Churches Develop Supportive Communities for Foster Families

Nonprofit Addresses Growing Need in Communities

It takes a village to raise a child, so the saying goes. To support foster families and meet the needs of foster children in the state of Wisconsin, an organization has made it its mission to create that caring community through area churches.

Bruce Williams is co-director of Welcomed, a nonprofit based in Wild Rose, Wisconsin which works with churches to develop an active support system for foster families. The Mill Church in Stratford is the third Marathon County church to participate.

“We mobilize the church to support foster families by creating Care Communities,” said Williams, a foster parent himself. “Volunteers within the church surround foster families and fulfill needs that they have, such as meals, mentor services, and interim caregiving. We help the church start ministries for foster families within their church or within the community.”

Wisconsin has around 7,800 children in foster care, a number on the rise. “A main reason that it’s increasing is because of the opioid epidemic,” said Williams. “It’s creating a need for more out-of-home care, because children are being removed from their biological parents because of abuse or neglect.”

While the number of foster children is growing, the number of foster home has not kept pace with the need. Fostering is a difficult task that well-meaning parents might not be prepared for, with the result that over half stop fostering after their first placement. This is where community support becomes vital to enable them to continue fostering longer, the core mission of Welcomed.

“We’ve shown that with a support system, 90% of families are fostering two years later,” said Williams. “The support of these foster families is key in keeping them fostering longer.”

When it comes to being a foster parent, Williams is upfront about the difficulty. “It’s extremely hard, but at the same time extremely rewarding,” he said. “Being a foster parent is not something everyone can do, and that’s okay. But everyone can do something to support foster parents and children.”

Even if being a foster parent isn’t an option, there are multiple ways to help a foster family. “If you’re not feeling that it’s the time for you, could you provide a meal for a foster family once a month? Could you be a mentor and meet with a foster child a couple times a month? Or could you provide interim care for a foster child?”

Helping with chores like mowing the lawn, or allowing foster parents a weekend away to get rejuvenated can make a huge difference and help families foster longer. Plus, new foster families will step up if they know they’ll have the church’s support during the process.

The Mill Church will host a Community Foster Care Awareness Event on Sunday, April 15 from 12:30-2:30 p.m at the Mid Towne Building. Registration available at this link. Childcare and a Subway lunch are provided.

“Anyone can come and learn more about it or contact us directly, and talk to their church,” said Williams. “We’re going to talk about what foster care is, how you become a foster parent if interested, and how you become a volunteer to support foster families.”

More information about Welcomed can be found at welcomed.org. Contact the Mill Church office with questions at 715-391-1010 or [email protected]