2017 Assembly Foster Care Task Force

General Resources


2017 AB 775


Relating to: the showing of a substantial likelihood that a parent will not meet the conditions established for the safe return of the child to the home in a termination of parental rights proceeding.

2017 AB 776


Relating to: foster home licensing. (FE)

2017 AB 777


Relating to: University of Wisconsin and technical college tuition remissions for and grants to support foster care and other out-of-home placement students and making an appropriation. (FE)

2017 AB 778


Relating to: appellate procedure in proceedings related to termination of parental rights.

2017 AB 779


Relating to: grant to organization to provide referrals to community-based services and making an appropriation. (FE)

2017 AB 780


Relating to: notice to a school of a permanency review or hearing, notice to a school district of a foster home or group home license or out-of-home care placement, and transfer of pupil records.

2017 AB 781


Relating to: defining dental care for the purpose of consenting for services for a child in out-of-home care.

2017 AB 782


Relating to: limited release of mental health information to out-of-home care providers and child welfare agencies.

2017 AB 783


 Relating to: a committee to study and make recommendations on the caseloads of child welfare workers. (FE)

2017 AB 784


Relating to: a parent's right to counsel in a child in need of protection or services proceeding, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation. (FE)

2017 AB 785


 Relating to: funding for child abuse and neglect prevention grants. (FE)

2017 AB 786


Relating to: the Court Appointed Special Advocates grant program and making an appropriation. (FE)

2017 AB 787


Relating to: funding for grants to support foster parents and foster children and making an appropriation. (FE)

WAFCA Hearing Notes

Notes from 10.25.17 Hearing in Green Bay [Contact: Linda Hall for more information]

Local Press: Foster care system bogged down because of drug addiction (WBAY, 10.25.17)

WAFCA Recommendations for Foster Care Task Force (10.25.17)

Major themes for the task force included:


Notes from 10.11.17 Hearing in Milwaukee [Contact: Kathy Markeland for more information]

Testimony included: Waukesha and Racine Counties; Judge Foley; Milwaukee DA office; State Public Defenders; SaintA; Lad Lake; parents involved in the system; Casa Maria; Black Coalition of Wisconsin; Foster Youth Advisory Committee

Major themes for the task force included:

  • SAFE assessment tool for relative caregivers takes significant staff time. If child returns to the same relative after their initial child-specific license has lapsed, the SAFE study needs to be done again.
  • Support the caseload task force recommended by WCHSA/WCA to develop caseload standards that provide a basis for state funding increases
  • Create a venture innovation fund for counties to give flexibility to invest in prevention efforts that can reduce reliance on foster care.
  • Develop more out of home options including professional foster care and more Level 5.
  • Streamline TPR process by helping parents understand the process early in the process. 
  • TPR could be streamlined by moving from CHIPS into TPR - not a separate case.
  • Require a parent to sign to begin an appeal process - review the recommendations from Legislative Council Study on Permanence
  • Too many children placed away from family do to lack of sufficient resources in the county (Racine)
  • Proper staffing of caseworkers allows county to provide more timely response to foster parents and creates stability in the home - prevents placement disruption.
  • Targeted foster care recruitment is the best ROI for the system. Look to teachers, coaches, police officers as resources for child placement.
  • Address legal glitch that means youth in extended in care cannot be placed in adult supportive housing.
  • Providing legal representation for parents could expedite resolution of cases - State Public Defenders have data from Washington State and NY that show a decrease in TPR filings and quicker move to permanence. (Ballweg bill)
  • Lack of parent support and waiting lists for services make it difficult for parents to meet the expectations of the courts. They start losing hope.
  • When a child is on trial reunification, the parent does not qualify for the benefits normally associated with care of that child (FoodShare, Wisconsin Shares, etc.) which makes it more challenging to succeed.
  • Enact a foster parent and foster child bill of rights - foster youth rarely know their rights in the system
  • Foster youth need: connection to caring adults; housing support - meet youth where they are at developmentally; family - for good or for bad youth want to figure out how to stay connected with family; health care - automatic re-enrollment in MA; trauma-informed employment programs; transportation supports include driver's license access/auto insurance

Notes from 9.28.17 Hearing in LaCrosse [Contact: Linda Hall for more information]

Local Press: Stakeholders: Drugs are fueling foster care crisis in Wisconsin (LaCrosse Tribune, 9.28.17)
Local Press: Public hearing looks at repairing foster care system (News8000, 9.28.17)


Family and Children's Center provided a tour of their facility and services prior to the hearing. Legislators learned about FCC programs including the Child Advocacy Center and the Hope Academy, a school for teen moms with onsite child care and social services support. 

