A child's biggest worries should be things like finishing homework, learning to ride a bike or passing a driver's test.
Unfortunately, some children have a lot more to worry about. They have to deal with things like physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and effects of alcohol and other drugs abuse. This can take an enormous toll on their emotional and physical well-being and make it difficult to trust, to feel safe or to feel loved.
Foster care is designed to provide structured, nurturing, loving environments in which children can thrive until they are able to be reunited with their biological families or placed in another permanent home. Many of these children need specialized services. To find out more, consider attending one of our foster care informational meetings; click here for informational meeting dates and locations.
Becoming a foster parent may be one of the most important things you do for a child. By providing a place of safety, security and well-being to a child in need, you make a difference that may impact them for the rest of their lives.
How can you become a foster care parent?
The main requirement to becoming a foster parent is having a heart for children in need, and a willingness to open your home to them. Foster care parents also must meet specific standards set by state and federal law. The criteria is listed below.
- Responsible, mature person who uses sound judgment and can nurture foster children
- Provide truthful and sufficient information to enable the licensing agency to verify whether or not you meet the requirements
- Age 21 or older
- An appropriate understanding of the needs of children who have been abused or neglected and of parents who abuse or neglect their children or a motivation to learn
- An adequate understanding of what it means to be a foster child and a recognition of a child's strengths and needs consistent with the child's age and abilities or a motivation to learn
- An ability to communicate ideas, feelings, and needs
- Parenting ability appropriate to the age, abilities, strengths and needs of foster children to be placed in your home or a motivation to learn
- A willingness to work with the treatment team (placing agency, licensing agency, and the biological or adoptive parents) in achieving a foster child's permanence goal
Prospective parents must meet at least THREE of the seven criteria below.
- A minimum of one year of experience as a foster parent or kinship care provider with a child placed in your home for at least one year
- A minimum of five years of experience working with or parenting children
- A minimum of 500 hours of experience as a respite provider for children under the supervision of a human service agency
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- A college, vocational, technical, or advanced degree in the area of a child’s treatment needs, such as nursing, medicine, social work, or psychology
- A substantial relationship with the child to be placed through previous professional or personal experience
- Work or personal experience for which you have demonstrated the knowledge, skill, ability and motivation to meet the needs of a child with significant needs
Process for becoming a foster care parent
If you meet the eligibility for becoming a foster care parent, as explained above, you can start the multi-step process which takes three to six months to complete. The three main steps are:
- Complete initial background checks
- Complete foster care parent application
- Family/home study done by your LSS licensing specialist to confirm you meet the state standards/requirements as a licensed foster parent
Learn more at informational meetings, by calling or filling out contact us form below
Once licensed, you can count on the LSS foster care team to provide you with training, ongoing support, and assistance. We are happy to talk with you and answer questions you have about becoming a foster care parent, including eligibility requirements. We offer one-hour foster parenting informational meetings in several locations. Learn about informational meeting dates and times here. Or call 888-746-2850 or complete the Contact Us form at the bottom of this page.
How to become a respite provider
A respite provider provides short-term care for children in foster care. This could vary from a few hours to the whole weekend. Respite providers receive a stipend to help cover the costs of providing for the child while they are with them. We need parents willing to provide respite to children in full-time care or who live with their family and are in need of some respite time.
Being a respite provider offers an excellent opportunity to help children in need while learning about foster care and its commitment. Many of our full-time parents started out doing respite care. Please use the form below to contact us if you are interested in providing short-term or weekend care to children in foster care.
Frequently asked questions
- What's the difference between foster care and treatment foster care?
Treatment foster care is a specialized form of foster care, and parents who provide it need additional training. A child placed in Treatment Foster Care Services might need counseling (both individual and family), psychiatric services, special accommodations at school, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc. Treatment foster care is referred to as a "higher level of care." Parents licensed at the treatment level receive additional support and financial reimbursement.
- What are the children like that I/we will be working with?
Most of the children referred to us for foster care placement experience one or more of the following challenges: delinquency, mental illness, behavioral disorders, family issues, alcohol and other drug abuse issues, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, or other challenges. The majority of children referred have not lived in healthy environments and have experienced some level of trauma for many years and may struggle to adapt to a home that has different rules and expectations. Sibling groups are often referred to us because many of our foster homes are able to take two to four children at one time.
With these challenges, it is important that foster parents take a trauma-informed care approach to working with a child. “Trauma-informed” means recognizing people are shaped by their experiences and approaching that person from the perspective that they are having this behavior because of the trauma they experienced. People who have experienced trauma need support and understanding from those around them. Kids can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and supports because they don’t understand the impact trama can have. Understanding and recognizing a child’s behavior is because of past trauma and not because they want to be defiant is the first step in becoming a compassionate and supportive caregiver. Our agency will teach our treatment foster parents about trauma-informed care and help them implement the approach into their parenting.
