A statewide effort is currently underway  to increase the number of members in the community willing to house children in foster care Wisconsin. The increasing number of kids in need of a home is staggering. According to the Coalition for Children, Youth, and Families, in March 2018 there were 8,000 children in foster care.

In April 2015, 104 kids were removed from their homes and placed into the foster care system. This April, that number had increased to 200. Those growing numbers are at a 10-year high and have become the focus of the legislature. There are currently 13 bipartisan bills on the subject.

The majority of the blame is being placed on parental substance abuse, including situations where drug paraphernalia in the home could be accessible to a child. Lawmakers have enlisted task forces to attempt to combat the problem. Some experts are blaming the growing poverty for the increase in removals. The rising numbers also stem from large sibling groups being placed.

Foster parents Leah and Kyle Needham are sharing their story and hoping to encourage others. “It can be intimidating thinking about foster care, what kind of changes it’s going to be, and certainly it is a change. But at the same time, you don’t have to change your lifestyle,” says Kyle. “I think we had fears about what these kids have been through, what they see and what they need, but overall they are normal kids who need love and nurture and safety,” adds Leah.
The Needhams feel they are not only providing a home for children in need, but they are also teaching their biological children valuable life lessons. “They have shown great empathy, and they have a deeper appreciation for what they have and what we can offer, and they have a better cultural understanding of what the community needs, how to step up and play your part, and how to give back,” says Leah.

Kyle adds, “I think it’s something they will carry with them throughout this life, that there’s more to this world than our little family here. It’s a big world out there, and they are seeing more of it through this process, which I think is helping them as citizens that they are going to become.”