Foster Home Licensing Information

Foster parents play a critical role for children, families, and agencies. The foster parent’s primary task is to temporarily care for a child until the child’s permanence goal is achieved.  The foster parent’s role is also unique and involves much more.

Foster parents are expected to comply with:

  • Agency requirements
  • Meet foster home licensing standards
  • Communicate any important information about the child to the caseworker and the court

Counties, tribes and private agencies license foster parents in Wisconsin.

Background Check Requirements Resources and Training

Background checks are one of the main safety mechanisms in the licensing process. Both federal and state laws establish requirements for all prospective and licensed foster parents to ensure child safety.

Complete background check requirements can be found in Wisconsin Statutes:

The foster home licensing agency will conduct background checks at initial at license renewal. There are six required types of background checks:

  • Adam Walsh (FBI)
  • Adam Walsh Child Protective Services (CPS)
  • Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Caregiver or IBIS Check
  • Reverse Address Sex Offender registry check
  • Local Law Enforcement Checks

The Background Check Reference Table describes the six required types of background checks.

In addition to these background check requirements, licensing agencies may have their own policies which require additional background checks.

The process to upload background checks into eWiSACWIS can be found in the Quick Reference Guide: Background Check Imaging. 

Form DCF 12 Negative Action Notice (DCF-F-CFS2191-E) is used when denying or revoking a foster care license based on a background check violation.

Background Check Training Resources

The Coalition for Children, Youth, and Families has a recorded four-part background check training provided by the Department of Children and Families. This can be viewed by contacting the Coalition through email at

Module 4 of the Foster Care Coordinator Pre-Service training explains the background check process in relation to licensing foster parents.

Additional Background Check Resources

Foster Care and Subsidized Guardianship Barred Crimes is a list under Wisconsin Statute Chapter 48.685

2021 Wisconsin Act 72, also commonly referred to as Ethan's Law, provides additional information a court must consider regarding criminal backgrounds of individuals within the child welfare system.

Chapter DCF 56 Administrative Code

Complete foster home licensing requirements are listed in Chapter DCF 56, Administrative Code. All licensed foster parents must comply with these requirements. Chapter DCF 56 outlines the following requirements for foster home licensure:

  • Who must apply for a license
  • Applying for a license
  • Licensing qualifications
  • Background check requirements
  • Physical environment requirements
  • Safety considerations
  • Level of Care certification of the foster family
  • Training for the foster parents.

Chapter DCF 56 Foster Home Care for Children describes the requirements for licensing foster homes in Wisconsin.

  • DCF 56 Family Foster Care For Children describes the requirements for licensing foster homes in Wisconsin. This version of DCF 56 includes boxes and asterisks to easily differentiate between:
    • licensing agency exceptions and waivers
    • exceptions and waivers DCF Exceptions Panel must review
  • DCF 56 Family Foster Care for Children - Annotated Version provides policy interpretation of the licensing requirement(s) for licensing foster homes in Wisconsin. This version of DCF 56 includes boxes and asterisks to easily differentiate between:
    • licensing agency exceptions and waivers
    • exceptions and waivers DCF Exceptions Panel must review

Foster Home Licensing Exceptions

Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 56 establishes licensing requirements for foster homes and foster parents directed at protecting the health and safety and promoting the welfare of children placed in the homes. DCF 56.02(2)(b) gives the DCF Exceptions Panel authority to grant an exception to a nonstatutory requirement in Ch. 56 that the licensing agency may not grant.

Frequently asked questions for Foster Care Exception Requests

Licensing Agencies that do not have access to the state automated system, eWiSACWIS are required to submit Foster Home exception requests to the DCF Exceptions Panel using the forms below.

Use the Foster Home Exception Request Portal to submit the above forms. Submission through the portal will securely send materials to the DCF 56 Exceptions Panel.

Foster Home Exception Request Submission Portal

Questions about Foster Home Licensing Exceptions can be email to:

Foster Home Licensing Resources

There are a variety of resources available, which can assist licensors in licensing foster homes.

Foster Care Coordinator Training: The Foster Care Coordinator Pre-Service Training is an online training, which describes all of the requirements for licensing a foster home.  Licensors should review this training prior to licensing their first foster home.

The Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center (FCARC) offers a variety of resources that can assist licensing agencies.

The Documentation Requirements for Foster Care Providers in eWiSACWIS policy describes the requirements for documentation foster care providers in eWiSACWIS. See Policy Memos 2015-02  and 2016-34 for reference.

eWiSACWIS Quick Reference Guides:
Provides detailed instructions for entering the required in formation into eWiSACWIS.

Foster Parent Champions Recruitment

All licensing agencies are required to recruit for foster homes.  The Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center (FCARC) can assist licensing agencies in recruiting foster homes.  The FCARC offers a variety of resources related to foster home recruitment:

Staff at the FCARC can also be reached by telephone at 1-800-762-8063.

Submit a Foster Parent Champion reward request.

Foster Parent Insurance Program

This program reimburses foster parents for damage or loss or property that is caused by children placed in their care, and it not covered by their private insurance policies.

Please email claims to

Foster Parent Licensing Forms and Publications

Foster Care Forms & Publications for Workers - is a comprehensive list of forms and publications for use by Wisconsin Foster Care Workers in licensing foster home parents.

Foster Parent Requirements

Foster parents must meet all of the following:

  • 21 years of age or older
    • unless the foster parent is a relative to the child to be placed, which has other age requirements
  • Responsible adult
  • Criminal background check, law violations, and other background information requirements
  • The foster home must meet all physical environment requirements
  • There is no minimum income requirement for foster parents, as long as they can take care of family expenses outside of the reimbursement received for fostering

Foster parents are also required to complete foster parent training commensurate with their level of care certification.

Foster care coordinators work most closely with the foster homes licensed by their agency. Foster care coordinators will make sure foster families follow the foster care rules and policies.

Placement in Foster Care

Placement in foster care is usually temporary and gives families time to make necessary changes so the child can safely live in their home and community. Most children in foster care return home to their families, which is called reunification. When children cannot return home, they find permanence through adoption, guardianship, or other means.

Child welfare agencies must ensure all actions of either agency or contracted staff comply with the Standards.

The Ongoing Services Standard provides:

  • A framework for the ongoing case process.
  • Focus on safety, permanence, and well-being for children and their families served under Wisconsin Statute
  • Practice expectations to ensure families statewide receive consistent, effective, and responsive intervention that support the change process.

When viewing the Ongoing Services Standard

  • Practice requirements are contained within the boxes
  • Additional information outside of the boxes provide further guidance about case practice.

While the Standards establish requirements throughout the ongoing case process, county agencies and the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services (DMCPS) may develop more prescriptive policies and procedures.

Placement Resources

The Placement Documentation Manual provides additional information related to documenting a child’s placement in out-of-home care. The primary purpose of the manual is to clarify eWiSACWIS placement documentation requirements for child welfare professionals, supervisors and managers.


The Geographic Placement Resource System (GPRS) can help child welfare professionals and agencies find foster care placements for children throughout Wisconsin. The GPRS uses geo-mapping to map all out-of-home care providers and foster children throughout Wisconsin, as well as the United States if Wisconsin is responsible for those providers and children.

Chapter DCF 21 Re-entry into Out-of-Home Care for Youth 18 Years of Age or Over, but Under 21 Years of Age describes the extension of out-of-home care to age 21 in Wisconsin.

Chapter DCF 37 Information to be Provided to Out-of-Home Care Providers describes the information that is required to be provided to out-of-home care providers at the time of placement. Forms required under DCF 37 are: 

SAFE Home Study Resources

The Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) policy describes the requirements for using a standardized home study for all foster care licensing and all adoption approvals. See Policy Memo 2016-34 for reference.

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act

Indian tribes are sovereign nations, which means they can create their own laws and regulations for certain programs or services. While some tribes use state licensing requirements, others have their own standards and policies. Foster parents licensed by and agencies working with a tribe should contact the tribal agency to learn about the tribe’s policies.

Contact Information

Contact the licensing agency or the foster care coordinator for more information about licensing foster parents in Wisconsin.

Out-of-Home Care Specialist
Bureau of Permanence and Out-of-Home Care
Division of Safety and Permanence
Fax: (608) 422-7157