- What's expected of me, my home, and my family?
As a treatment foster parent, you are expected to act as a positive role model to foster children in your care; to provide structure; and to provide emotional, educational and social support. You are responsible for providing foster children with a sense of family while they are distanced from their own. One of our expectations for a treatment foster home is that there will be a parent at home at all times (occasionally, exceptions can be made). Again, this is to ensure that the foster children in your care receive the highest level of support and structure possible.
As a treatment foster parent, you will serve as a member of the treatment team, which typically includes the child’s social worker, therapist(s), school personnel and parent(s) or legal guardian(s). In most cases, we strive to reunite the child with his/her family; to achieve this, the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must be involved. When they are involved, they will have a lot of contact with you and with us. We expect your relationship with the birth family to be supportive and professional; you are not expected to be their friends. You should set boundaries and enforce them in order to maintain a professional relationship.
- What can I expect for financial support for the children in my care?
Your income is expected to be sufficient for you and your family; the monthly monetary compensation is to be used to cover any expenses that may be incurred for the child. The rate of pay varies depending on the needs of the child.
- What qualifications do I need to become licensed as a treatment foster parent?
You must pass all background checks, have a positive home study and have at least THREE of the following:
- One year of experience as a foster parent or kinship care provider. (A child must have been in your home for at least one year)
- Five years of experience working with or parenting children.
- A minimum of 500 hours of experience as a respite care provider for children under the supervision of a human services agency respite provider.
- A high school diploma or the equivalent.
- A college, vocational, technical or advanced degree in the area of a child’s treatment needs, such as nursing, medicine, social work or psychology.
- A substantial relationship with the child to being placed through previous professional or personal experience.
- Work or personal experience for which the applicant has demonstrated the knowledge, skill, ability and motivation to meet the needs of a child.
- What's the licensing process like?
The entire process takes approximately three to six months.
Following your initial informational phone call, a packet of information will either be sent to you or an agency representative will set up an appointment to meet with you. The packet will include background checks, which need to be completed by all family members over the age of ten.
The first home visit is an opportunity for our staff to review the information in the licensing packet, in addition to meeting you and your family. You are encouraged to ask questions at this visit. Our staff member may conduct a walk-through of your home.
State statutes require ongoing training and education while in the program. You will be required to complete 36 hours of pre-service training before a child is placed in your home and 24 hours of training annually thereafter. Education and training will target both your needs and the needs of the child placed in your home.
While you are completing the training, an assigned worker will verify information with you and perform a Home Study/ Resource Family Assessment (RFA). This involves the worker coming to your home to interview you, your spouse or partner, and your children. The Home Study/RFA is required, and can be somewhat time consuming and intrusive.
You will also be responsible for completing several forms (part of the licensing packet reviewed with you at the first meeting) and providing numerous documents needed for your file maintained at our office.
- What kind of training and support are provided?
You are required to complete 36 hours of pre-service training which is paid for by our organization. Of the 36 hours, six hours of training is completed online and the remaining 30 hours of training is through a class called Foundations. Foundations is a curriculum with nine sections to help prepare you for becoming a foster parent. You will participate in Foundations with a group of other foster parents wanting to be licensed. The training is taught by an experienced foster parent as well as a social worker trained in the criteria.
Once you have completed the pre-service training, you are required to have 24 hours each year thereafter. We supply information about ongoing training opportunities provided by our organization as well as other outside agencies. The trainings will fit your needs and the needs of the child(ren) placed in your home. Foster parents are required to complete CPR and first aid every two years. We provide this training free of charge to our foster parents.
Your family will be assigned a licensor and social worker. The social worker for the child placed in your home will provide a great deal of support through home visits (at least every other week), telephone contact, and email and treatment team meetings. Our staff members will also help you identify respite options. Your licensor and other team members will help identify training opportunities for you. We also offer a 24-hour crisis/support line.
- How often can I take vacation?
In the world of foster care, we call vacation “respite,” and our policy is that you can take respite as needed. We pay for two days of respite care per child, per month. Respite days cannot be transferred from one child to another or be accumulated. We pay respite providers directly, unless additional days of respite are used and/or other arrangements are agreed upon. All respite providers must be approved by our team. Your assigned social worker will help you find respite options.
We strongly encourage foster parents to take respite on a regular basis to reduce compassion fatigue/burn out and nurture the relationship with the foster child. Taking respite only during difficult times can result in the foster child viewing respite as a punishment, which is not its intended purpose.
Learn more about our respite program.
- What if the foster child damages my property?
