December 28, 1999

Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services

To: Area Administrators/Assistant Area Administrators
Bureau Directors
County Department of Community Programs Directors
County Departments of Developmental Disabilities
    Services Directors
County Departments of Human Services Directors
County Departments of Social Services Directors
Program Office Directors/Section Chiefs
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilitators
From: Susan N. Dreyfus
Re: Foster Care-Related Changes in 1999 Wisconsin Act 9 (Biennial Budget)

As requested by the Department in our budget proposal, the definition of foster home at s. 48.02(6) and 48.62(1)(a), Stats., has been changed. As you are aware, the previous statutory language limited the number of children in a foster home to a total of four unless all of the children are siblings. Under the change, a foster home may have a total of six children placed at one time if that will allow a sibling group to be placed together.

We proposed this change to remedy, to a large extent, those situations where sibling groups had to be split up only because of the limit of four children in a foster home. It is neither our intent nor that of the Legislature to make six the standard number of children in foster homes. This may be used only for the identified purpose. As soon as possible, the number in the home should be reduced to four through attrition.

For example, if a sibling group of three comes into the system, they can now be placed in a foster home which already had one to three foster children placed. The number of children in that foster home should be reduced to no more than four by the planned removal of some of the children in the home. In this context, "planned" means that the children would be removed from the foster home as a result of implementation of their permanency plans. Children’s placements should not be disrupted just to reduce the number of children in the home.

In addition, the requirements of the licensing rule (Ch. HSS 56) must still be met unless an exception to any requirement is granted. So, for example, unless an exception is granted, all of the requirements related to floor space and other physical requirements must be met for each child.

Each agency should also consider the ability of the individual foster parent to provide care for the number of children to be placed. Additional supports which may be needed by a foster parent to deal with the increased number of children should be assessed and provided.

The actual legislative language is attached for your convenience. This same change will be made to the revisions of the foster home licensing rule currently being written. 

Out-of-Home Care Specialist
Bureau of Programs and Policies
DHFS/DCFS, P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
Phone: (608) 267-7287
FAX: 608-264-6750
e-mail: conromp@dhfs.state.wi.us

The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.