Becoming a foster parent is truly a life-changing decision. Considering whether to open your home and heart to children who have experienced hurt and trauma will likely leave you with some unanswered questions. Therefore, we suggest starting with the basics.
What is foster care?
Foster care is temporary care for children provided by licensed foster families when children are unable to live with their parents due to abuse or neglect.
What is foster parenting?
An opportunity to build lifelong connections with children and families.
A commitment to providing a safe and nurturing home for children.
The ability to share with others your experiences and support systems.
Constant learning and self-reflection.
What is therapeutic or treatment foster care?
Therapeutic foster care is a clinical intervention within the context of a licensed treatment foster family provided to children with significant behavioral, emotional and/or medical challenges. Children referred to the TFC program generally have complex trauma histories. Licensed foster parents are provided with extensive training prior to accepting placement of a child into their home.
What does it mean to be a therapeutic foster parent?
Therapeutic foster parents generally have experience in working with or parenting children and the willingness and ability to parent foster children who have behavioral, emotional or medical challenges.
Therapeutic foster parents are not therapists.
Therapeutic foster parents receive 48 hours of training prior to a foster child being placed in their home.
Therapeutic foster parents are active and equal members of the child’s treatment team.
Therapeutic foster parents receive 24/7 support from Norris staff.
Therapeutic foster parents are parents that provide a safe and nurturing home for children.
Is there a need for more foster parents?
YES!!! There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, 7,000 of which are in the state of Wisconsin. There is a particular high need for foster families who can accept brothers and sisters, older youth and children with complex needs.
Why should I become a foster parent?
Children are resilient and thrive when they have stability and healthy relationships. We believe that when positive connections are made, anything is possible. You can make a positive impact in the lives of children and their families, giving them hope for the future. You can help mentor other parents to be the kind of parents that their children need. You can make lifelong connections.
Is there a license?
Yes, the state of Wisconsin administrative code DCF 56 regulates foster parent licensure. There are different levels that can be certified. Norris licenses at levels 3 and 4 for treatment foster care. Relicensure occurs every two years.
How long is the licensing process to become a foster parent?
Generally from the time an applicant submits an application to the time that a licensing decision is made, it takes between 60-90 days. This is dependent on how quickly references and background check results are received, paperwork is completed, and home visits and trainings are scheduled.
How long are children placed in foster homes?
The average amount of time children are placed in foster care is 12-15 months. The most frequent reason for them leaving foster care is to be reunified with their biological family.
How are children placed?
Children are placed in foster care when it is determined by a Child Protective Services social worker that they are unsafe in their current home. This could be due to many reasons including abuse and neglect. The child’s needs are assessed and social workers work together to find the most appropriate foster home to meet the child’s needs.
What is the difference between placement and respite?
When a child is placed in a foster home, the foster parents assume parenting responsibilities and the child lives in the home with the goal of staying in that home until permanency is achieved. Respite care is short term, generally between 2-7 days. The purpose of respite is to provide short term relief and/or support to the primary caregiver of the child.
What about the child’s birth family?
Our program believes that positive, lifelong impact occurs when foster parents not only provide care for the child in their home, but focus on creating relationships with the child’s family with the goal of sustaining change - Beyond Fostering. We believe that connections matter which is why our staff help to facilitate engagement with foster families and birth families before children are even placed in the foster home and continue to coach and nurture these connections throughout placement and discharge.
What is expected of foster parents?
Foster parents are expected to take children into their home and provide stability, love and care, while also building a relationship with the birth family to work toward reunification whenever possible. Foster parents do not do this alone, they are provided with support from program staff as well as the child’s treatment team.
What supports do foster parents receive? Is there training?
Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is challenging but rewarding - we educate and support foster families through this in the following ways:
Training - 48 hours of training prior to accepting placement and ongoing training after licensure in a variety of topics and specialties
Accessibility - Minimally weekly contact with masters-level staff when a child is in placement, access to a crisis phone answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, planned respite.
Connections - access to foster parent support groups, involvement in program development, lifelong connections, recognition.
Equal Partners - valued team member within a child’s treatment team and the Beyond Fostering TFC program.
Can foster parents be employed?
Yes. Foster parents can be employed. Foster parents need to be financially stable without dependence upon foster parent reimbursement.
Can foster parents live in an apartment?
Yes. Foster parents can live in an apartment. The state of Wisconsin administrative code DCF 56 provides requirements for the physical makeup of the home including bedroom space. Whether foster parents own or rent, the licensing specialist will need to view the entire occupancy to ensure compliance with code.
Can foster parents be single?
Yes. Foster parents can be single, married or partnered. All identified adult caretakers living in the home will need to participate in and meet all licensing requirements.
Can foster parents have children of their own?
Yes. We encourage parents to talk with their children about foster care if they are considering applying to become licensed.
Do I have to already be a parent?
No. It is not required that foster parents have children of their own, but experience in working with or caring for children is required.
How old do foster parents have to be?
Foster parents need to be at least 21 years of age.
Do foster children have health insurance?
Yes. Children in foster care receive Foster Care Medicaid, also referred to as Title 19 health insurance.
There is no cost to applying to become a foster parent. Foster parents are reimbursed for the care of children when children are placed in their home; the reimbursement amount is based on the child’s age and their needs. Foster parents can also qualify for childcare assistance if they meet the activity requirements for the Wisconsin Shares Program.
What if I have health concerns?
Foster parents have to be healthy enough to provide care for children. Part of the licensing process includes requiring a statement from a medical provider indicating that you are free of physical or mental conditions that would interfere with the ability to provide care for a foster child or threaten the health or safety of a foster child.
What if I have a police record?
Just because you have a record does not automatically prohibit you from becoming a licensed foster parent; however, thorough background checks are conducted and all arrests and convictions are reviewed for content and patterns. There are certain convictions that bar a person from becoming a foster parent.
Can we go on vacation?
Yes! We encourage foster families to take vacations and to communicate their plans with the child’s treatment team. If there are circumstances that warrant the foster child not going on vacation, foster parents would work with the child’s treatment team to identify respite care.