During the licensing process, you will be asked to have your homeowner’s insurance changed so it includes an “umbrella” liability policy. Part of your compensation is intended to cover replacement/repair costs, as well as the additional costs associated with the umbrella policy. All claims for property damage should be submitted to your insurance company. Contact your insurance agent for rates and information.
If the damage is not covered by your insurance policy, there is also foster care insurance through the State of Wisconsin. However, damages need to be submitted through your homeowner's insurance first.
- What if I change my mind and no longer want the child to live in my home?
A 30-day written notice must be given if a child needs to be removed from your home (required by state statute). We work hard not to “bounce” children around and need adequate time to find an appropriate alternative and develop a support plan for the child.
- What if I want to support a child in foster care, but I am not ready to commit to being a foster parent? Are there other ways that I can support a child?
We are always looking for respite providers. A respite provider would provide a “break” for foster parents one weekend a month in your home. As a respite provider you can provide respite for more than one family and youth at a time. If you would like to become a respite provider, you would meet with the licensor to complete all necessary paperwork. The process to be licensed as a respite provider can go as quickly or slowly as you would like it to. This process does not usually take as long as becoming a licensed foster parent.
We are also always in need of mentors. A mentor serves as a 1:1 role model for an identified youth with a schedule and frequency unique to each child.
For information about being a respite provider or mentor, please call 1-888-746-2850 or click here to learn about our respite and mentorship options.
Foster Care Videos
Raising God's Children
Meet Jill and Randy Polifka who have welcomed more than 40 foster children into their home. In opening their arms, hearts and home to foster children, they've found God's purpose for their lives.
Greg and Joelle Scheithauer of Ogema, WI, asked Ciara to be their foster daughter. LSS helped them become a family.
Foster Care Stories
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Amy & John
Amy and John created a forever home for children with intensive behavioral issues, cognitive delays and autism. They've carefully hired and trained staff to provide care for the children there and become a family to them. Two youth have been there for over two years and Ann and Jeff are making it a forever home where these individuals can live even in adulthood. Ann and Jeff welcomed a third youth into the home earlier this year. All three youth have made great gains behaviorally and academically, thanks to the love Ann and Jeff give and the great staff that they've hired. Ann and Jeff also have two daughters of their own who enjoy playing with their foster sisters and visit often. This home is unlike others, but the girls that live there know what family is and know the love that surrounds them.
Susan, being adopted herself, understands the effects that foster care can have on kids. After having a daughter of her own, Susan was unable to have more kids. So she opened her home to a foster son and then welcomed his sister a couple years later. Susan has given these children a stable and loving environment for more than six years! Susan's boyfriend, John, quickly and naturally took on a caregiving role to both youth, and now plays a key role in their lives. Susan and John have made great progress with both children academically, behaviorally and emotionally. The family is very involved in things like 4-H and encourage their kids to work hard, be kind and honest and be very involved in their treatment plan while in foster care. Susan and John support them in whatever they put their minds to and together, along with Susan's biological daughter, have truly become a loving family of five.
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Jane & Lance
After raising their own three children, Jane and Lance decided to provide care for kids in foster care. They've opened their home to many youth over the years, and earlier this year, they fostered two young brothers. Jane and Lance worked hard with these boys, helping them both to come out of their shells and communicate more. Their three older kids were very supportive and provided respite for the boys, while creating a loving extended family. The family would take trips to the zoo and parks, and the boys were truly part of the family. They faced struggles such as potty training and helping the boys to understand their situation. Jane and Lance struggled with the idea of the boys getting adopted by another family, but after getting to know the family, Jane and Lance began to love them! They graciously taught the boys that they were going to be mommy and daddy, and Jane and Lance would remain in their lives as Nana and Papa. The two families bond over their common interests and coordinate visits and weekend stays so that a relationship is maintained between the boys and Jane and Lance.
Michele knows it's her calling. She ran daycare for more than 20 years before changing to foster care.
"I knew the need for good foster homes was growing and my kids were used to 14 kids a day their whole life. So when we moved to Wisconsin, our house was so quiet, and my youngest said to me 'Mom, can we do foster care?' We had a friend who did it, and we spent so much time over there. Now, 10 years later, I'm remarried, have had more than 25 kids, adopted three boys, and we are now working on adopting a sibling group of four brothers. My kids are full grown and on their own now, and I truly believe God's plan for us was to give these kids a healthy loving home in which to grow up. I feel so blessed and honored to be one of God's chosen mothers. People are always telling me they don't know how I do it, and I always have a smile on my face. I know it's what I'm here for. I love hugs. Being a foster parent is not always the easiest job by far, but it is the most rewarding one ever!"
Learn more about our foster care options
To talk to someone about becoming a foster parent, call 888-746-2850 or complete the Contact Us form below.