There are a lot of details to consider when exploring becoming a foster parent in Wisconsin. Most important is how a foster child will fit into your family. Although foster parents cannot pick specific children to care for, they can have age and gender preferences. Placing a child in a foster home is a matching process we spend considerable time on. It’s important to know that the more broad an age preference is, the more likely a family has of being matched with a child.
Foster parents can choose the age and gender of a child.
One of the first questions we ask prospective CCR foster parents is; Do you have an age range in mind? There is no right or wrong answer to a preferred age range, but it is essential to know what you may be interested in pursuing. In fact, on the Contact Us form here on our website, we require prospective foster parents to check the boxes that apply to their preferences.
The first box indicates that CCR does not need new foster homes wishing to foster babies or toddlers. As frustrating and impossible as that sounds, it is accurate. Most babies and toddlers are placed with family members or in a county foster home close to their biological family. However, we need foster homes for siblings pairs and groups, often including toddlers and preschool ages. In fact, as of the writing of this blog, 90% of our foster families in Northwest Wisconsin are full, caring for sibling groups. CCR foster homes in Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn, Barron, and Polk County are full. Sadly, we see this trend across the state in almost all counties. The areas of Fond du Lac and Winnebago are filled as well. It is an ongoing problem. We always need more homes.
The best fit for your family may be younger kids, teens, preteens, or large sibling groups. Much will depend on the dynamics of your household, schedules, and if other children are living in the home. The wider the age range, the more opportunity for placing children in your home. The more narrow the preferred age range, the longer the wait.
CCR is committed to finding the best home for each child where healing can happen. Many factors go into deciding where a child will be placed. Our goal is to create successful outcomes for both foster parents and kids.
What to expect with a first foster care placement?
When a child or sibling group is referred to CCR, our team searches for the best possible home. Considerations may include:
When a family is presented with a potential child or sibling group, the CCR team shares what is known about the children, including the history of abuse/neglect, behaviors, emotional health, and any previous foster home placements. A pre-placement visit will be scheduled if the family is interested in meeting the child(ren). Typically, the kids will spend an overnight or weekend with the family and determine if they wish to care long-term for the children. A typical placement will last 12-24 months. If the family declines the placement, the search continues to find a suitable home where healing can happen.
A desire to foster younger kids may require patience and often an age range adjustment.
If you want to become a foster parent, you must recognize why you want to foster and where the need is. Everyone has a different reason they want to become a foster parent, and there is no judgment on those reasons. Keep in mind where the need is. If you want to foster babies, we are not the agency for you. If your goal is adoption, CCR is not the best fit. If you want to help kids feel safe, loved, and accepted while assisting them to heal from past traumas, CCR is a great agency to choose.
Below is a recent post from a foster parent support group on Facebook. The frustration is accurate; the waiting is hard. Please read the comments her post received. These are real foster parents around the country giving their opinion and experience.
"Hoping you can help. We've been getting lots of calls for 7-14-year-old kids that need placements. The age group we chose is 0-6. I feel awful turning them down, but I'm just nervous about that age group. I have heard too many stories. Should we stick with our wishes or consider raising our age range? What have you done? Thanks"
We’ve had a couple of placements. The first one was age seven, but he was more like a four-year-old in reality. It was non-stop and very challenging. We have a 12-year-old now, and although she has teenage feelings, she’s academically a third-grader and emotionally very behind. She has a lot of childhood trauma. Watching her progress has been so rewarding. I swear she grows every single day a little bit more.
We said ten and under, and we don't have room for siblings. We got one call for a six-year-old in 3 months, and it fell through. We have a 12-year-old boy now. He came with a lot of issues and trauma. He’s doing incredibly well. I’m so glad we said yes.
We currently have two sisters, ages 4 and 6, and they are great, but a 13-year girl that we had with us last year was such a fantastic kid and made me so happy to be around. Teens, in general, made me nervous before her.
We got a 13-year-old, and it was hard in the beginning to get used to for our first foster child ever. We have a four-year-old bio daughter, and we were scared of how it would be for her. But we're five months in, and I love this girl like our own, and she may be here to stay now!
We originally wanted 0-8 but, we did respite for an 11-year-old girl and, she was the easiest of the five kids we have had since getting licensed. It made me rethink our age preference. If we get a call for an older kid, I'm pretty sure we will say yes.
When we got our foster care license
, we said eight and under because we have an 8 yr old and 5 yr old. They called us for a 12 yr old boy, and they asked if we could be open-minded (they were trying to get him back to Wisconsin), and four months later, he is still with us, and he is thriving!!
My husband and I wanted foster kids under age eight. The agency warned us we would be waiting. We waited so long and never got any calls for that age. We finally got a call for a 10-year-old girl, and we said yes because we said we could be missing out on a significant blessing. Holy cow, we can't even imagine not having her in our lives.
I got a teenager when my two kids were under five years old, and as awkward as it was at first, it was great! I will happily take a teenager again.
I wanted kids under age 10. After waiting for five months, I finally accepted my first full-time placement. She’s a 12-year-old. And I was so nervous!! But I am loving her. I am glad I opened up my age range, or I would have missed knowing her. She is working out very well with my two bio kids too!
Our age group was 3-10 (no diapers), and I thought I could never do older, but after having a few foster kids in elementary school (high maintenance), we said yes to a 14-year-old, and let me tell you, she is a fantastic kid. So much fun and loving. The younger ones were exhausting!
My 4-year-old foster son is giving me a run for my money. I also have three bio kids, one with ADHD. I'm not sure I would do preschool ages again; it's too much sometimes.
I have an eleven-year-old and a nine-year-old; both are boys. We have no kids of our own. We were freaking out at first, but we love having them here so much!
Foster parents change their minds a lot!
It is okay to change your mind as you travel through your foster parenting journey. It's also OK to stick to your guns, but that may mean being very patient for a placement. The common theme in the comments to the woman's post was that all of the foster parents adjusted their age range. They all opened their hearts to something other than what they originally planned. Most expressed how they would have missed out if they had not changed their minds.
Hundreds of kids need homes.
No matter the preference, hundreds of kids are waiting for a home. CCR receives approximately 50 referrals each month from counties all across Wisconsin. We will never have enough homes for all the kids. Even though foster parents will testify that teens can be the easiest kids to foster, the older kids are much harder to place. Please consider helping older kids. In the end, whatever your preference, our team would love to talk with you. Contact us anytime!