Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents - Wisconsin

Date:

Who May Apply

Citation: Admin. Code DCF § 56.05

A foster care provider shall be a responsible, mature individual who is fit and qualified; exercises sound judgment; displays the capacity to successfully nurture foster children; does not abuse alcohol or drugs; and does not have a criminal conviction, pending criminal charge, or a finding by a governmental body of a civil or criminal violation of statutes, regulations, or ordinances that is substantially related to the care of children or the operation of a foster home.

The applicant for foster care licensure must be no younger than age 21. The applicant and all members of the household shall be free of physical or mental conditions that would interfere with the ability of the family to provide care for a foster child or threaten the health or safety of a foster child.

The applicant must have the following:

  • A stable income sufficient to meet the foster family's obligations without reliance on the basic maintenance payments received for the care of foster children
  • Current vehicle liability insurance coverage if he or she will be transporting foster children
  • Homeowner's or renter's liability insurance

The foster parent shall apply the reasonable and prudent parent standard when making decisions concerning a foster child's participation in age or developmentally appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities.

Training Requirements

Citation: Admin. Code DCF §§ 56.13; 56.14

Each foster parent shall complete a minimum of 6 hours of preplacement training prior to the placement of any child in the home and complete a minimum of 30 hours of initial licensing training during the initial licensing period. Subsequent to the initial licensing period, the foster parent shall complete 10 hours of ongoing training in each 12-month period of licensure.

The preplacement training for foster parents shall include the following:

  • Foster care overview
  • Expectations of foster parents
  • Caring for children in foster care, including promoting normalcy
  • Developing and maintaining family connections
  • Foster family self-care

The initial licensing training for foster parents shall include the following:

  • Permanency
  • Cultural dynamics in placement
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • The impact of maltreatment on child development
  • Attachment
  • Separation and placement
  • The importance of maintaining a foster child's family connections
  • Guidance and positive discipline
  • Access to resources

At the time of renewal of a license to operate a foster home, the licensing agency and the foster parent shall evaluate the foster parent's overall performance and develop an individualized training plan for the foster parent based on his or her demonstrated need for training in particular topics or in managing specific case situations.

Minimum Standards for Foster Homes

Citation: Admin. Code DCF §§ 56.07; 56.08

A foster home shall be arranged and maintained to be safe and healthy for all occupants. The home and living areas shall be large enough for the number and ages of the foster children and other household members.

A foster home shall provide:

  • A minimum of 200 square feet of living area for each household member
  • At least one complete bathroom for every eight household members
  • Each foster child with a separate bed
  • Each infant child with a separate crib or bassinet

No foster child age 6 or older may regularly share a bedroom with another child of the opposite sex. Each bedroom occupied by a foster child shall have a minimum floor space of 40 square feet per child. No more than four children may regularly occupy one bedroom.

The foster home shall have:

  • At least one operating telephone
  • Outdoor recreation and play space either on the premises or nearby
  • Smoke detectors at the head of every open stairway, on each floor of the home, and in each sleeping room
  • A fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen
  • A carbon monoxide detector in the basement and on each floor level

Hazardous materials, such as power tools, flammable materials, insecticides, poisons, plastic bags, detergents, alcohol, tobacco products, and medications, shall be stored in areas not readily accessible to foster children. Cats, dogs, and other pets vulnerable to rabies shall be vaccinated as required by law.

No loaded firearm may be kept in the home. No unloaded firearm, other dangerous weapon, or ammunition may be kept in a foster home unless it is stored and locked in an area not readily accessible to foster children.

Any person who transports foster children must have a valid driver's license. A child younger than age 8 must be seated and restrained in a child car safety seat appropriate to the child's age and weight.

A foster parent may not smoke or allow another person to smoke in a foster home or in a vehicle when a foster child is present.

Approval Process

Citation: Admin. Code DCF § 56.05; 56.055; 56.13

In determining whether a person is fit and qualified, the licensing agency shall consider the person's qualifications and any history of civil or criminal violation of statutes, regulations, or ordinances. A comprehensive home study shall include interviews with foster family members, the use of formalized assessment systems, and communication with references. The applicant must demonstrate an adequate understanding of what it means to be a foster child and a recognition of a child's strengths and weaknesses consistent with the child's age and abilities, or a motivation to learn.

