Need for foster families has grown in Western Wisconsin

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - It's National Foster Care Month, where foster parents are recognized for the efforts they put into raising kids who are often going through difficult times, and the need for foster parents in Western Wisconsin has grown.

Area agencies said stricter qualifications over time and families no longer looking to add more members have made it difficult to find homes for kids.
But foster parents said it's a great way to give back to the community.

Wayne Jennings of Osseo said he heard about the need for foster parents through an associate and wanted to help someone.

“(After asking if there was a young teen who needed a foster family) We got the call that saying that there was an emergency situation and can you take a two-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl?” Jennings said.

The Jennings family took in Gabby and ‘Lil’ Matt’ about four years ago, and adopted them two years later, to keep them in their home permanently. He said although it's a challenge at times, it's a great way to help people and give back to the community.

“Things that you realize from being a foster parent is many of the reasons why children are on foster care is that their parent or parents had issues as well that weren't dealt with and maybe they didn't come from the best family life either. So it's a way to stop this generational type of behavior,” Jennings said.

Valerie Smith, the co-executive director with the Family Works foster care agency says there aren't enough parents like Jennings.

“There's always a need for more foster parents. Our referrals far exceed our capacity. So we do end up turning children away unfortunately, so there's always a need for more foster families out there,” Smith said.

“It's definitely been probably a bigger blessing to me than it's been to the children,” Jennings said. “I would like to see a lot more people participate in this at least give it a shot and see if it's right for them.”

“We believe that children grow and succeed best in families. If they're not able to do that within their own home, unfortunately, being able to do that within a family setting is much more natural for them and we've seen a lot of success where the kids grow and really have succeeded and done really well,” Smith said.

She said there have been more efforts to offer services to kids before placing them somewhere and when they are put into foster care, agencies will try to keep them close to their families.
Anyone interested in becoming foster parents can contact Family Works at 608-233-9204.

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