During the licensing process, we receive many questions about foster care and recognize there are many false ideas about foster care that exist. We’re here to dispel those myths. We hope you will leave with a better understanding of foster care and may even recognize how qualified you are to be a foster parent!
1. Myth: There is a financial cost to being a foster parent.
It’s a completely free process to become licensed as a foster parent. There are no costs to individuals who are interested in the process. Our agency covers the costs of background checks and will work with you to become licensed.
New foster parents complete a foundations training which is also of no cost to foster parents. Family Works provides ongoing training for free to foster parents so you can stay up-to-date on meeting your yearly training requirements.
The physical and medical needs of children in the home are covered through a monthly foster care stipend and state insurance. This stipend is set in collaboration with the child’s home county and is based upon the needs of the child in the home. Children in foster care are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program if their biological family does not have another primary insurance source.
While foster care should not be a financial burden to your family, adding a member to your household will increase expenses, and there is a foster care stipend to cover those expenses. This stipend is also not meant to be an income source. Foster parents must be able to meet their own financial needs outside of the foster care stipend.
2. Myth: I’m too young/old to be a foster parent.
Foster parents must be at least 21 years old and 5 years older than any youth placed in their home. This is the only specific age criteria for foster parents. A physician must sign a form stating you are physically and emotionally healthy enough to parent. This leaves room for foster parents of a variety of ages to care for our kids.
It’s most important for our kids to be cared for by adults who are passionate about caring for kids and able to invest the time and energy it takes to support them.
3. Myth: Only married, heterosexual couples can be foster parents.
Foster parents can be single, married or in a relationship. In addition, people of all sexual orientation, gender, race and ethnic identities can become foster parents. All of these family makeups can be great homes for children in foster care. Your life and experiences will uniquely equip you to parent the children we serve. Similar to age requirements, the most important factor is a foster parent’s ability to meet the needs of children in their home with the care and support children need.
4. Myth: I don’t own my own home so I can’t foster.
Foster parents can own their home or rent. What’s most important is that the home meets the safety and space requirements put in place by the state. These are some of the basic requirements:
Every home should have at least 200 square feet of space per household member.
One bathroom per every 8 household members.
Families are required to have homeowners or renters insurance.
Our licensing specialists can answer more specific questions about home details, and we can work to get exceptions for situations when applicable.
5. Myth: I must have parenting experience to be a quality foster parent.
To be licensed as a treatment level foster parent (Level 3 or 4) in Wisconsin, experience working with children is necessary. Parenting a child is one way to get this experience, but it is not the only way. This experience can come in other forms.
To be a treatment level foster parent, you must be able to meet 3 of the following 7 requirements.
- A minimum of one year of experience as a foster parent or kinship care provider with a child placed in his or her home for at least one year.
- A minimum 5 years of experience working with or parenting children.
- A minimum of 500 hours of experience as a respite care provider for children under the supervision of a human services agency.
- A high school diploma or the equivalent.
- A college, vocational, technical or advanced degree in the area of a child’s treatment needs, such as nursing, medicine, social work or psychology.
- A substantial relationship with the child to be placed through previous professional or personal experience.
- Work or personal experience for which the applicant has demonstrated the knowledge, skill, ability and motivation to meet the needs of a child with a level of need of 3.
(You can find more information on specific foster home level certification on the Wisconsin Legislature website: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/document/administrativecode/DCF%2056.13)
- Families can also be licensed as Level 2 foster parents and be moved to a Level 3 or 4 foster family as they gain experience over time.
- Providing respite is a great way to gain the parenting experience needed! (Learn how to become a respite provider.)
6. Myth: Foster families need to have at least one parent home all the time.
State code does specify that at least one parent needs to be at home to meet the needs of a child. The reasoning is that throughout the day, children may have medical appointments, team meetings or other emergency needs.
However, we do have single foster parents and homes where both parents work outside of the home. These families are able to get an exception to the code after consulting with our licensing specialists.
Licensors are able to get exceptions to this part of the state code if an appropriate plan has been made.
It’s certainly important that a foster parent or another key adult in your family is able to immediately respond to these situations.
Licensors work with your family to create a specific plan for support if the children in your home have needs during the work day. For example, some foster parents have employers that offer flexibility to leave if a crisis occurs. Other families identify an extended family member or community support that can also be readily available to the children in their home.
7. Myth: I won’t have any say about the children who are placed in my home.
We recognize you are an expert on your family and should have the ultimate say in who comes to live with you. Foster parents and Family Works staff work collaboratively to help you find children that are a good fit for your home. Part of our licensing process includes talking through the needs of youth you feel you can best support in your home.
We then work to match the specific ages, genders and treatment needs of foster children to your home. After a child is identified, we’ll set up pre-placement visits. These visits are an opportunity to meet the child and begin to develop a relationship before they move to your home. Each step along the way allows your family and the child to determine if your home will be a good fit for all.
Another way to learn more about what children will be a good fit with your parenting style and family dynamic is to provide respite for our other foster families.
8. Myth: Once a child is placed in my home, I’ll be on my own to figure out how to meet their needs.
At Family Works, our social workers and team members will guide and support you throughout your parenting experience. Within your first two years of licensure, you’ll be introduced to being a foster parent through the Foster Parent Foundations course. This 30 hour course will give you an overview of foster care and foster parenting.
Beyond that, our staff and other foster parents support you throughout the journey. Our social workers will meet with your family each week to problem solve and they are available 24/7 if crises arise. In the Family Works family, our goal is that our foster parents always know they are surrounded by a community of support!
(Learn more about the benefits of being a Family Works foster parent.)
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