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Why Are So Many Kids in Foster Care

Wisconsin foster parents understand the challenges of caring for kids from hard places. Unfortunately, children in foster care have experienced unsafe conditions, sexual or physical abuse, and neglect or have parents who cannot care for them. Most kids in Wisconsin foster care have been severely neglected, partly due to parental drug use. A sibling group of five recently entered care, and the conditions and family dynamics that led to their removal are shared below.

The #1 reason kids are in foster care.

The "Martins" cannot control their substance abuse, and it inhibits their parental capacities. Their children are vulnerable and exposed to threatening circumstances they cannot manage or control. The behavior of both parents has ill effects on the children, and extended family members have not successfully shielded the children from the impact of their drug addiction and behaviors. Mr. and Mrs. Martin do not have sufficient, safe housing for their children.

For over three years, the Martins informally placed their five children, ages 9, 6, 5, 3, and 2, with family members and friends. Finally, in late 2018, temporary caregivers agreed that Mr. and Mrs. Martin would attend a drug treatment program for their addiction to methamphetamine and heroin. Yet, six months later, neither enrolled in a treatment program and had minimal contact with their children.

Family and friends could not keep the siblings together for most of the three years. As a result, the children were separated and moved frequently between homes. Mr. and Mrs. Martin made several attempts to care for the children but repeatedly sent the kids back to family and friends.crying foster child

The Department of Human Services reportedly offered the family services since early 2019. Those services included relative placements, guardianship, jail visits, voluntary placement agreements, referrals for mental health and AODA, transportation, groceries for relative caregivers, power of attorney paperwork, and home visits.

A sibling group of 5 enters foster care.

In 2021, family members could no longer care for the children and returned to living with their parents. Shortly after that, the children were found in a camper during the arrest of Mr. Martin. The trailer was in disarray, and the children were taken to County Health and Human Services. Human Services determined that neither of the parents could care for the children, and a protective plan was implemented. A medical evaluation resulted in a hair follicle examination and returned positive for environmental exposure to methamphetamine for all five children.

Under Wisconsin's Stature 48.13(10), neglect is defined as Whose parent, guardian, or legal custodian neglects for reasons other than poverty to provide necessary care, food, clothing, medical or dental care, or shelter to seriously endanger the physical health of the child. Critical care includes protection from behaviors that threaten a child's physical health.

A chaotic lifestyle surrounded by drug use and domestic violence.

Mrs. Martin has been referred to various programs for intravenous drug use, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. She states that Mr. Martin has threatened to kill her on two occasions. Mrs. Martin has a strained relationship with her biological mother and has limited contact. She cannot remain employed due to continued drug use and high anxiety levels. Inpatient programs have been unsuccessful, and she is now considering an outpatient self-help program.

parent using drugsMr. Martin reports he has struggled with drug addiction for 20 years. He believes an inpatient stay at a rehabilitation center will be most successful in achieving sobriety. Unfortunately, attempted inpatient stays in the past have failed due to repeated drug relapses. At this time, he is hopeful to begin another drug program soon. Upon completion, he wants to find employment and support his family. Mr. Martin states he struggles with prescription medication, meth, and heroin and has a long history with law enforcement, including:

  • Auto theft
  • Bail jumping
  • Resisting an officer
  • Manufacture/Delivery of narcotics
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Burglary
  • Aggravated battery
  • DWI
  • Possession of prescription drugs without a prescription

Mrs. Martin recently filed for legal separation from Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin is currently in county jail for possession of controlled substances. Mrs. Martin has recently applied for disability benefits and is in an active AODA program, and Mr. Martin hopes to attend an inpatient program upon release.

How long are kids in foster care?

Generally, placement in foster care is temporary and intended to give families time to make necessary changes so that the children can live safely in their homes and community. Most children in foster care return home to their families, which is called reunification. When children cannot return home, they find permanence through adoption, guardianship, or other means.

This sibling group is cared for in a loving foster home, and reunification is the permanency plan for the family. The Martins have challenging work ahead of them. Both must establish mental health and AODA therapy to reunify with their children and show continued involvement and participation in that program. They must demonstrate that they can parent the children without drug use. In addition, the Martins must establish sufficient, safe housing for themselves and the children.

If the parents cannot eliminate or manage the safety concerns that threaten the children's well-being, Human Services will look for permanency options other than reunification. On average, kids like this sibling group of five spend 12-24 months in a CCR foster home. Each child has a specific treatment plan to address trauma histories and help the child heal and flourish. CCR foster parents adopt approximately 18% of kids in care.

Foster agencies struggle to place large sibling groups.

Many county agencies need help placing larger groups, so they often refer the kids to a private foster agency like CCR. We receive 40-50 referrals from counties across Wisconsin each month. Many are sibling groups of 2, 3, 4, or 5. Half of our foster parents are caring for siblings or more than one child. Our foster parents are prepared and trained to care for siblings and children with higher-level needs due to abuse and neglect.

It takes three months to become a foster parent with CCR and begin fostering a child or siblings.

Interested in learning how you can help siblings in Wisconsin foster care? Please feel free to contact us anytime. We would love to speak with you.

*You may have questions after reading this. Please take time to learn how and why children are removed from the home. Rules that govern Wisconsin foster care.


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