Frequently Asked Questions
In partnership with the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services, SaintA works to find loving foster and adoptive families for children in out-of-home care who need a safe place to temporarily and/or permanently call home. SaintA recognizes that as you consider joining our team, you may have many questions about the process.
What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of a child in a new home away from his or her family due to abuse or neglect. Placement in a foster home protects the child while our ongoing case managers work with the biological family to help them learn how to be safe and effective parents. In most cases, the goal is for the child to return home to his or her biological family. Children are placed into foster care for a variety of reasons, including abandonment, abuse or neglect, or the incarceration or hospitalization of a parent.
What is expected of a foster parent?
A foster parent must be committed to providing a safe and nurturing family environment for a child until he or she can return home to live with the biological family. Foster parents are expected to attend to and meet a child’s individual needs and be meaningfully involved in all aspects of the child’s life: school, therapy, social network, culture and others. Foster parents are expected to schedule visits with the social workers involved in the case and work with the biological family when appropriate.
What is expected of an adoptive parent?
Adoptive parents must be committed to providing a forever family for a child who cannot return to his or her biological family. They also are expected to attend to and meet their child’s individual physical, emotional and mental health needs.
How long does the foster/adoptive home licensing process take?
The foster and adoptive home licensing process takes approximately 60-120 days from the time we receive your application materials. The average timeframe to complete the home study and be issued a license is 60 days for regular foster care and 120 days for foster care for children with substantial emotional or behavioral needs, or for adoption.
Do I have to be licensed for foster care in order to adopt?
To adopt in Wisconsin through our program, you must be licensed as a foster parent first. A foster home license is issued as part of the adoption home study process.
Who are the children in foster care?
The children range in age from birth to 18, and have been removed from their birth families and placed in out-of-home care usually because of abuse and/or neglect. The majority of children and young people have some degree of physical, behavioral and emotional needs stemming from the difficulty of their life experiences. All children who have experienced the trauma of child abuse and/or neglect in addition to being separated from their biological family have some special needs. Many children in foster care are part of a sibling group and may be separated from their siblings if there is not a home able to accommodate all of them together.
Children are amazingly resilient. Foster and adoptive parents can make a difference by providing a structured, nurturing environment. It is important to remember that these children will grow up to be the adults in our community. How we respond to their needs now will largely determine the type of citizen they will be in the future.
Should I go through foster care if I want a newborn who might become available for adoption?
Foster care is temporary, and many foster children are reunited with their biological families. If you are interested in adopting only a newborn, you should consider other types of adoptions, such as independent or international adoption. SaintA can direct you to agencies that provide these services.
What are the costs associated with foster care?
There are no fees to become a foster parent. Foster parents are paid 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 Medical Assistance, Title 19.
What is the cost associated with the adoption process?
The costs associated with the adoption process are less than $70 and are reimbursable if the child qualifies for Adoption Assistance, a federal program administered by the state that provides a monthly stipend and health insurance for children with special needs until age 18. Costs include a charge to receive 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 for day care for the child if you are employed. However, some of the children being adopted through the child welfare system are eligible for Adoption Assistance (see above question).
What if I work full time?
Foster parents may work full time outside the home. Many foster children attend day care while foster parents work outside the home. However, we respect a child’s natural schedule of eating, sleeping and waking, therefore we ask that our foster parents only work first shift so they are able to maintain those natural patterns.
What if I’m not in perfect health?
All foster and adoptive parents are asked to provide a medical statement from a doctor. If you have problems that would interfere with your ability to parent, your health issues will be reviewed carefully with you and your physician and a decision made as to your eligibility to foster and/or adopt.
What if I have a police record?
Your criminal history will be carefully reviewed as part of any foster care and/or adoption licensing process. Some crimes will permanently prevent you from fostering and/or adopting because they will prevent you from being approved as a children’s caregiver. Some crimes require you to participate in a rehabilitation review process. Remember that you must have been convicted of the crime in question, in most cases.
Who can become a foster or adoptive parent?
Foster parents can be single, married, divorced, or partnered individuals. They can be employed outside of the home, or not working, as long as they can provide verifiable income to cover expenses. Foster parents can have biological children in the home, or have never parented before.
What is the average length of stay a foster child will be in our home?
A child may stay 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 or otherwise finds a permanent living situation. Currently, the average length of stay in foster care is 12-18 months; however, that varies depending on the child and the biological family’s case plan.
The length of stay in care also is influenced by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. The goal is to seek a permanent home and family for the child as quickly as possible, be it reunification with the biological parents, kinship care, guardianship or adoption.
Do the children have contact with their biological parents while in foster care?
Foster parents are asked to support the child’s connection to the biological family, as the usual goal of foster care is to return children with their biological families. Foster care is intended to be a short-term arrangement until kids can safely return home.
Some children have been removed from their homes because they have suffered abuse or neglect, or because their parents cannot take care of them. Whenever possible, efforts are made to keep the child and the biological family together, but the safety of children is the primary concern.
When appropriate (as determined by the child welfare agency and Children’s Court), biological parents have opportunities to visit and have contact with their children. The ideal fostering 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 are free to move wherever you wish. If you are receiving Adoption Assistance and provide proper notice, it will follow you wherever you live in the majority of states. Moving out of state before the completion of an adoption is not recommended and must be done only in consultation with your assigned social worker.
Once I adopt, will contact with the biological parents end?
Many adopted 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 can 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 benefit 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?
We know it is hard to love a child and then return them to their home, but with training and support we will help you understand your part in helping a family heal and giving a gift that will last a lifetime. When you are engaged with healing children and helping their biological family with parenting skills as they create a safe and loving home, you will find yourself working towards the goal of reunification together. After reunification occurs, many families maintain an informal relationship which can maintain the bond that you have created with that child.
Are a child's extended family and siblings taken into account 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 take placement of that child and any siblings. If a relative is unavailable, we encourage the foster parents to try and maintain that relationship when appropriate, in order to maintain family connection. Over half of the children coming into foster care are part of a sibling group, and there are often homes only available to take one child. This results in many sibling groups being separated. We know that children heal better together, which is why we look to keep siblings in the same home. When we are unable to do so due to the lack of resources, we encourage formal and informal sibling visitation.
What sets SaintA apart from other agencies that provide foster care services in the community?
What sets us apart from similar agencies is our long history (we started as an orphanage in 1850) coupled with our deep commitment to understanding how brain functioning, development and behavior are affected by past trauma (abuse, neglect, alcohol and drug exposure) and implementing therapies that are based in neuroscience to mitigate the trauma and promote healing. A perspective shift is critical. Rather than ask, “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 everyday basis. We use trauma informed care across all our service lines. In recent years, SaintA has become a leader in trauma informed care, providing education to many other organizations and individuals.
SaintA is committed to supporting our foster parents, and we recognize that some questions cannot wait. We have created a Foster Parent Phone Line that will be answered by a live person during business hours. If foster parents are unable to reach their assigned social worker(s) and have a pressing matter, they can call the Foster Parent Phone Line for assistance, at 414-380-3780.
For more information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call SaintA toll free at 855-GROW-HOPE.