Becoming a Foster Parent Live Q and A

Becoming a Foster Parent Live Q & A


Join Family Works staff and foster parents for a Zoom call to learn more about fostering with our agency.

About this Event

If you have a passion for helping kids and are looking to give back to your community, fostering could be a good fit for you! Our information session will help you answer questions about what it’s like to be a foster parent and how Family Works can support you on your journey to fostering. This event is designed to answer questions you may have while also informing our Wisconsin community about the need for foster parents.

This information session will include:

Contact Shanna Schweitzer at for upcoming session dates.

We look forward meeting with you soon!


Family Works: Making Families “Work” for over 31 Years

As Family Works wraps up our 31st year of supporting families throughout Wisconsin, we pay tribute to our founding passions that still hold true today. We began as a small agency focused on supporting foster youth. In 31 years, we have grown to be a bigger agency but remain grounded in our values of empowering families and building a tight-knit community. 

Family Works was established in 1990 by Joel Ungrodt. Joel had a unique vision for supporting foster youth throughout Wisconsin. His passion for connection and heart for the work was evident from the beginning. Early foster families and staff recount how Joel was known for partnering with foster parents in a uniquely authentic, genuine way. Taking the time to sit with parents over a cup of coffee and support them through the highs and lows of being foster parents.

In the first year of Family Works, we had one social worker who supported 7 families. Over the last 31 years, Family Works has expanded to include 14 social workers, 42 licensed families and 6 board members.

When Joel passed away in 2005, his wife, Lyn, led the agency with compassion and a steadfast dedication of supporting the healing environments of our extraordinary foster family. Upon retirement in 2014, Rick and Sue Gulbrand, friends of Lyn and employees of the agency, took over ownership of Family Works. The transition was a natural one because all of these leaders shared a passion for maintaining a statewide agency with a small, family feel.

Joel established the principles that guide the agency’s work today:

  1. The inspiration for our name: Every child deserves a family and families “work” as the best place for children to grow and mature.
  2. We are all teachers and learners. Even the children we serve are in the role of the teacher, helping us grow in patience and perseverance.
  3. Everyone is capable of positive change.

As a foster parent, you’ll see how these values show up in…

As we look towards the future of Family Works, Rick Gulbrand plans to carry on the legacy of Family Works. He puts it this way…

“Our hope for the future of Family Works focuses on our ability to continue to provide the best possible support for foster children and foster families. Joel’s legacy will continue on as we long ago adopted his vision and mission for our agency. “Every child needs a home.”

With every day come trials and tribulations. Good stories, sad stories and challenges for our employees, the children we care for and the families we support. There is no single thing or event we are most proud of. When a foster child is adopted, reunited with their family, graduates high school, college or simply moves on as a successful, healthy young person we are proud and extremely happy. We plan to continue this agency’s mission with the hope that we can have a positive impact on all the children that are placed with us.

After 31 plus years, the mission and vision of the agency remain strong, providing the highest quality of care and services to promote success in the lives of Wisconsin’s children and families.

Family Works would like to extend a warm and wide thank you to all of our foster parents and staff who have helped us carry out the vision over the past 31 years. We hope to make a positive impact on the lives of families for years to come.

If you’d like to join us in making a difference, contact our licensing specialists to begin your journey today!


Apply to be a Foster Parent


The Importance of Birth Family Connection

Supporting a foster child’s relationship with their biological family is as essential as providing food, shelter and other basic needs.

Family Works foster parents and staff were fortunate enough to learn from Alice Egan about how to facilitate these crucial relationships in our October 2020 virtual training.



“The best and most effective foster parents have the ability to emotionally and spiritually take in a birth  family and help raise people up to be the best family they can be.”~ Alice Egan 

Alice Egan

Alice Egan is a Clinical Associate Professor at the UW Madison School of Social Work and the newest member of Family Works’ Board of Directors. She has over 8 years of professional experience as a foster care and adoption specialist and personal experience as a parent to 3 children.

Her expertise is one of the many resources foster parents can look forward to learning from at our agency.

In the training, Alice highlighted both the benefits and challenges to birth family connection, often called shared parenting by child welfare workers.

In the past 20 years, the view of family contact has changed dramatically.

In the early 2000s, birth family connection was considered to be good and ideal when it could occur, but now family contact is viewed as an inherent, essential right for children. 

The question is not whether or not children should have contact, but how do we make sure it happens?

The most forward-thinking states are creating legislation to support sibling relationships. One of these states is Minnesota. This bill of rights requires child welfare workers and other professionals to find ways to keep siblings connected to each other while in the system.  View the MN sibling bill of rights (PDF)

Obstacles to overcome

Even to simply have a family visit, there are many barriers that foster parents and their teams must creatively work through. These challenges include family members being separated by physical distance, parental incarceration and most recently, safety concerns due to COVID-19.

While there can be obstacles to overcome, Alice challenged participants to consider this question, “How can I be proactive and creative in my particular circumstances to form a partnership with a child’s family?

Creative ways foster parents can practice shared parenting

Current research shows that children who have contact with their family members are less likely to have mental health symptoms and more likely to be resilient in the face of trauma.

multi generational family picnic

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement about the importance of family visits during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommended in-person visits between children and their families as much as possible. (Read their guidance document.)

Even more importantly, children develop their sense of self through knowing their family. By hearing positive messages about their parents and siblings, children can see their own goodness and value. 

No matter the hardships children may have experienced with their parents, children love their families and need to know more about their roots. 

Staff and foster parents shared examples in the training sessions of times that birth and foster families were able to care deeply for children together. The results were clear. Children thrive and trust is built when children feel they have permission to be loved and cared for by all of the adults in their lives.

Shared parenting is hard but the evidence is clear that it is rewarding work.

After receiving this refresher on the importance of family relationships, our teams are ready to dive even more deeply into family connection. 

Family Works sends a big thank you to Alice for sharing her expertise with our foster parents and providing the space to dive deeper into family relationships.


Apply to be a Foster Parent