Frequently asked questions about foster care

Get answers to common questions about becoming a foster parent. Click the relevant question below to get your answer.

What is the average length of stay a foster child will be in our home?

A child stays in a foster home until his or her biological parents are able to care for him or her again or until a suitable placement can be made with a relative. If this is not possible, a child may stay in the foster home until he or she can be adopted. Currently, the average length of stay in foster care is 12-18 months; however, the length of stay in foster care varies depending on the child and the biological family’s case plan.

Do the children have contact with their biological parents while in foster care?

Foster parents are asked to be a support to the child’s biological family. Foster care is intended to be a short-term arrangement until kids can safely return to their family. Biological parents have the right to visit and have contact with their children as determined by the child welfare agency and the court. The ideal fostering situation is one in which all interested parties work in partnership toward the best interests of the child.

Who are the children in foster care?

The children, newborn to age 17, have been removed from their families and are placed in out-of-home care because of neglect and/or abuse. The majority of children and youth have some degree of physical, behavioral and emotional needs stemming from the difficulty they have experienced in their lives. All children who have experienced the trauma of being separated from their biological family are considered “special needs”. Many children in foster care are part of a sibling group. Training, information and referrals to community resources are provided for parents to help them deal with issues that their child(ren) may experience. Children are amazingly resilient. Foster and adoptive parents can make a difference by providing a structured, nurturing environment.

How long does the foster/adoptive home licensing process take?

The foster and adoptive home licensing process takes approximately 60 to 120 days from your initial contact with a licensing worker. The average timeframe to complete the home study and be issued a license is 60 days for general foster care, 90 days for treatment foster care and 120 days for adoption. No one may be refused a foster or adoption application or license based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

What are the costs associated with foster care?

There are no fees to become a foster parent. Foster parents receive a stipend to meet the needs of the child. Foster parents do not pay any of a child’s medical or dental expenses, other than over-the counter medicines and supplies. Foster children are covered by Medicaid (Title 19 medical assistance). Daycare is also covered if the foster parent/parents work outside of the home.

What is the cost associated with the adoption process?

The costs associated with the adoption process are less than $50 and are reimbursable if the child qualifies for Adoption Assistance. Cost includes a charge to receive a new birth certificate and a court-filing fee. Adoptive parents also are required to undergo a physical examination by a doctor, the cost of which is reimbursable after the adoption is finalized.

The room I plan to use as my foster/adoptive child’s bedroom:

  • Must have a minimum of 40 square feet of open floor space per child
  • Is not an unfinished attic or unfinished basement. (Children under age 7 cannot have a bedroom in the attic, basement, or third floor of the home. All bedrooms on the third floor, attic or basement must have two exits.)
  • Is not in my room or any other adult’s room
  • Is not normally used for purposes other than sleeping
  • Is not a room that someone must pass through to get to another part of the house
  • Has a door for privacy
  • Has a dresser and/or closet space for each child’s clothing

Who can adopt?

In order to adopt in Wisconsin, you must be single, legally married, never married, widowed, or divorced.  Married couples must have been married for one year prior to applying to adopt. Only one person of an unmarried couple may adopt a child. In other words, two single people (living together) may not adopt the same child. Finally, people who are separated from, but not divorced from, a spouse are not eligible to adopt.

For more information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent...

Contact Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services at (414) KID-HERO or kidhero@chw.org.