Fostering Hope

Developing a model to improve the foster care system in Milwaukee through partnership with faith communities

Full Project Name:Fostering HopePrimary Community Organization:Children's Hospital and Health SystemPrimary Academic Partner:Lynn Sheets, MD, PediatricsAward Amount:45,636
Award Date
July2008
Project Duration:12 months

Project Description Narrative:


The number of children and adolescents requiring out-of-home care has swollen in the last two decades. National data show that in 1985, 250,000 minors resided in some form of form substitute care. By 2004, this number had grown to between 500,000 and 750,000, and continues to increase. A number of problems plague the overburdened foster care system, including a decline in the number of available foster parents, a shift to lower quality foster homes, increasingly challenging foster children, and a relative lack of support services and infrastructure to help families committed to fostering. Each of these factors contributes to what has become a crisis in the U.S. foster care system.

These issues confront Milwaukee in a poignant way. Over the last six years, the number of licensed foster homes in Milwaukee County has dropped from 2,800 to about 620, creating a dire shortage of homes. Foster parents who remain committed to fostering often find that the children they receive have increasingly difficult challenges, with between 30% and 70% of children in foster care having severe emotional, behavioral, or development problems. Foster families are challenged to provide the needed care for these children due to a lack of meaningful support and the presence of other barriers such as transportation, low pay, and high turnover rate of case workers.

The goal of this project is to improve the health and wellbeing of children in foster care and families by improving foster care family stbility and support, enhancing the existing foster care model in Milwaukee with faith-based support teams.

Community partners:
Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, Children's Services Society of Wisconsin, Colarelli Family Foundation

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Conducted focus group sessions with caseworkers, community stakeholders and advocates, faith community representatives, foster parents, and former foster youth, using information gathered from these sessions to tailor programs, products, and messaging regarding the program

• Adapted training materials from a similar program in Colorado Sprints to meet the needs and goals of the Milwaukee community, revieweing and editing each with partners to assure they are culturally sensitive and educationally appropriate

• Designed a two-tiered outcome measurement program and began collecting and measuring data on impact

• Developed an implementation plan, developing a relationship with an outside agency to house the initiative, identifying funds to hire a full-time project coordinator, and developing relationships with a faith-based network to begin building support teams

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