Become an Adoptive Parent

People choose to become adoptive parents for many different reasons and in many different ways. No matter the type of adoption or the path that has led to it, adoption is a permanent commitment that creates a legal, life-long parent/child relationship. Adopted children need parents who will:

  • Provide unconditional love and support;
  • Support connections to the child's birth culture, community, and/or relatives;
  • Share their sense of humor and common interests;
  • Take the time to understand the complexities of adoption, including the loss, grief, and trauma that may underlie adoption;
  • Advocate for their children to teachers, therapists, social workers, and other community partners.

If you are considering growing your family through adoption, click through the frequently asked questions (FAQs) below to learn more about adoption in Wisconsin.

What are the steps for adopting in Wisconsin?
Step 1: 
Learn More

Contact the Wisconsin Family Connections Center (WiFCC) to learn more about the different types of adoption and the agencies in your area that you may choose to work with.

You can visit the WiFCC's Learn More About Adoption webpage, send an email to, or call them at 800-762-8063 requesting more information.

Step 2: 
Contact an adoption agency who supports the type of adoption you are interested in pursuing. Complete any introductory requirements, which often includes attending an introductory meeting and completing an application. 
Step 3:
Complete a Home Study

A home study is a comprehensive assessment of a potential adoptive home and is required for all types of adoption in Wisconsin. Home studies describe the adoptive family's circumstances and assesses their capacity to successfully support and integrate an adopted child into their family. 

Adoption professionals assess many different areas as part of an adoptive home study, including:

  • Current and potential parenting skills
  • Ability to provide adequate financial support for a child
  • Background checks
  • Evaluation of health from a medical provider
  • Evaluation of 3 written or verbal references
Step 4: 
Become Licensed
In addition to a completed home study, there are additional requirements for licensure that differ based on the type of adoption. These are outlined in Wisconsin or Tribal administrative code. Adoption agencies are equipped to walk you through these requirements as you begin the licensure process.
Step 5: 
Training & Preparation
Adoptive parents must complete adoption trainings covering a variety of topics like the impacts of adoption on adoptees, parenting, and family dynamics; loss and grief for adoptees; trauma related to adoption; impacts on attachment, and cultural sensitivity. These trainings may be completed during the licensure process or while awaiting an adoptive placement; some trainings may be completed even after an adoptive placement.
Step 6:
Adoptive Placement

The timeline to receive an adoptive placement varies significantly depending on the type of adoption, adoptive parents' requirements for placement (e.g., the number or age of children they are hoping to adopt), and the adoptive parent's own circumstances.

Once a child or children have been placed with your family, you will continue working with your adoption agency to complete any remaining requirements for adoption finalization. You will also receive support and case management from the adoption professionals to help you build stable relationships as a family.

Step 7:
Adoption Finalization

After all requirements are met, a judge will finalize the adoption in court. 

Explore the Adoptive Parent Resources webpage for an overview of supportive and financial resources that can be utilized to support adoptees and adoptive parents before and after adoption finalization.

What are the different types of adoption?
  • Public adoption (through foster care) is the adoption of a child who has been placed in out-of-home care (foster care, a group home, residential care, etc.). Public adoptions are facilitated through licensed child placing agencies contracted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

    Reunification with biological families is almost always the preferred goal when children first enter out-of-home care, and over half of children who come into foster care in Wisconsin are reunified. However, when reunification is not possible, adoption is a way for a child to achieve a permanent, legal relationship with an adoptive family.

  • Tribal adoption (including customary adoption) is the adoption of a child through a tribal nation’s court. Each of the eleven federally-recognized Tribes headquartered in Wisconsin has its own practices and requirements regarding adoption, if adoption is permissible under the Tribe's law or customs.
  • Private domestic adoption (including agency and independent adoption) is the adoption of a child whose parents placed the child without a court order. Private domestic adoptions are facilitated through licensed private child placing agencies.
  • International adoption is the adoption of a child from another country. International adoptions are facilitated through private child placing agencies.
  • Relative adoption is the adoption of a child by a relative. Relative adoptions may be public or private adoptions, depending on whether the placement with the relative was court-ordered or voluntarily organized outside of the child welfare system.
  • Stepparent adoption is the adoption of a child by the spouse of a legal parent. Stepparent adoptions are facilitated through licensed private child placing agencies.

For more detail about each type of adoption, visit the Wisconsin Family Connections Center's Learn More About Adoption page.

Who is able to adopt in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, adoptive parents must:

  • Be at least 21 years old;
  • Be either a married couple or a single individual;
    • If an unmarried couple wishes to adopt, only one individual will be able to legally adopt the child.
  • Have a completed home study with a licensed adoption agency (sometimes called a child placing agency).
What do adoptees want adoptive parents to know?

Prospective and current adoptive parents should continuously seek out information created by adoptees to better understand the experiences that their adopted children may have already had or may have in the future. 

Understanding and anticipating both the joyful and challenging parts of the adoptee experience can equip adoptive parents to better support their children emotionally and lifelong.

Start by reading some lists of the things adoptees want adoptive parents (and others) to know about the adoptee experience:

You may also visit DCF's Adoptee Resources page for a list of books, blogs, and podcasts written by adoptees.

Are there children who need an adoptive home in Wisconsin?

Yes, there are children who are in foster care who need an adoptive home. WIAdopt, the Wisconsin Adoption Website, highlights some of these children. Many of the children awaiting adoptive homes are school-aged (over the age of 4), part of a sibling group that would ideally be adopted together, and/or have experienced trauma in their life.

What other resources are available?

Visit the Adoptive Parent Resources webpage to learn about the financial, social, and emotional supports available to adoptive families after finalization. This includes:

Ready to get started?

Contact the Wisconsin Family Connections Center (WiFCC) to learn more about the different types of adoption and the agencies in your area that you may choose to work with.

You can visit the WiFCC's Learn More About Adoption webpage, send an email to, or call them at 800-762-8063 requesting more information.