children are able to share a room; however, they must have their own bed.

Foster parents should have experience parenting or working with children. Those who have not parented or worked with children have the opportunity to gain this experience by providing respite for other foster families during the licensing process. For more information explore how to become a respite provider and our Ask the Experts article 5 Qualities of Great Foster Parents.

Being convicted of certain crimes may prevent you from becoming a foster parent. A licensing specialist will work with you on your specific situation. All criminal and CPS histories are carefully reviewed during the licensing process; an imperfect history does not automatically ban you from opening your home to a child.

The licensing process

Potential foster parents fill out an application, complete interviews with our licensing specialists, prepare their home to meet state safety guidelines, complete criminal background checks and health examinations, and complete 36-40 hours of pre-placement training provided by the agency. Please see the licensing flow chart for more details, or visit our Wisconsin foster care licensing process overview page.

Family Works foster parents are required to complete 24 hours of training each year. Family Works provides ample opportunity to obtain this training, however, conferences and webinars are also a good way to meet this requirement. Foster parents are also evaluated each year by agency staff, which includes ensuring that the foster home remains safe and up to state standards. Foster care licenses are renewed every two years.

Working with Family Works

County agencies are responsible for caring for children within their county. When they are unable to provide care for those children due to the needs of the children or lack of space in their county foster homes, they contact private agencies such as Family Works. Family Works is able to place children with mild to significant emotional, behavioral, and/or medical needs. We receive requests to place children from all over Wisconsin from county, state, and tribal agencies. We are able to license Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 foster homes.
  • Level 1: Kinship Care
  • Level 2: County Foster Care
  • Level 3: Treatment Foster Care
  • Level 4: Treatment Foster Care
In addition to the normal responsibilities associated with parenting, foster parents need to have a good understanding of trauma-informed care, or show a willingness to learn, in order to best meet the emotional and behavioral needs of the child(ren) in their home. This includes being involved in all aspects of the child’s life in order to facilitate their social and emotional development. Foster parents are essential members of the child’s treatment team and are crucial to helping the child reach their goals.

Family Works provides the support and resources you need to be an effective foster parent. A social worker is available to you 24 hours/day, 7 days/week and maintains regular contact with you through frequent visits and phone calls. We also provide monthly support and training meetings with foster parents and social workers, access to other training opportunities and connections with other foster families and respite providers.

We review information on each child that is referred to our agency to determine if they may be a good fit with one of our foster families. Several factors are considered, including the child’s age, gender, behavioral needs, and location. We then share the information with the foster parents and begin exchanging questions and answers between the foster parents and the referring agency. Next, a pre-placement visit is arranged, which could be a short visit at a neutral location, a weekend overnight stay at the foster home, or anything in between. If all parties agree that the child could be successful in the foster home, official placement plans are made through the court system.

The child’s treatment team is comprised of the placing county worker, the Family Works social worker, the foster parent(s), the child, the child’s family, and any other professional working with the child. This may include a therapist, a psychiatrist, school personnel, and respite providers.

Ready to get started? Contact a licensing specialist: