Become an Adoptive Parent

Family mother, father, and baby

Adoption establishes a legal relationship of a parent and child who are not related that way at birth. Adoptive parents have the same rights and obligations as a child's birth parents. There are several types of adoptions in Wisconsin:

Public Adoption

Public Adoption is the adoption of a child who is under the guardianship of the State of Wisconsin. There are many children in Wisconsin waiting for adoption. Children who are waiting for a family may come from a variety of situations. Many children are currently living in foster homes. It may be their first placement after removal from their home or the child may have been in several homes. When it is not safe for a child to live with their birth parents it may be necessary to locate an adoptive family. Public Adoption workers assist in matching each child's needs with an adoptive family.

Public Adoption Process

Follow the steps below to grow your family through Public Adoptions:

1. Call the Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center (FCARC) at 1-800-762-8063. Mention that you're interested in learning about the different types of adoption.

2. You will receive an information packet by mail or email.

3. Call or email FCARC to sign up for a Public Adoption Informational Meeting.

4. Attend the meeting to learn more about the process and the children needing homes. You will also have the chance to ask more questions.

5. Fill out the Prospective Adoptive Parent Survey you received at the meeting. Fill out the survey after conversations with the supportive people in your life.

6. The Department of Children and Families will look through your survey. A social worker will contact you if you have been "screened in" as a possible adoptive resource.

Adoption Assistance

Sometimes families who adopt through Public Adoption qualify for Adoption Assistance. This may include:

  • Medical assistance for some medical costs not covered by the family's health insurance
  • A monthly amount to help care for the child
  • Reimbursement of reasonable and necessary expenses to complete the adoption

For more information about Adoption Assistance, please see the brochure:

You may also learn more about Adoption Assistance from your Public Adoption worker.

Contact Information

The Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center (FARC) 1-800-762-8063

Relative Adoption

Relative adoption is the adoption of a child by a relative when the birth parent has placed the child in that relative's home without a court order.

Wisconsin statutes allow a parent who has custody of a child to place the child for adoption in the home of a relative of the child. "Relative" means a person related to the child by either birth or marriage (Wisconsin Statute - Chapter DCF 48.02(15)) including a:

  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Stepparent
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • First cousin
  • Niece or Nephew
  • Uncle or Aunt
  • Others

A relative adoption occurs when the child's birth parents are making a plan of adoption with a relative. If the relative adoption is for a child within the child welfare system, it may be a Public Adoption.

The process of adopting a child who is a relative usually will involve four steps:

  1. Termination of Parental Rights*
  2. Petition to adopt and order for investigation
  3. The agency investigation
  4. The hearing on the adoption

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption is the adoption of a child by the spouse of a parent. There must be a death or termination of parental rights of the other parent. Wisconsin statutes allow a spouse who lives with both the child and the parent with custody of the child to adopt the child.

The process of adopting a step child will usually involve four steps:

  1. Termination of Parental Rights*
  2. Petition to adopt and order for investigation
  3. The agency investigation
  4. The hearing on the adoption

Learn more about:

Private Domestic Adoption

Private Domestic Adoptions are completed through a licensed private child placing agency. These children are often infants whose birth mother has made an adoption plan for them. These agencies help families by:

  • Describing costs of adoption
  • Describing procedures of adoption
  • Counseling birth parents
  • Counseling adoptive parents
  • Licensing adoptive parents
  • Completing an adoptive home study
  • Supervising the adoptive placements
  • Providing post-adoption services

The Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center (FCARC) has more information to help you start the private domestic adoption process.

International Adoption

Many families choose to adopt a child born in another country. It is called an international or intercountry adoption. International adoption is complex. It is possible through the help of a licensed adoption agency. Each country has its own set of policies. Your adoption agency can explain more about the process and discuss what options are best for you.

The Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center (FARC) can help you get started with an international adoption.