Testimony at the hearing included: La Crosse, Buffalo and Trempealeau Human Services; Family & Children's Center; Children's Hospital of WI Community Services/Care4Kids; foster parents;  Alia; Judge Gonzales

Major themes for the task force included:

  • Need to invest in primary prevention to prevent safety issues from occurring and interventions should focus on emotional well being in addition to physical safety.
  • LaCrosse Area Family Collaborative is a local investment in community-embedded family support - less paperwork, more connecting with families.
  • Caseworker turnover contributes to worse results for children - need quality supervision, trauma-informed organizational climate, support for working with judicial system.
  • Need to invest in a healthy, stable workforce.
  • Families are the solution, not the problem - trust them to design their futures and build a system that keeps families together instead of pulling apart - this takes a commitment to intergenerational well-being and racial equity and inclusion.
  • Foster care should be viewed as a support to the parent, not just creating safety for the child through removal.
  • Much of the explosion in foster care is due to meth/drug involvement - with meth, relapse is frequent.(In Milwaukee, since 2011 there has been a 61% increase in drug abuse as the reason for removal)
  • Allow counties to share foster homes across borders; counties should not have to re-license a home outside of their county boundaries. 
  • LaCrosse County has significantly increased use of relative caregivers (from 8% in 2009 up to 48% in 2017). Counties need more time to license relative homes.
  • More trauma training needed for all - bio parents, foster parents, teachers, law enforcement, etc.
  • More respite needed for families.
  • Dental care is difficult to access.
  • TPR takes too long - providing representation for parents could move the process faster
  • La Crosse currently has twenty children waiting for adoptive resource before TPR is completed - concerned about TPR before adoptive resource is found because state will provide less support to the child than the county does.
  • Other TPR streamlining ideas: change the bifurcated case system; eliminate jury trials.
  • Increase Level 5 options.
  • Provide more treatment access for parents - they are on waiting lists for services which delays reunification.
  • Foster parents need more support -- some of the expectations on foster parents become unreasonable, in spite of their best intentions - sibling visits, supervised visitation, support bio parent...Particularly challenging if you have multiple children in placement.
  • Investment in home visiting will deliver favorable impacts and reductions in maltreatment -- the savings are real and measurable. Families in home visiting are dealing with the same issues as families in the child welfare system
  • TPR - set new criteria to allow TPR in the absence of a permanent resource. Addressing the legal/TPR risk generates more potential adoptive resources. Wendy's Wonderful Kids is making significant investments in other states to find adoptive homes when children are available for adoption.
  • If more children are moved to adoption faster, then we will have enough foster care resource for other children coming in.
  • Child-specific recruitment in foster care is a key to increasing adoptions from foster care.
  • Meth exposure impacts children -- they need to be decontaminated and detoxed which is a long and painful process.
  • Most children in foster have 4+ ACES by age 3. 
  • Counties don't have the funds for child welfare -- just child protection to save lives.
  • Reduce county caseload sizes to provide for more stable workforce and better care for the families in the system.

Notes from 9.20.17 Hearing in Dodgeville [Contact: Kathy Markeland for more information]

 Local Press: CASA's could be key in reducing the state's foster care population (WREX, 9.20.17)

Task Force presenters included: Iowa, Grant and Green County human/social services; Court Appointed Special Advocates; foster care providers; Family Works and UW School of Social Work 

Major themes for the task force included:

  • Counties need flexible resources to provide wraparound services to families. Intensive in home family therapy can be an effective investment for families, but difficult to fund.
  • Developing sufficient mental health provider and other family support resources in rural communities is challenging. It requires an upfront investment to establish programs and then hopefully can move to a fee-for-service arrangement once program is established an stabilized.
  • Staff training (like Functional Family Case Management) can make a difference and help to reduce removals.
  • There is a system gap between TFC and RCC - professional foster care?
  • Licensing relative caregivers is taking significant time (SAFE tool) - it makes it difficult for FC coordinator to license other, non-child specific resources.
  • Lack of timely mental health services for children and lack of respite providers. Foster home placements destabilize due to lack of supports.
  • Relative caregivers (Level 1) don't qualify for child care subsidy. This is a barrier to relative placments. 
  • CASA is currently in 12 counties with plant to expand dependent on state and local funding.
  • CASA can help move cases more quickly and provide a stable volunteer support for a child in placement.
  • Need to do a better job preparing child welfare caseworkers for the challenges of the job - preparation and quality supervision; organizational climate and relationship with the courts are key elements to attend to. Having a solid case practice model can help to create security for staff. She 
  • Children who are removed or adopted are still reaching out to bio families. 

