Level of Care Certification Information

There are five Levels of Care (LOC). All foster parents are given a Level of Care certification during the foster care licensing process based on meeting the following:

  • Qualifications
  • Training
  • Foster parent references
  • Foster parent experience

There are five Levels of Care. Each Level of Care certification has a specific number of training hours, personal references, and experience requirements. Each foster parent must complete training requirements in accordance with their Level of Care certification. Training requirements fall into three categories: pre-placement, initial licensing, and ongoing.

The Level of Care certification does not necessarily need to match the Level of Need of a child placed in the home. The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool will help determine the type of service provision needed to support a placement at a lower assessed level for a child.

The applicant or licensee should be involved in deciding which Level of Care certification to pursue. For additional information about the certification levels review the following:

Levels of Care Certification Requirements

Level 1: Child specific Foster Home

Level 1 certification is often referred to as a child-specific licenses. To be a child-specific foster parent, they must meet one of the following criteria:

  • A relative of the child OR
  • Have a prior relationship between the foster parent and the child or the child’s family.

Caregivers may have a child-specific license at any level. There are no prior experience requirements or references required for a Level 1 certification.

Level 2: Basic Foster Home

Level 2 foster care is referred to as basic or general foster care. These applicants are required to provide 3 favorable references from non-related individuals.

Level 3: Moderate Treatment Foster Home

Level 3 certification is considered moderate treatment foster care, which is foster care that can provide additional supervision and care to children with higher needs than those in basic foster care. Level 3 applicants must submit three favorable references from non-related individuals and one favorable reference from a relative, preferably an adult child. Level 3 foster parents are also required to meet three of the prior experience requirements

  • A minimum of 1 year of experience as a foster parent or kinship care provider (with a child placed in the home for at least 1 year)
  • A minimum of 5 years of experience working with or parenting children
  • A minimum of 500 hours of experience as a respite care provider
  • A high school diploma or the equivalent
  • A college, vocational, or technical advanced degree in an area related to a child’s treatment needs such as nursing, medicine, social work, or psychology
  • A previous existing relationship with the child through professional or personal experience
  • Work or personal experience demonstrating the knowledge, skills, ability, and motivation to meet the needs of a child with a level of need of 3

Level 4: Specialized Treatment Foster Home

Level 4 is considered specialized treatment foster care, which is structured to meet the higher needs of children and often addresses specific population needs, such as teen parents or youth with sexually aggressive behaviors. Level 4 applicants must submit three favorable references from non-related individuals and one favorable reference from a relative, preferably an adult child. Level 4 foster parents are also required to meet four of the prior experience requirements:

  • A minimum of 1 year of experience with children who have a Level of Need of 3 as a foster parent or kinship care provider
  • A minimum of 5 years of experience working with or parenting children
  • A minimum of 500 hours of experience as a respite care provider
  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • A college, vocational, or technical advanced degree in an area related to a child’s treatment needs, such as nursing, medicine, social work, or psychology
  • A previous existing relationship with the child through professional or personal experience
  • Work or personal experience demonistrating the knowledge, skills, ability, and motivation to meet the needs of a child with a level of need of 3

Level 5: Exceptional Treatment Foster Care Home

Level 5 is considered exceptional treatment foster care and is also referred to as “shift-staffed” foster care. 

When considering whether a child is appropriate to be placed in a Level 5 Foster Home, consider whether the circumstances in Ch. DCF 56.13(7)(a) Admin. Code exist, and that all of the conditions below are applicable to the child. Child has behaviors or conditions requiring high supervision,

  • Child requires 24-hour awake care by staff,
  • Child would benefit from a home-like environment,
  • Child would benefit from fewer children than a group home or residential care center,
  • The child is expected to need long term care OR 
  • The child has needs agreed to by the department
  • All other community placement options have been investigated and determined unavailable or not in the best interest of the child.

The following publications and forms should be referred to and used when a licensing agency is exploring development of a Level 5 Exceptional Treatment Foster Homes. 

Use the Level 5 Foster Form Submission Portal to submit documents for Level 5 Exceptional Treatment Foster Homes. Submission through the portal will securely send materials to the DCF Level 5 Exceptions Panel.

Level 5 Foster Form Submission Portal

All Level 5 foster homes must receive prior approval from the DCF Level 5 Exceptions Panel

Questions about Level 5 Exceptional Treatment Foster Homes can be sent to the Level 5 email box at DCFL5FHRequests@wisconsin.gov.

Levels of Care Contact Information:

Out-of-Home Care Specialist
Bureau of Permanence and Out-of-Home Care
Division of Safety and Permanence
Telephone:  (920) 362-6015
Fax:  (608) 422-7157