Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services
DCFS Memo Series 2000-11
August 27, 2000



To: Area Administrators/Assistant Area Administrators
Adoption Unit Supervisors
Bureau Directors
Direct Services Supervisors
Directors, Licensed Child Placing Agencies
Licensing Chiefs
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilities
From: Susan N. Dreyfus


Chapter HFS 50, the Department’s rules for facilitating the adoption of children with special needs has been amended with an effective date of August 1, 2000. The revisions implement changes to the Adoption Assistance Program made by 1997 Wisconsin Act 308. The provisions of the Emergency Rule that have been in effect since November 16, 1999 were included in the amended rule. Any agency placing a child for adoption must assure that the adoptive family is fully aware of the Adoption Assistance Program and assist in the application process.

A major change in Administrative Code HFS 50 allows for individuals that adopt a "Child At High Risk" to be offered an Adoption Assistance Agreement. A "Child At High Risk" is defined as a child in the guardianship of an adoption agency who does not have a known special need under

s.HFS 50.03(1)(b)1.,2.,3., or 4, but who is at high risk of developing a moderate or intensive level of special needs under s. HFS 50.03(1)(b)3. "At risk" is based on one or more of the following:

  1. After a diligent effort the agency has not been able to locate sufficient social and medical background information on the child or the child’s birth family necessary to establish the existence of medical or genetic risk factors.

  2. There is documented information that either or both birth parents have a medical diagnosis or medical history which could result in a condition for the child described in s.HFS 50.03(1)(b)3. at a later time.

  3. The child has experienced 4 or more placements with extended family or foster homes that might affect the normal attachment process.

  4. The child experienced neglect in the first 3 years of life or sustained physical injury that might have a long-term effect on physical, emotional or intellectual development.

  5. There is documented evidence that the birth mother used harmful drugs or alcohol or otherwise did not practice appropriate prenatal care which could later result in the child developing special needs as described in s. HFS 50.03(1)(b)3.

A second change in Chapter HFS 50 permits a written agreement for adoption assistance be made following an adoption, but only in "extenuating circumstances". The Department is required to review the circumstances of the child on an annual basis when the original agreement has been amended because of a substantial change in circumstances. It then allows for amending the agreement again to either continue the increase or to decrease the amount of Adoption Assistance (to an amount no lower than specified in the original Adoption Assistance Agreement unless mutually agreed upon) if the substantial change in circumstances no longer exists.

"Substantial Change in Circumstances" means that a documented change related to the risk that qualified the child as a child of high risk has occurred to the child in one or more areas of special needs, including physical and personal care, behavioral or emotional special needs, that would result in a change in the supplemental rate as determined by the uniform foster care rate schedule under HSS 56.09.

Another change that should be noted is HFS 50.065(2) Appeal Process - After Adoption Is Final. This section includes additional specifics of the appeal process.

The major changes in Chapter HFS 50 are mentioned in this memo, however, a thorough understanding and awareness of the changes in Administrative Code HFS 50 is necessary in order to ensure that families are offered adoption assistance for children who are eligible. It is important to note that a number of the children placed by licensed child placing agencies or the State of Wisconsin may be eligible for Adoption Assistance.

A copy of Chapter HFS 50 is attached. Additional copies of the rule can be ordered from the DHFS Form’s Center.

REGIONAL OFFICE CONTACT: Adoption Unit Supervisors
Adoption Assist. Program Specialist
1 West Wilson Street
P. O. Box 8916
Madison WI 53708-8916
(608) 266-1142

Chapter HFS 50 (pdf)   

cc: County Departments of Community Programs Directors
County Departments of Developmental Disabilities Service Directors
County Departments of Social Services Directors
County Departments Human Services Directors
Program Office Directors/Section Chiefs

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