Before a foster home license is issued, the applicant and any nonclient resident of that person's home who is age 12 or older shall complete the background information disclosure form, written authorization for the licensing agency to make inquiries about the subject, and a set of fingerprints sufficiently clear to submit to the Wisconsin Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency for submission to the national crime information database. The licensing agency shall do all of the following:

  • Conduct criminal and other background checks
  • Check any child abuse and neglect reports or findings from any State in which the person has resided within the last 5 years
  • Conduct a search of the Wisconsin sex offender registry

An applicant shall submit at least three favorable reference letters written by persons unrelated to the applicant. A reference letter shall include a statement indicating how long the person giving the reference has known the applicant, under what circumstances he or she knows the applicant, and his or her knowledge of the applicant's characteristics.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.685; Admin. Code DCF § 56.05

The department may not license a foster home if the department knows or should have known any of the following:

  • The person has been convicted of a serious crime.
  • There has been a finding that the person has abused or neglected any client or misappropriated the property of any client.
  • A determination has been made that the person has abused or neglected a child.

In regulation: The applicant or licensee shall give truthful and sufficient information to enable the licensing agency to verify whether or not he or she meets the requirements for licensure. Giving false information or withholding relevant information shall constitute grounds for denial of the license.

Kinship Foster Care

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.57; Admin. Code DCF §§ 56.02; 56.05; 56.13

A child may be placed with a kinship care relative if the department determines that there is a need for the child to be placed with the kinship care relative and that the placement is in the best interests of the child. The department will conduct a background investigation to determine if the kinship care relative or adult resident has any arrests or convictions that could adversely affect the child or the relative's ability to care for the child.

In regulation: The licensing agency or the department may grant a waiver to certain nonsafety-related requirements for the relative of a child without an alternative provision to meet the intent of the requirement. The types of permissible waivers include requirements regarding the following:

  • Employment history and homeowners' or renters' liability insurance
  • Minimum interior living space and outdoor play area
  • Sleeping arrangements for the foster child

A person age 18 to 20 may be licensed to provide foster care for a relative.

A Level 1, 'child-specific' license may be issued to a relative of a child or an individual who has a previous existing relationship with the child or the child's family. Each foster parent who operates a foster home with a Level 1 certification shall complete a minimum of 6 hours of preplacement training within 6 months after the date of initial licensure.

Foster to Adopt

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.833; 48.88; Admin. Code DCF § 56.14

The department or a county department may place a child for adoption in a licensed foster home without a court order if the department or county department is the guardian of the child or makes the placement at the request of another agency that is the guardian of the child. The investigation made under § 48.75(3) must be supplemented to evaluate whether the home is suitable for the child and if the proposed adoptive parents have completed the preadoption preparation required under § 48.84(1), or the department or county department determines that the proposed adoptive parents are not required to complete that preparation.

A licensed child welfare agency may place a child for adoption in a licensed foster home without a court order if the child welfare agency is the guardian of the child or makes the placement at the request of another agency that is the guardian of the child. The investigation made under § 48.75(3) must be supplemented to evaluate whether the home is suitable for the child and if the proposed adoptive parents have completed the preadoption preparation required under § 48.84(1), or the child welfare agency determines that the proposed adoptive parents are not required to complete that preparation.

In placing an Indian child for adoption, the department, county department, or child welfare agency shall comply with the order of placement preference under § 48.028(7)(a) or, if applicable, § 48.028(7)(c), unless the department, county department, or child welfare agency finds good cause, as described in § 48.028(7)(e), for departing from that order.

In regulation: A foster parent who is licensed solely for the purpose of adoption of a domestic infant or a foreign child will not be required to complete the foster parent training if the foster parent completes the preadoption preparation training required under § DCF 51.10.

Interjurisdictional Approval

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.988; 48.98

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

No person may bring a child into the State or send a child out of the State for the purpose of placing the child in foster care without a certificate from the department that the home is suitable for the child.

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