Portage County in need of foster homes
By Olivia De Valk
PORTAGE COUNTY – Portage County needs more foster homes. Currently, there are around 115-130 children in the foster care system, but only about 50 foster homes.
Overseeing all of these homes is Danita Docka, foster care coordinator and licensed social worker with the state of Wisconsin.
Docka explained that one of the biggest misconceptions about foster care is that there are children waiting to be placed in foster homes.
“Kids don’t wait. They can’t wait. If a child is in need of placement, we’re going to find a placement,” Docka said.
Sometimes finding placement means the child stays with a relative, or friend of the family, and in some cases it means seeking a foster home outside of Portage County.
Having more foster homes in Portage County would provide children more opportunities to stay close to their birth parents, rather than being moved out of their school district or county.
Local foster parents help keep children in their school, which allows them to stay connected to their friends and community and makes keeping in contact with their birth parents much easier.
Docka noted that children who are fostered closer to their biological parents are able to be reunited with them sooner. And ultimately, that is the role of foster care: to reunify the biological parents with their children.
“The big myth is that the biological parents don’t love their children,” Docka said. “They love their children and their children love them.”
Docka has a lot of compassion for the biological parents and foster children alike. She spent eight years working for child protective services and said that a lot of times, the parent has just made a mistake and now their child is being taken away.
While their child is in foster care, biological parents remain the main decision makers in their children’s lives and foster parents communicate with biological parents on an almost daily basis.
Jaclyn Zynda and her husband have been foster parents in Portage County for over six years now.
Zynda has a blended family. She and her husband became involved in fostering when they learned they couldn’t have children together.
Zynda said the experience of foster parenting has been broad, “sometimes super rewarding, sometimes super stressful.”
Through foster parenting Zynda has been able to adopt three children and reunify many more with their biological parents.