How to Thank Families Who Open Their Homes & Hearts to Children in Need

Written by Vicki Tylka

Here in Marathon County, we are extremely fortunate to have many families who volunteer to be foster homes to children who are not able to remain in the home of their parents.

According to the Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center, foster care is the act of taking responsibility for a child who is unable to live with his or her parent because of safety concerns, special care or treatment needs, or other circumstances.

The reasons for children requiring a foster home placement are varied, but one thing that is consistent is the need for children to feel safe and to be nurtured.

Imagine opening your home to a child who is likely at the most vulnerable time in their life, being separated from all they know.

Imagine that the child will likely come into your home with issues associated with trauma in their young life.

Now, also imagine that you’d have the chance to change that child’s life for the better by providing a loving home.

There are about 50 families licensed to provide foster care in Marathon County.

The families range from being first-time foster parents to having decades of experience in foster care.

Generally, placement in foster care is temporary and intended to give the child’s family time to make necessary changes so that the child can return home.

Marathon County’s Department of Social Services asks a great deal of foster parents…

  • To provide a safe and nurturing home
  • To offer care and supervision to the foster child
  • To help the family make positive changes to move toward reunification with the child
  • To open their hearts to love and care for a child for what will most likely be only a short time in the child’s life

The foster parents in Marathon County are among the best in the state.

Several of our local foster parents have presented on state-wide panels about their experience and expertise and have won awards for their contributions.

The following is an excerpt from a social worker speaking about a foster family who cared for one of our Marathon County children:

“A 5-year-old girl had been neglected by her mother, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol and unable to provide a home for her. She had been in foster care for 2 years by the time I became involved. The girl needed to move to a new placement, and we sought a foster family who would also be willing to adopt, as the mother showed an inability to make changes needed so the child could return home. The girl was very shy and withdrawn when meeting the new foster parents, unable to make eye contact, and sitting on my lap to feel safe. The foster parents were friendly and kind and spoke to her gently and quietly, allowing her to keep her distance as she needed to. They asked her if she could have any present she wanted, what it would be. The girl only said, “pink shoes.” When I took the child on a pre-placement visit to the foster home, we went into the bedroom she would be staying in. The foster mother showed her around and then simply opened the closet door. On the floor was a pair of pink shoes, just sitting there on the floor by a few other items the child would need. The little girl’s eyes sparkled as she saw the shoes. No other comment was ever made about those shoes, but trust was beginning to develop right in that moment.”


We tell this story not to suggest that material items are the way to engage with a child. Instead, it is about foster parents truly understanding what is needed by a child to feel special, listened to, and cared for.

Moments like this stay in our hearts forever…

Foster parents take on the responsibility of caring for children they don’t yet know because they want to make a difference in their lives. Many foster parents share that the main reason they decided to become foster parents is to give back to the community and because they know the impact they can make in the life of a child.

There is no reward greater than that.

While our Marathon County foster parents care for our most vulnerable children in our community, they don’t do it to receive recognition. However, they most certainly deserve it….

Employees of the Marathon County Department of Social Services thank each and every one of our foster parents and their families for opening their homes and hearts to children who need them — every day. 

Several of Marathon County’s foster parents attended our summer picnic celebrating their dedication to the children of our community.

Thank you for being an essential piece of the puzzle in our child welfare system — keeping kids safe and loved.

Without you, our community would not be able to keep our children safe.

For more information about foster parenting, please visit the Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center or contact our Foster Care Coordinator, Sara Klebenow, at 715-261-7553.

Vicki_TylkaVicki Tylka
Director  |  Marathon County Social Services

Vicki Tylka has been the Director of Social Services for Marathon County since 2005. She started her social work career in the child welfare field and has extensive experience in facilitation and organizational effectiveness. Always a staunch advocate for children, Vicki is a member of the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board and is an active leader in human services associations and programs statewide. Everyone who knows her hears about her daughter entering law school and her 2 adopted black-and-white cats who keep her life interesting.  Email Vicki Tylka.

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Girl image: apdk via /  CC BY-NC-SA

Pink shoes image: via Visualhunt / CC BY 2.0