Kristy Barr has “worked in the trenches” before. That’s how she describes the early days of foster parenting, when she and her husband, Kris, where just getting started. That was 10 years ago.
Since then, the couple has had 10 foster children in their home, all at the treatment foster care (TFC) level. “There was a lot of learning by trial and error at first,” Kristy says.
But as a new chair of the Wisconsin Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, she can anticipate the needs of new foster parents and hopes to offer them support.
“I’m very excited to share my journey through the foster care system and hopefully make some changes.”
WFAPA is a volunteer-based organization that runs statewide conferences, offers training and support programs, and works to create different legislative measures in Madison. Their site adds, “WFAPA also educates the public and brings a more positive light to foster and adoptive parenting…”
As a chair, Kristy will focus on advocating on behalf of foster parents. She’ll be at the conferences, in trainings and working with the media to share the WFAPA message.
The position will provide Kristy with the chance to network with foster parents and others related to the community. “We’ll also have opportunities to talk to some of the staff workers who are in charge of the fostering department for the state. So, they’ll have an open ear to what our experiences are and what changes we want.”
Still, she says, “I’m a little nervous because I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to live up to everybody’s expectation of me.”
A Change of Mind
Kristy first thought of fostering because of her husband’s side of the family, where the children of some cousins have spent time in foster care.
“We thought we would be ready just in case one of those (kids) come about.” But before that could happen, a boy in the neighborhood, who was the youngest in a big family, kept finding his way to the Barr’s home.
“He was seeking motherly attention from me,” Kristy said. The bond she formed with the boy surprised her; she had previously only known that feeling with her own kids.
“That showed me right away that I can have affectionate feelings toward somebody else’s child, which I didn’t know before that,” she says. Soon after, they saw an ad in the paper and decided to follow up with it.
What is Treatment Foster Care?
Statewide Director of Treatment Foster Care, Becky Connell, has spent 20 years working in treatment foster care. “These foster parents are caring for kids with significant needs. They’re serving them, helping them heal and really optimizing their capacities to be happy, healthy children.”
TFC parents are licensed to care for children who have been exposed to significant trauma, such as abuse and neglect and need more support to address their needs. Children may also have medical needs, mental health diagnoses, or cognitive delays/disorders.
TFC is also referred to as Level 3; use this side-by-side comparison to learn how it differs from General Level 2 Foster Care.
A Happy Family
Kristy and Kris have adopted five of their seven children through fostering. Their home, near Mauston, Wisconsin, is a wooded, 28-acre hobby farm with lots of animals and a pond in the backyard.
Although she says it can be difficult, Kristy is so glad she became a foster parent.
“The rewards are inching through a child’s process and seeing that I personally helped a child in their healing. That’s all I need to continue.”