Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities

 

 

Become an Adoptive Parent

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:

Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP) or Foster-To-Adopt

SNAP is the adoption of a child with special care needs who is under the guardianship of the State of Wisconsin. There are many children in Wisconsin with special care needs waiting to be adopted. 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 being removed 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, efforts are made to find an adoptive family that best meets the needs of the child. These adoptive homes are sometimes referred to as foster-to-adopt.

The Special Needs Adoption Program works to match children with an adoptive family. Children in this program have, or are at risk of having, special care needs as defined in Wisconsin Chapter DCF 50 Administrative Code.

Special Needs Adoption Regional Informational Meetings

The Special Needs Adoption Program serves Wisconsin through regional offices. Learn more about when and where the Special Needs Adoption Regional Informational Meetings are held, as well as how to register. Registration for all regional informational meetings is required, as the meetings are subject to cancellation.

Adoption Assistance

Some families may receive adoption assistance after adopting a child with special care needs. This assistance 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 call the Adoption Assistance Program at (866) 666-5532. If you are in Milwaukee County, call (414) 264-5437.

Contact Information

For more information about adopting a child with special care needs, please contact the SNAP in your county.

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 in most situations by marriage (Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48.02(15), Wisconsin Statutes), 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 Special Needs 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

The Wisconsin Adoption Information Center has more information to help you start the relative adoption process.

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption is the adoption of a child by the spouse of the parent, following the death or termination of parental rights of the other parent.

Wisconsin statutes allow a stepparent (spouse of a parent) who lives both with the child and with the parent who has custody of the child to adopt the child.

The process of adopting a step child will usually involve four steps as it applies to the other birth parent:

  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 often referred to as agency adoptions or independent adoptions. These adoptions are completed through a licensed private child placing agency. This type of adoption is often for infants whose birth mother has made an adoption plan for her child.

A licensed private adoption agency can assist families interested in adoption. These licensed agencies can:

  • Describe costs of adoption
  • Describe procedures of adoption
  • Provide counseling for birth parents
  • Provide counseling adoptive parents
  • License adoptive parents
  • Complete an adoptive home study
  • Supervise the adoptive placements
  • Provide post-adoption services

There are limitations on the types and amount of payment (Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48.913) made by adoptive parents to complete an adoption.

The Wisconsin Adoption Information Center 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 and your family.

The Department of Children and Families International Adoption Handbook is a source of information for international adoption in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Adoption Information Center provides resources to help you get started with an international adoption. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services offers additional information on international adoptions.