La Crosse County remains in need of foster parents

The number of kids needing foster care in La Crosse County hit an all-time high last year. County officials say there is a still a lack of foster parents in our area.

Last year there were 180 children in need of foster homes in La Crosse County.

That is a jump from 120 seven years ago and community officials say they are struggling to keep up with the growing demand.

La Crosse County leaders are busy recruiting new people to become foster parents.
“But we are still coming up short,” said Lila Barlow, La Crosse County foster care supervisor.

Barlow said current foster parents are having to take in more children.

“The need is greater than what we have and so many times foster parents are taking in two or three children from multiple homes,” Barlow said. “They are working with multiple social workers and that’s tough not only for the foster home but for the kiddos.”

Last year La Crosse saw its foster care needs rise by 60 children, resulting in foster parents like Bill Robbins to step in and help in the recruiting process.

“There’s been people who have been in foster care for a long time and if we are not replacing them as they age out themselves, then we are going to continue this shortage,” Robbins said.

Bill and his wife became foster parents five years ago. Robbins said it’s a great chance to make a real difference.
“Both of us thought we could help a life, change a life, and help a family,” Robbins said.

It didn’t take long before their help was needed.

“There was a call and a child needed a placement,” Robbins said.

Robbins said it was a moment that changed both of their lives forever.

“Almost four years later we ended up adopting him and his sister,” Robbins said.

Robbins said they continue to keep the biological parents involved in their adopted child’s lives.

Barlow said they want to avoid sending kids away from close family and friends.

“Any time we take a child out of their home and their family it’s trauma,” Barlow said. “Us being involved and taking placement is another trauma and sometimes the most significant for a child, so we are trying to be very thoughtful on locations so we can keep some familiarity.”

(If you are interested in becoming a foster parent you can call the La Crosse County Human Services office at 608-784-4357.)