He woke up thinking maybe today would be different, perhaps better. His to-do list was pretty much routine by now. Get the kids up. Find them something clean to wear. Check their homework. Make sure they are fed. Walk everyone to school. Maybe even squeeze in a shower himself before planning tonight’s dinner and leaving for the day. But first he had to check on his mom whose bedroom was down the hall. At least that’s where she should be. His adrenaline began to pump as he wondered whether she came home last night.

What will he find on the other side of that door? Will she be conscious? What if she had finally overdosed?  Or will this be the day the police come knocking on the front door to take her away? He has huge burdens to endure at 16 years old, but he doesn’t have the capability to make it any better.

Drug abuse triggers a child’s cry for help

Many youth live in a world filled with this kind of trauma and uncertainty. They don’t know what life could have been – or should have been – because their parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Many minors live in homes of filth and neglect where drug paraphernalia and empty heroin bags are hidden about. Sometimes they witness their parent overdose, as was the case when two very young Portage County children were in the car with their mother as she pulled to the side of the road and died in front of them.

Children affected by parent overdose

The number of drug-related endangerment cases is rising significantly across Wisconsin. One in every five parent-child separations reported to the state in 2015 involved drugs. In 2016, several counties including Fond du Lac, Portage, Marathon, and La Crosse have reported that drug abuse separations have doubled from averages over the past several years combined. In Outagamie County, neglect and parent or caretaker incarceration or drug use are currently some top reasons kids are placed into foster care. Repeated times the neglect is not deliberate. Perhaps a child’s parent or guardian was hospitalized due to poorly treated mental illness or the family was having socioeconomic problems. Whatever the circumstance, these youth live in an unsafe home environment and someone needs to step in and help.

Foster care programs are set up to temporarily support children in need and provide stable environments until they can be reunified with their own family. All too often we hear negative stories about the foster care system while success stories seem to fall by the wayside. Foster parents are vital in providing a strong family environment and stable foundation to neglected youth.  They give children a safe haven, which is a life altering and often times a lifesaving gift.

Foster Care parents help youth

The Rawhide foster care difference

The need for foster care parents in Wisconsin continues to rise. Tammy Curtis, Treatment Foster Care Manager at Rawhide, states there are currently 8,000 Wisconsin youth in out-of-home care. None of these children are receiving parental care. Tammy explains that foster parents are pivotal in providing understanding, healthy guidance, and a loving home to children who have endured trauma, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Foster care parents provide support for a child. They are the ones who cheer on the child at sporting events and awards ceremonies during times when the bleachers would otherwise be empty. Foster parents make a difference when many children are going through the worst times of their lives.

Teen Girl in difficult home life

Rawhide’s Treatment Foster Care program is distinct. Parent education and training are a key component. All of our foster care parents hold college degrees. Before becoming foster parents they receive 60 hours of training for Level 3 and Level 4 care. This is more training than foster care licensure requires. A great deal of time goes into matching the right child with the right home through home visits. We want the child’s personality to be a good match to those in the home so parents are able to connect to their foster child as if he or she is their own. Foster care offers these children opportunities for family together time. For many, this is the first time they get up together with both parents, eat together as a family, and are able to enjoy the little things that dysfunctional homes simply don’t have.

Each and every foster care child comes from a unique home situation and circumstance. He or she is not a number – he or she is a child. Rawhide provides foster care to girls and boys throughout Wisconsin and is committed to helping youth and families in need.