Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services
       DCFS MEMO SERIES 99-05
        March 9, 1999

            AGENCY, COUNTY AND

To: Area Administrators/Assistant Area Administrators
BPP Adoption Unit Supervisors
Bureau Directors
County Departments of Human Services Directors
County Departments of Social Services Directors
Licensed Adoption Agency Directors
Licensing Chiefs
Section Chiefs/Managers
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilitators
From: Susan N. Dreyfus

 Document Summary

Wisconsin adoption agencies may not deny or delay the placement of a child for adoption when an approved family is available outside of the jurisdiction. Agencies must make prompt adoptive placement efforts, use available resources and service techniques and document the reasons for each placement decision.

The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) has created a number of provisions to encourage prompt permanency for children who are placed in out-of-home care. ASFA requires each state to develop plans for effective use of cross-jurisdictional resources to facilitate timely adoptive or permanent placements for waiting children.

To assure that Wisconsin waiting children receive prompt permanent placements, no Wisconsin adoption agency may deny or delay the placement of a child for adoption when an approved family is available outside of the jurisdiction. Families studied for adoption by another agency, who live in another county or who live in another state, will be considered for placement on an equal basis with families studied by the agency and living in the same geographic area. The selection of a placement shall be based on the best interests of the child involved. Placement shall not be delayed on the possibility of a "better" placement becoming available in the future if an appropriate placement is currently available. However, a child should never be placed for adoption in an unsafe placement.

Each Wisconsin adoption agency must inform prospective adoptive parents that they may request a fair hearing if they allege that a violation of this provision has occurred. The prospective adoptive parents could indicate that they were denied placement or that their request for placement was not acted upon with reasonable promptness. The appeal should be filed in the state that is responsible for seeking an adoptive placement for the child.

Appeals in Wisconsin should be filed in writing with the Division of Hearings and Appeals, P. O. Box 7875, Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7875. The request for an appeal should describe, as fully as possible, the concern leading to the appeal, the name of the child whose placement was delayed or denied, the agency that delayed or denied the placement and the documentation that this placement was safe and in the best interest of the child.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services may apply financial penalties against any state found to have violated these provisions. Also, the federal Comptroller General will conduct a study of how to improve procedures and policies to facilitate the timely and permanent adoption of children across state and county jurisdictions.

To assist Wisconsin adoption agencies to comply with these requirements, the following information identifies some useful resources and details documentation requirements:

Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC):

Wisconsin and all other states are members of this Compact to facilitate the placement of children for foster care and adoption across state lines. Questions from Wisconsin on procedures to initiate interstate adoptive placements may be referred to:

Milwaukee: Joan Graham
ICPC Specialist
(414) 289-6682
All other counties: Joy Schwert
Manager, Special Services Section
(608) 267-2079

Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA):

More than half of the states, including Wisconsin, are members of the ICAMA Compact to facilitate the provision of post adoption services, including Medical Assistance (also known as Title XIX or Medicaid), to adopted children who receive Adoption Assistance benefits and live in a different state than the state providing Adoption Assistance.

Sometimes a child is placed with an adoptive family in another state prior to the adoption. Over the years, many adoptive families move outside the Adoption Assistance state. Federal law provides that the Title XIX benefits (Medical Assistance) for a child adopted with Title IV-E Adoption Assistance must be provided by the state where the child resides. Since July 1, 1998, Wisconsin has provided Title XIX benefits to any Adoption Assistance child residing in Wisconsin, regardless of whether that Adoption Assistance includes Title IV-E matching funds.

Questions about setting up or changing Title XIX benefits for Adoption Assistance children may be referred to:

Darlene Nelson
Adoption Assistance Accountant
(608) 266-8054

Standards for Home Assessments:

The Division of Children and Family Services has set the attached standards for home assessments submitted for placement of a child in the guardianship of DHFS. Federal guidelines have not yet clarified the ASFA definition of "an approved family." Until more information is provided, DHFS will consider a family as "an approved family" when:

  1. The family submits a current home assessment regarding the potential placement of a specific child or sibling group;

  2. The home assessment complies with the attached Standards; and

  3. The home assessment approved the family for placement of a child or sibling group with characteristics similar to the needs of the child or sibling group under consideration.

Inter-agency Coordination:

Placement of a child for adoption in another area of the state or into another state will require careful coordination with the agency staff involved. This effort may require new and sometimes frequent contacts. Adoption policies and statutes will vary from state to state. The same term may be defined differently in each jurisdiction.

At the same time, clear and detailed explanations to prospective adoptive families are necessary so these individuals understand the steps in the adoption process and their responsibilities if they wish to seek placement of a specific child.