Notes from 8.23.17 Hearing in Wausau [Contact: Linda Hall  for more information]

Local Press: 200 kids in foster care in Marathon Co., only 43 homes to place them (WSAW, 8.24.17)

The Task Force convened for a five hour hearing in Wausau and heard from foster and adoptive parents, County Human Services representatives including Marathon and Portage, Community Response Programs (including Children's Hospital of WI), representatives of two tribal communities and others.

Major themes for the day included:

  • Community Response Programs are filling an important gap in services for our at risk families (consider taking CRP statewide)
  • Increasing caseloads are placing extreme pressure on staff and county budgets
  • Foster families need more support and resource restricted counties have difficulty getting sufficient supports for these homes
  • Respite is a critical support for our foster care homes and more is needed
  • The termination of parental rights process can be frustrating for adoptive homes - there are systemic reasons and sometimes resource shortage reasons that contribute to delays.


Notes from 7.27.17 Hearing [Contact: Linda Hall and Kathy Markeland for more information]

  • Each of the members on the Task Force has a personal connection or story that brings them to serve on this group.
  • Testimony included: DCF; Coalition for Children, Youth and Families; Children's Hospital of WI; Lutheran Social Services; WCA/WCHSA; Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board

Ideas for the Task Force:

  • Develop a staff caseload model (WCHSA is working with DCF on this) and then make sure that counties are adequately funded to meet the target staffing ratios
  • Expand in-home safety services and Community Response Program to enable more counties to participate
  • Explore expansion of family drug courts
  • Form workgroup of counties, DCF and other stakeholders to develop plan to address foster home recruitment, reimbursement and consider creative ideas like tax breaks or student loan forgiveness to increase interest
  • Increase caregiver support
  • Increase home visiting funding to create more stable source of program funding statewide
  • Change TPR to increase adoption opportunities for youth with special needs 
  • Extend FC to age 21 for all youth including option to re-enter care after exit
  • Provide tuition support for foster youth
  • Increase resources for foster care coordinators to improve recruitment
  • Expand day care options for foster families
  • Expand Family Finding initiatives - give more children access to robust search for connections
  • Consider increasing financial support for relative caregivers

Older Youth

  • The Bureau of Youth Services has key outcomes that they want to see for youth transitioning to adulthood.
  • Rep. Kitchens and Novak are working on a tuition waiver bill
  • The decline in the number of youth aging out correlates to the launch of permanency roundtables, but DCF has not done research to definitively identify reason for decline.

Reunification, Adoption and Re-entry

  • The time to TPR is longer than it should be. DCF is working with the courts find ways to improve TPR timeframes. (through the Three Branch Initiative)
  • Investment in post-reunification support in Milwaukee has worked. Re-entry is lower in Milwaukee.
  • Most adoptions out of the system are foster home conversions, so there is not a need for a search for adoptive home for most.
  • Wisconsin does better than the national average in relative placements and reunification, but our re-entry rate is higher than the national standard.

Relative Caregivers

  • To be a Level 1 provider and qualify for the $232 monthly maintenance rate, a relative only needs to complete the 6 hour online preplacement training and pass the background check and CSE review.
  • Many relatives are seeking more training not less and DCF is working on more targeted training. Relative caregiving is different – the are called to the responsibility, not selecting to volunteer.

 Child Welfare Workforce & Recruitment/Retention of Foster Homes

  • There are currently about 4000 licensed foster homes in the state (7300 parents) equating to roughly 9700 licensed beds.
  • Turnover rate is staff is between 30-40%. DCF survey found that workers were unhappy with unexpected overtime, caseload, and paperwork.
  • Foster parent turnover is connected to turnover in our child welfare workforce
  •  It takes staff time to support foster parents and work on targeted recruitment
  • Training does not appear to be a barrier for foster family recruitment and DCF is regularly working on adapting the training to keep the information relevant to the issues that foster and relative caregivers face.
  • The Coalition is working with DCF on helping counties and CPAs develop enhanced recruitment plans that will include some available reimbursement for foster parents to help with recruitment activities.