Treatment Foster Care: What is it?

For many, the phrase “treatment foster care” can easily sound intimidating. Treatment may sound like something only a trained therapist is equipped to do. In this article we’ll demystify treatment foster care and give you a glimpse of what treatment foster care looks like in reality.

Child looking into camera parent looking on

The basics

Family Works is a treatment foster care agency. We license and support foster parents throughout Wisconsin who provide treatment-level support for children. These foster parents are trained, equipped and supported to care for children in individualized and specialized ways.

Simply put, treatment foster care is providing a home environment and network of support that allows a child to experience healing and growth.

The children coming to our agency have unique and more urgent needs than their peers. Children may be placed in a treatment foster home for any of the following reasons:

  • The county has exhausted their foster home resources
  • A group of siblings looking to be placed together
  • A child requires unique support due to mental health or physical needs

We are able to get an understanding of these needs before a child comes to your home because we have a thorough referral and matching process. Every foster family has at least one pre-placement visit before a child comes to your home. This allows everyone involved to determine if it will be possible to support the child in your home.

There’s always a plan

After a child is placed in your home, a Family Works social worker will create a treatment plan in collaboration with the child’s support network. This is primarily the foster parents, but includes the biological family, county social worker and other treatment providers. This plan lays out action steps and goals for the team to work towards to support the growth of the child.

The key to success in treatment foster care are adults who genuinely care, finding the right services, creating stable routines and sticking around for a child through the days, months and years it takes to see change occur.

Do you have what it takes to be a treatment foster parent?

You may have already taken on roles that are similar to being a treatment foster parent if you have:

  • Parented a child and created family routines to help the child succeed
  • Worked on a personal goal and stuck with it until it was accomplished
  • Persevered in relationships with family and friends that highs and lows

These all demonstrate the personal qualities that are needed to be a foster parent. If you’ve got a willingness to go above and beyond to create a supportive home for kids, treatment foster care could be the right fit for you.

Treatment foster parents balance a schedule for children that often includes school, therapy, medical appointments, family visits and extracurricular activities. They receive support from Family Works staff through weekly check-ins to problem solve through challenges that arise.

Treatment foster parents have a willingness to keep finding new ways to support kids and to show up for children time and time again.

Becoming Licensed as a Treatment Level Foster Parent

In Wisconsin, we have different levels that foster parents can be licensed at. These levels go from 1-5 and indicate the level of experience and knowledge a foster parent has to meet a child’s needs. Treatment level parents are licensed as a level 3 or 4. (Read more about how foster parent and child levels are determined at

To be a treatment foster parent, a person must meet 3 of the following criteria:

  1. 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.
  2. A minimum 5 years of experience working with or parenting children.
  3. A minimum of 500 hours of experience as a respite care provider for children under the supervision of a human services agency.
  4. A high school diploma or the equivalent.
  5. A college, vocational, technical, or advanced degree in the area of a child’s treatment needs, such as nursing, medicine, social work, or psychology.
  6. A substantial relationship with the child to be placed through previous professional or personal experience.
  7. 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.

If you don’t meet at least 3 of the criteria on the list above, don’t let that stop you from reaching out to our licensing staff. There are many ways to gain the experience needed to become a foster parent. Our licensing specialists would be happy to talk to you more about these steps.

To speak with one of our specialists, visit our Contact Us, and reach out. We’ll get back to you shortly. We’re always eager to add more caring adults to the team of treatment foster parents serving our kids in Wisconsin.

Apply to be a Foster Parent