Foster Care Frequently Asked Questions

family playing board game
Foster care is care in a family setting that is provided by licensed foster parents (often a relative or like-kin) for children who are unable to live with their parents. Wisconsin's foster families play an important role in helping children and their families receiving child welfare services. They do this by temporarily providing safe, caring homes for children living in foster care. Foster families also support the needs of the child's family so they can reunify
What is foster care?

Foster care is temporary care in a family setting that is provided by licensed foster parents. Foster parents are partners to children and their families when a child welfare professional determines a child is currently unable to remain in their home. 

Foster parents and child welfare professionals work collaboratively with the child and their family to make this experience temporary and aimed at supporting the family to make necessary changes so the child can safely live in their home and community.

Who are the children who are in foster care?

Children in foster care can be between the ages of 0 and 21. Currently, there is greatest need for foster homes able to serve adolescents, sibling groups or children who have special needs.

Can I adopt through foster care?

The primary goal of foster care is to support children and their families so that they can reunify - and with the appropriate supports, most children and families do! Placement in foster care is meant to be temporary and gives families time to make necessary changes so the child can safely live in their home and community. It is only when all efforts to reunify families safely have been exhausted - including extensive engagement with relatives and other like-kin to the child and family - that other permanency options are explored, which may include guardianship or adoption.

In those situations, efforts may be made to find an adoptive family that best meets the needs of the child, while maintaining safe connections with their parents and relatives however possible. The Public Adoption Program works to match children with an adoptive family.

How do I become a foster parent?

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

The foster care coordinator will provide information about becoming a foster parent with their agency, such as:

  • Licensing requirements, policies and standards
  • What to expect as a foster parent
  • The foster parent application for their agency

During the application process, you will fill out paperwork and meet with a licensing specialist who will complete the licensing process for you and your home.

How old do I have to be to become a foster parent?

To become a foster parent, you must be 21 years of age or older.

Do I have to be married to become a foster parent?

No. Foster parents can be married, single or in unmarried relationships.

Is there an income requirement to become a foster parent?

There is no minimum income requirement for foster parents. Families must demonstrate an ability to take care of family expenses outside of the reimbursement received for fostering.

Do I have to stay at home to become a foster parent?

No. Many foster parents work outside of the home.  Foster parents should discuss with their licensing agency what options may be available to assist with child care costs, if needed.

Do I have to have parented before to become a foster parent?

No. Many foster parents do not have children.

Are there requirements to become a foster parent?

To become a foster parent, you must meet all of the following:

  • 21 years of age or older
  • Responsible adult, as defined in Ch. 56.05(1)
  • Criminal background check, law violations and other background information requirements
  • Your home must meet all physical environment requirements

Complete foster home licensing requirements are listed in Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter DCF 56

Foster care coordinators work closely with the foster homes licensed by their agency. Foster care coordinators will hold families accountable to following the foster care rules and policies.

Are there different requirements to become a licensed foster parent by a tribe?

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 or working with a tribe should contact the respective tribal agency to learn about the tribe’s policies.

What support will I receive as a foster parent?

Agency staff offer foster parents plenty of support so they can provide stability to the children in their care. Before foster parents even take placement of their first foster child, the agency staff will work with them to understand who they may best serve and to identify and provide supports necessary to meet a child's specific needs. 

The foster care coordinator will also continue to provide support to foster parents after they become licensed. Foster parents can also look for foster parent groups or support in their local community or in state-wide groups.

Will I be reimbursed for providing care for a foster child?

All licensed foster parents receive a foster care payment to reimburse for the care of a foster child, called the Uniform Foster Care Rate. The foster care licensing agency will provide foster parents with a copy of the brochure explaining the Uniform Foster Care Rate, reimbursement amounts, clothing allowances and how to appeal the foster care rate.

Do I have to provide medical insurance for foster children placed in my home?

No, foster parents do not pay any of a child’s medical expenses other than over-the-counter medications and supplies. Each child in foster care has BadgerCare Plus covering their medical, dental and mental health care needs. Foster parents should talk with their foster care coordinator about any medical needs and costs a foster child may have.

Is there liability insurance for foster parents?

A statewide fund provides some protection when the foster parent’s own insurance policies do not. This is called the Foster Homes Liability Insurance Program. The state fund may cover some property damage and personal injury if caused by the foster child. The extent of coverage and exclusions is subject to change. 

Is there childcare assistance available for foster parents?

Foster parents qualify for childcare assistance if the foster parent is in an activity that qualifies under the Wisconsin Shares Program, including employment or education courses. Foster parents should contact their foster care coordinator or the child's child welfare professional to find out specific information about how to enroll in the Wisconsin Shares Program. Since the Wisconsin Shares Program has established reimbursement rates, it is important for foster parents to fully understand any co-pay requirements that may apply to a specific childcare provider.

Are there training requirements for foster parents?

Training is necessary to prepare foster parents and help them to continue to develop as a foster parent. Being a successful foster parent means continuing to learn through experiences like:

  • Classes and other training methods
  • Reading books or magazines
  • Talking with other foster parents
  • Continually developing new skills

Each foster parent is required to complete training in relation to their Level of Care certification. Training requirements fall into three categories:

  • Pre-placement
  • Initial licensing
  • Ongoing
Are there are other resources available to foster parents?

There are many resources available to foster parents throughout Wisconsin. Some of those resources are listed below.

The Wisconsin Family Connections Center

The Department of Children and Families has contracted with the Wisconsin Family Connections Center (WiFCC) to offer a variety of resources to individuals, families and caregivers with past or present involvement with foster care, adoption, reunification, kinship and guardianship, including:

  • Trainings and conferences
  • Support over the phone, email and in person
  • Support groups
  • Free family events
  • Learning materials
  • Short-term case management service

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

Wisconsin Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (WFAPA)

WFAPA is a peer- and volunteer-based organization that supports and advocates for foster and adoptive parents by:

  • Offering training
  • Providing support programs
  • Helping to create and support different legislative measures

National Foster Parent Association

The National Foster Parent Association is a non-profit volunteer organization. The National Foster Parent Association aims to support foster parents in achieving safety, permanence and well-being for the children and youth in their care.

International Foster Care Organization (IFCO)

IFCO is a global, non-profit networking organization serving to promote and support family-based foster care across the world.

Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System (WCWPDS) and UW-Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership (MCWP)

WCWPDS and MCWP provide required foundations trainings for Wisconsin's foster parents. These agencies are the place where foster parents register for required trainings, conferences and online training modules. They also store transcript information about the trainings foster parents have completed.

State of Wisconsin Foster Parent Handbook

The Foster Parent Handbook is intended to give basic information about foster care in Wisconsin to newly-licensed foster parents and to serve as a refresher for experienced foster parents. In it, foster parents will find the following:

  • An overview of the foster care program
  • Information about what is expected of foster parents
  • A discussion about the care of children in foster care
  • An explanation of the critical need to work cooperatively with birth families
  • An emphasis on the importance of foster family self-care
  • Additional tools and resource lists for foster parents