County Executive Falk Asks Community to Open Homes to Teens in Need of Foster Parents
February 10, 2004
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today asked the public to respond to a need for foster parents who are willing to open their homes to help teens. During the next month, several billboards will be up around the area emphasizing that, “Teens Need Foster Parents Too.”
“It is tough enough to be a teenager today. Imagine what it is like without a home, or with a home in crisis,” said Falk.
“More than half the kids in our foster care system are teenagers, but less than a third of the foster homes in Dane County accept teens,” said Falk. “Kids who are placed in foster homes typically come from homes and families that are involved in some type of crisis. Foster homes provide the child with safety and stability.”
Dane County has 250 licensed foster homes. Teens account for 145 of the 271 children and youth in foster care. The Dane County Department of Human Services 2004 budget for foster care is $4.8 million.
Teresa Stevenson, a foster parent for teenagers in Madison, appeared at the press conference to talk about her experience caring for teens. She has been a foster parent for 10 years and currently has four teens placed with her now.
Good foster homes and parents for teens are especially important in helping them to prepare for adulthood. “The teenage years are a time where kids learn so much about responsibility and set goals for their lives,” said Falk.
“About four years ago I reached out to the community, asking families to open their homes to foster children, and 20 new families signed on. We now need 20 foster homes for teens. If the community responds, it will make a real difference, and we would be most grateful,” said Falk.
Dane County’s Department of Human Services provides ongoing training and support for foster parents and foster kids. Foster parents also receive a monthly stipend and medical insurance for the children they’re caring for. Single, married and partnered people can serve as foster parents. They must undergo a criminal background check prior to being approved.
Assistance is also provided to teens age 15 ½ older who are in foster care through the “Fostering Independence” program. The program works with foster parents and teens to develop the life skills they’ll need to make it on their own when they leave foster care at age 18, or 19 if still in high school.
Falk said that because there aren’t enough foster homes to meet the need, some kids stay longer in group homes or other institutional settings that are more costly and may not provide the attention and support youth need.
The Dane County Department of Human Services is spending about $3,000 to create and display three billboards as part of the effort to increase awareness. Dane County residents who are interested in becoming foster parents for teens can call 242-NEED for more information. Or, check out the county’s foster care website at http://www.co.dane.wi.us/humanservices/cyf/foster_care.htm
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Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823