Foster parents provide homes to children whose biological parents are unable to do so for a short or extended period of time. As of 2010 there were 5,100 licensed foster care providers in Wisconsin and about 8,000 children living with foster families in the state. In Wisconsin there are requirements a person must meet to become a foster parent and details they need to know before making the commitment to become one. The state of Wisconsin provides a number of resources for foster parents and a system that strives to make good matches between foster children and families.
To become a foster parent in Wisconsin you must be at least 21 years of age and a responsible adult. Foster parents differ widely in age, economic background, relationship status and employment. Some have children of their own and others do not. In order to be licensed as a foster parent the potential foster parents must disclose information about their backgrounds, legal violations and drug or alcohol abuse. The prospective foster parents then meet with a licensing specialist who will help to determine whether the applicants' home is safe for children and assist the applicants in the licensing process.
Once a person is approved as a foster parent, she will attend a foster care program orientation and receive parenting training. If the foster parent will be caring for special needs children, she will receive training specific for this. Support for foster families and children varies by county. Many counties provide additional training, as well as ongoing support groups. Child services staff members are available to assist foster parents with questions and concerns. There is also a 24-hour emergency phone line available to all Wisconsin foster parents.
The foster parents and the child's case manager decide whether a child should be placed in the home. A foster child might remain with his foster parents for a few weeks or for several, depending on circumstances. Most foster children will only be in foster care about three months. Though most foster children are not available for adoption, the foster parents are given the opportunity to apply to adopt the child if the child comes up for adoption. In such cases, most Wisconsin foster children have been adopted by their foster families.