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How to Choose a Foster Care Agency in Wisconsin

Ready to become a foster parent in Wisconsin? Choosing the best foster care agency means learning everything you can before starting the process. Understanding the many differences between county foster care and a private foster agency is essential. Choosing the right agency for yourself and your family will depend greatly on three things: The ages and characteristics of the children you wish to help and the amount of support you will need while caring for children. Keep in mind: choosing a foster agency has nothing to do with where you live.

Becoming a foster parent begins with asking a lot of questions.

Man holding a boyBecoming a foster parent varies only slightly between the county and private agencies. Applications, background checks, homes visits, references, and tons of paperwork are unavoidable. Getting your foster care license typically takes 3-4 months; anything longer than that should be a red flag that communication and support may not be the top priority of an agency. The application/licensing process is lengthy and necessary, but it should be a seamless, timely process with lots of handholding and guidance.

Wisconsin foster parents can choose the children they wish to foster.

Before contacting an agency, there are several things you must consider.

  • What types of kids or characteristics are you interested in helping?
  • What age groups interest you?  Babies, Toddlers, Adolescents, Teens
  • Will you accept sibling groups?
  • What does your support system look like?
  • Do you have a flexible work schedule?

Your answers to questions like these are what will typically drive you to a private, Wisconsin foster agency like CCR or direct you to your county agency. CCR is a treatment-level foster agency that serves kids with trauma histories and successfully places sibling groups together in one home. We rarely place babies or toddlers unless they are part of a sibling group. If you are interested in short-term or emergency placements or wish to foster a relative or specific child, your county agency might be a better fit for you.

Prospective foster parents inquiring for the first time must consider this:

A foster agency should have dedicated staff available to speak with at all times during business hours. When an inquiry is made by phone, a natural person should answer the phone, not a recording. If an inquiry is made via a website, a response should be received within 48 hours. Pay attention to red flags when making an initial inquiry.

  • Did you speak with someone immediately?
  • Were you put on hold or greeted by a recording with too many prompts?
  • Were you welcomed? Did you feel like the agency was glad you called?
  • Were your questions answered with honesty and transparency?
  • Were you encouraged and educated, or did you feel deflated and unwelcome?

It will be essential to feel wanted and appreciated when caring for kids in your home. Working with an agency that knows your name and has your back makes difficult days a bit easier. Things only get more urgent and complicated when foster kids are placed in your home. Be confident that you and your family matter to an agency. Communication and attentiveness will be extremely important to you and your kiddos.

Licensing with a county agency is NOT required because you live there.

On average, 45-50 children are referred to CCR every month from counties across Wisconsin because the originating county does not have an available home. If you live in Eau Claire County, it does not mean that you must license there. Do you live in Outagamie, Rock, or Fond du Lac County? You are not required to license with the county you live in, and you should not be fearful of licensing with an agency that has a home office 2-3 hours from your home. It just doesn't matter!

Why? Simple, because we come to you! We visit with you and your foster kids every week in your home. While most county agencies provide monthly support, CCR has foster parents in 35 Wisconsin counties, and each home receives a plethora of support services and a weekly, in-home support visit.

Foster kids bounce around because foster parents are not supported.

Many county and private agencies have the resources to support their foster parents and foster children, while others seem to struggle to provide basic support. We are contacted regularly by county foster parents and private agency foster parents expressing their frustration with a lack of support, no placements at all, or a revolving door of employees. What we know to be accurate, to care for foster children successfully, is foster parents must receive consistent, dependable support services while feeling like part of a team. If foster parents don't receive the necessary support, they will struggle with children in their care, which often leads to written notice to remove the kids from the home. Unfortunately, this means foster children bounce from house to house, and their trauma compounds.

Ask these questions of a foster agency:     

  • How often will an assigned case manager visit my home?
  • What services will be available to my foster kids and me?
  • How often will a caseworker visit the foster kid's school?
  • How quickly does the agency promise to respond to my texts and late-night calls?
  • What level of education and experience do caseworkers have?
  • What about employee retention? What is the average length of caseworker employment?

It will be evident to you within a few short weeks of welcoming a new placement just how much support you might need. Ask lots of questions and perform your due diligence!  You will not regret asking, but you may very well pay the price for embarking on an unsupported journey of fostering. Here are the answers CCR will give you:

  • Every week, we are at your home. At your kitchen table for an hour. 
  • All services required will be performed in-home or in your community.
  • Every week in the child's school. A critical component of teamwork
  • Near immediate responses. We also have a 24/7 on-call, after-hours hotline. You will not wait for hours or days!
  • All CCR Clinical Case Managers must have a Master's degree in social work.  This exceeds state requirements.
  • The average employee has been with CCR for 16 years.

Community Care Resources has been serving children and families for 30 years. Our foster parents are committed to the agency and the foster children. One benefit worth mentioning is that your license remains intact if you are licensed with CCR and relocate to another county. We are incredibly proud that our employees rarely resign and that we operate as a large family supporting one another. Our goal is to place children in a home that will offer that child an opportunity to feel safe and heal.

Ready to learn more or get started? Contact us.

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