If a communication failure appears to be developing, the adoption worker can utilize different avenues, including:

  • Alternative methods of communication, such as written information and graphs of procedures;

  • Communication with more individuals, such as the agency supervisor or the home study worker; and

  • Involvement of supervisory staff to assist in clarifying apparent misunderstandings.

Use of Adoption Exchanges and Other Recruitment Efforts:

Adoption exchanges register and publicize the availability of a child for adoptive placement. They describe the child and the type of family needed. Wisconsin adoption agencies can register any child who is available for adoption and does not have a placement with the Wisconsin Adoption Exchange. With a signed consent from a parent or the court, a child can be photo listed to seek adoptive resources prior to the termination of parental rights.

The Wisconsin Adoption Exchange is operated under a grant to the Special Needs Adoption Network. For more information, contact:

Special Needs Adoption Network
Internet site:

As part of the registration with the Wisconsin Adoption Exchange, the child will be registered with the National Adoption Exchange unless the supervisor in the guardianship agency identifies unique needs of this child which make placement in another geographic area contrary to the best interests of the child. Adoption workers can also seek adoptive resources for a child through specialized recruitment efforts tailored to the needs of the child.

Documenting Placement Decision:

Federal and state laws establish a variety of factors affecting adoptive placement decisions. These factors include:

  • Consideration of giving a preference for a placement with an adult relative.

  • The Multiethnic Placement Act and the Interethnic Provisions which prohibit delay or denial of placement based on the basis of race, color or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent or the child involved.

  • The placement preferences of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

  • Where practicable and if requested by the birth parent, the adoptive parents shall be of the same religious faith as the birth parents of the person to be adopted.

  • No otherwise qualified person shall be denied eligibility to adopt because the person is deaf, blind or has other physical handicaps or because of his or her race, color, ancestry or national origin.

Adoption agencies will document information about each prospective adoptive family considered for placement of a child. The documentation must include the reasons why one family was selected for placement and the reasons that each other family was not selected. Clearly these reasons must be consistent with the requirements of state and federal law and the best interests of the child.

Compliance with the federal prohibition on cross-jurisdictional barriers to adoption requires adoption agencies to make prompt adoptive placement efforts, use available resources and document the reasons for placement decision. Thank you for implementing these effective techniques in adoption services in Wisconsin.

Adoption Services Planner
1 West Wilson Street
P. O. Box 8916
Madison, Wisconsin 53708-8916
(608) 266-0690



cc Adoption Professionals
County Departments of Community Program Directors
County Departments of Developmental Disabilities
    Services Directors
Foster Care Coordinators
Wisconsin Adoption Exchange




Any family seeking an adoptive placement must have a home assessment or home assessment update completed by an authorized adoption agency with a positive recommendation within the past twelve months. The assessment or assessment update must comply with the Standards for Adoptive Home Assessments, including a recommendation of the number and type of children appropriate for placement in the family. The capacity of the approved family must be consistent with the needs of the child being considered for placement.

Each assessment received from other agencies shall comply with these Standards for Adoptive Home Assessments, including thorough documentation of the following criteria. This information will be used in selecting an adoptive family applicant for an adoptive placement of a child in DHFS guardianship:

  •  Assurance that HSS 56, Foster Home Care for Children, requirements are met or that similar foster care licensing or certification requirements of the state of residence are met, including thorough justification of any exceptions made.

  • Acceptable findings from a Caregiver Background Records Check and confidential references from at least three non-related individuals.

  • Description of each child in the home, including their behavior, capacity to protect themselves, and their special physical, health, behavioral, educational and social needs.

  • Evidence of medical examinations of all persons in the household within the past year, documentation of any health problems of family members, needed precautions or treatment and discussion regarding the effect on plans for adoption.

  • Thorough description of the functioning of all adult caretakers including their level of emotional and behavioral adaptation, their social, medical and mental health history, marital relationships and social relationships.

  • Thorough description of each adult caretaker’s specific parenting practices.

  • Complete demographic information about the family including economic resources, employment, the house and adjacent property and the neighborhood.

  • Family functioning information, such as interaction and communication patterns of the family unit and relationships with extended family members.

  • Examination of how each adult caretaker views birth parents who relinquish their children, their understanding and attitude about maltreatment of children, including physical and sexual abuse, how they view children available for adoption and related issues such as separation and attachment.

  • Description of the motivation for adoption, the level of preparedness and commitment for adoption of all family members and a description of additional needed training or experience before a child can be placed.

  • Evidence that the adult caretakers are knowledgeable about the special needs of children they propose to adopt, such as medical, educational and behavior needs.

  • A review of available supportive resources in the community and the potential the family has to seek out and use agency and community resources.

  • Verification of financial information, employment, and previous foster care or adoptive parent status.

The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.