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Frequently Asked Questions

So, you’re thinking of becoming a foster parent? Well, you’re in luck! SaintA works to find loving foster and adoptive families for children in out-of-home care in Milwaukee and across the state of Wisconsin.

As you start your journey, we know you’ll have questions. Please take a look at some of the most common questions (and their answers) below:

What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of a child in a home away from his or her family for a variety of reasons, like abandonment, abuse, neglect, or the incarceration or hospitalization of a parent. Foster parents provide children with a safe and nurturing environment while our staff work with biological families to help strengthen their parenting knowledge/skills and eliminate safety concerns. In most cases, the goal is for the child to return home to his or her biological family.

What is expected of a foster parent?
Foster parents must be committed to providing safety and care for a child until they can return home, meeting the child’s individual needs, and being involved in all aspects of their life. Ideally, the child will maintain a connection to their school, support system and culture, have regular contact with the child’s case manager through phone calls and home visits, and work in conjunction with the biological family. Most importantly, foster parents must be prepared to give lots of love, laughs, cuddles, support and guidance to a child who needs it most!

What is expected of an adoptive parent?
Everything that’s expected of a foster parent, plus the commitment to a child who can’t return to their biological family. You’re their forever family!

Who are the children in foster care?
All foster children are unique and come from unique circumstances. They range in age from infants to teenagers, and have a variety of skills, interests and traits. Many have some degree of physical, behavioral and/or emotional needs stemming from their difficult life experiences. All children who have experienced the additional trauma of child abuse and/or neglect require additional support in the form of patience, routine and consistency.

How long does the foster/adoptive home licensing process take?
That depends on the type of license that you are applying for. The process can take anywhere from 60-120 days from the time we receive your completed application packet.

Do I need to be a licensed foster parent in order to adopt?
Yes, if you’re looking to adopt through our program, you must be licensed as a foster parent first.

What are the costs associated with foster care?
There are no fees or costs to become a foster parent. Foster parents are paid a monthly stipend for each child in their care, and all foster children are also covered by Title 19 Medicaid. Foster parents do not pay any of a child’s medical or dental expenses, other than over-the-counter medicines and supplies.

What is the cost associated with the adoption process?
Less than $70! And if the child qualifies for Adoption Assistance (a federal program that provides a monthly stipend and health insurance for children with special needs until age 18), that fee is completely reimbursable. It also includes a request for a new birth certificate and a court-filing fee.

Will I receive any financial help once I adopt?
As an adoptive parent, you are financially responsible for your child. This includes providing day care if you are employed. However, some of the children adopted through the child welfare system are eligible for Adoption Assistance, and that rate would be determined by the child’s level of need.

What if I work full time?
We all must make money somehow! Many foster parents work outside the home full time, while foster children attend day care and/or go to school. However, we appreciate a child’s natural schedule of eating, sleeping and waking, so we ask that our foster parents only work first shift so they can maintain those natural patterns.

What if I’m not in perfect health?
Nobody’s perfect! If you have health concerns that may interfere with your ability to parent, those issues will be reviewed carefully between you and your physician. All foster and adoptive parents are asked to provide a medical statement from a doctor for this reason.

What if I have a police record?
A background check is a requirement of the application process. Any substantiated child abuse or neglect finding on your record will prevent you from becoming licensed. Certain convictions can permanently prevent you from fostering, while others impose a 5-year bar or participation in a rehabilitation process to regain eligibility. But don’t rule yourself out too fast! To ask about a specific charge, call 855-GROW-HOPE, or check the Barred Crimes List.

Who can become a foster or adoptive parent?
Almost anyone! You’re most likely more qualified than you think.
1) We don’t care about your relationship status. You can be single, married, divorced, or partnered.
2) Your job isn’t important. All you need to do is provide verifiable income to cover expenses of you and your family.
3) Foster parents can have biological children in the home, or have never parented before.

What is the average length of a foster child’s stay?
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 specifies the goal is to seek a permanent home and family for the child as quickly as possible, whether achieved through reunification with the biological parents, kinship care, guardianship or adoption. Timeframes will vary. A child may stay in a foster home until his or her biological parents are able to care for him or her again, until a suitable placement can be made with a relative, or until the child can be adopted. On average, this tends to take 12-18 months, but each case is unique.

Do the children have contact with their biological parents while in foster care?
If it is safe and appropriate, yes. Foster care is intended to be short-term and temporary, so foster parents are encouraged to support the child’s connection to their biological family as much as possible. But, safety always come first! The child welfare agency and Children’s Court judge will determine what visitation plan is safest and most appropriate. This plan will likely change over time based on circumstances. The ideal foster situation is one in which all interested parties work in partnership toward the best interests of the child.

What if I move out of state after the adoption?
Once an adoption is complete, you’re free to roam as you please. If you are receiving Adoption Assistance and provide proper notice, it will follow you wherever you live in most states. Moving out of state before the completion of an adoption is not recommended and must be done in consultation with your assigned social worker.

Once I adopt, will contact with the biological parents end?
Many children maintain contact with their biological families if the adoptive family decides it is in the best interest of the child. This is discussed with the social worker during the adoption process and ultimately is a decision you make as a family. Once an adoption is final, you are the child’s legal parent. In fact, Wisconsin has some of the most stringent adoption laws, which favor the child and the adoptive family. Biological parents can change their minds after adoption, but that does not change the legality of the adoption.

I know I will get attached; how will I be able to cope with a child going home to their biological family?
It definitely isn’t easy to love a child and return them to their home, but with training and support, we will help you understand your part in helping a family heal–a gift that will last a lifetime. When you are help a biological family learn parenting skills and to create a safe and loving home, you will find yourself working together towards the goal of reunification. Many families maintain an informal relationship with their foster family, which can continue the bond that you have created.

Are a child’s extended family and siblings considered when they are placed in foster care?
When a child is removed from their home, we first look to identify a relative who may be able to care for the child and any siblings. If one is unavailable, we encourage the foster parents to maintain family connections. Over half the children coming into foster care are part of a sibling group, but most foster homes can only take a single child. This results in many sibling separations. We look to keep sibling groups together because children heal better that way. When lack of resources prevents that, we encourage formal and informal sibling visitation.

What sets SaintA apart from other agencies that provide foster care services?
SaintA has a long history (we started as an orphanage in 1850) coupled with a deep commitment to understanding how brain functions, development and behavior are affected by past trauma (abuse, neglect, alcohol and drug exposure). In recent years, SaintA has become a leader in Trauma Informed Care, providing education to many other organizations and individuals. Rather than ask a child, “What’s wrong with you?” we consider “What happened to you?” We are one of only a handful of agencies in the nation that incorporate Trauma Informed Care practices on an daily basis, and regularly implement therapies based in neuroscience to mitigate trauma and promote healing.