Family foster care is temporary care for children whose parents cannot provide care for them. Persons licensed by the Department of Social Services provide foster care. The usual license is for the care of up to four children, however this may increase to six if it is necessary to keep siblings together. Children are most often placed in care as a result of a court order but may occasionally be placed by agreement between the parents and Social Services for up to six months.

Foster care is not adoption. Children are usually placed in foster care for short periods of time and do not typically become permanent members of the family. Whenever possible, they return to their birth parents.

Q: How do I become a foster parent?

A: In order to become a foster parent in the State of Wisconsin, an individual must be 21 years of age, or at least 18 years of age if providing foster home care for a relative. If married, both persons must apply to become foster parents. Foster parents must have:

  • Good mental and physical health as documented by a physician
  • Demonstrate personal and financial stability
  • Have a understanding of child development and behavior
  • Participate in a criminal background check
  • Ensure a safe physical environment in which to care for children
  • Demonstrate an ability to be flexible
  • Willingness to work with the placing agency to assist in reuniting the child with the family

You may request further information about becoming a foster parent by calling Marathon County Department of Social Services at 715-261-7500.

Q: Must I obtain a Foster Home license in order to have a child placed in my home?

A: Yes, this is required in the State of Wisconsin unless you are a close relative or guardian of the child in your care.

Q: For what length of time is the Foster Home license issued?

A: A Foster Home license is issued for not longer than two years. At the time of expiration, foster parents may apply for renewal of the license.

Q: How much does a Foster Home license cost?

A: There is no charge for the license.

Q: Are foster parents reimbursed for the cost of caring for children?

A: Foster parents are reimbursed for room, board, clothing and medical expenses by the placing agency through a monthly rate. The monthly rate varies depending upon the child’s age and his/her special needs. In Marathon County, basic foster care rates may be found by clicking on this link .

The needs of each child are assessed within thirty days of placement. Based on the emotional, physical and behavioral characteristics of the child the rate may be adjusted upward to allow the foster parents to meet those needs.

Q: What kind of help do children in foster care need?

A: Foster children need to be provided with a safe, nurturing and caring home environment. They may have special needs, which require extraordinary support and assistance. Foster parents will have the support of the social worker assigned to the case and will work with other service providers and individuals significant in the child’s life. Foster parents are called upon to assist children to reconnect with their parents or other family members.

Q: Can foster parents adopt a child?

A: Most foster children are not available for adoption. The vast majority of foster children are returned to their parental homes. If a foster child becomes adoptable, foster parents may apply and be considered for potential adoption.

Q: Must the foster parent accept any child an agency offers for placement?

A: No. Information about a child is shared with the prospective foster parents prior to placement, so they can help decide whether the child should be placed in their home.

Q: Do children spend time with their own parents while away from them in foster care?

A: Children nearly always need to stay in touch with their parents and siblings while placed in care. Time together is arranged through the agency social worker.

Q: Are there rules about the discipline and care of foster children?

A: Yes. Your parenting style is important. Physical discipline, including spanking, hitting, slapping, or kicking is not allowed for any foster child. As part of the orientation process, persons interested in becoming foster parents will learn more about the acceptable discipline practices. Once licensed, foster parents receive specialized training and the assigned social worker supports them in their work with each child in placement.