The Urgent Need for Foster Parents in Wisconsin

Wisconsin foster youth need homes now. The need for more homes existed before the COVID-19 pandemic and has only increased over the past 6 months.

Lonely teen girl
If you’ve ever considered becoming a foster parent, this is the time to apply. Right now foster families and respite providers are needed more than ever. Youth are in desperate need of foster homes, and agencies are struggling to keep up with the demand.

You’ve probably experienced changes to many parts of your life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth in foster care are feeling the impact too.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, foster families and youth struggled to adapt to sudden changes in school, family visits and community activities. Our kids lost routines and structure that brought stability and comfort to their daily lives. Like the rest of the world, foster families and the child welfare system were forced to find completely new ways to work in what has become our new normal.

We had to immediately address questions regarding the health and safety of foster children and families.

In the beginning, there were more questions than answers:

  • How do we keep foster youth and families from contracting COVID-19?
  • How can we ensure that youth entering foster homes will not be spreading COVID-19?
  • How will children get their educational needs met?
  • What will family visits look like?
  • How can foster families and youth get breaks when needed?
  • How will youth participate in therapy?

In recent months, Family Works and other child welfare agencies have worked hard to find  answers to these questions. We’ve developed tools and processes for creating routine and stability in the daily chaos.

There are now systems in place to make sure youth entering foster homes are not sick with COVID. Family visits and family therapy happen online and in-person with as many safety precautions as possible.

While much of the future is uncertain, Family Works foster parents and social workers are creatively collaborating to support our youth in care.

A need greater than the resources

While the child welfare system has stabilized, there is a growing need for foster homes that is greater than the resources available.

At the beginning of the pandemic, agencies saw the requests for youth needing homes slow down significantly, and everyone focused on supporting youth and their stability in foster homes. Reports of child abuse and neglect decreased, and the fear was that these reports would later rapidly increase.  (Read about Marathon county’s report.)

Unfortunately, this fear became a reality. As time goes on and stress for families continues, more and more families are coming to the attention of the child welfare agencies.

Marinette County spoke out in October about the state of youth and families in their county. Officials reported that mental health needs of their youth and families are increasing dramatically along reports of child abuse and neglect. Stephanie Nault, a UW-employee in Marinette explained, “We have been seeing increases in drug overdoses, suicides, cases of neglect, binge drinking in both adults and youth, depressive symptoms and mental health issues. These are just some of the trends.” (Read more about the report from Marinette County officials.)

The reality is that some youth facing these challenges are entering foster care, and we need foster parents to welcome them into their homes.

Children need adults who can provide stability and structure, who will stick with them during challenges, and who will connect them with the resources they need.

If you have ever considered becoming a source of stability and love for kids, you are needed now more than ever.

Family Works is eager to support the needs of foster youth across our state and would like to partner with you in doing so. We are actively licensing families with safety precautions, and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has made virtual foster parent training available to new parents across the state.

The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” has never been more true than it is now. If you believe foster care is your way to contribute to the community, please reach out to our licensing specialists to begin the process today.


Apply to be a Foster Parent