Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities

 

 

Adoption Worker Information

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.

Types of Adoption

Relative Adoption

Relative adoption (Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48.835) 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)), 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.

Requirements for relative adoptions may vary based on the Adoption Agency’s decision to take guardianship of the child for the purposes of the adoptive parents receiving Adoption Assistance for the child (Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48.833).

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 Department of Children and Families (DCF) has not issued specific policy and procedure regarding the process of finalizing these adoptions. Agencies should reference Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48 for information on the requirements for Stepparent Adoptions.

Special Needs Adoption

The Special Needs Adoption Program (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.

A list of SNAP forms is available in the Adoption Forms data table. Sort on the Key column to find all of the forms applicable to SNAP.

Private domestic adoptions

Private domestic adoptions (Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48.837) are often referred to as agency adoptions or independent adoptions. This type of adoption is often for infants whose birth mother has made an adoption plan for her child.

As a licensed private adoption agency you should assist families interested in adoption. Your agency may:

  • 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.

International Adoption

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has not issued specific policy and procedure regarding the process for International Adoptions. Agencies should reference Wisconsin Chapter DCF 48 for information on the requirements for foreign adoptions. DCF can provide review of foreign adoption documents and provide necessary certifications and approvals required by state and federal law.

Agencies are encouraged to consult with their agency attorneys for guidance on how to assist families on registering foreign adoptions. Agencies may access updated forms through the circuit court.

For additional information about international adoption, visit the following:

Agency Information

Child Welfare Licensing

The Department of Children and Families (DCF), is responsible for licensing and monitoring child welfare agencies, to include Child Placing Agencies and Private Adoption Agencies. DCF ensures Child Welfare Licensing requirements are met through ongoing inspection of licensed agencies.

Provider Information Exchange

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has created the Provider Information Exchange (PIE) for sharing electronic documents and files between state program staff and your facility's staff. This is a secure venue for sharing data between DCF and the facilities. Information exchanged is associated with Licensing and Caregiver Background Checks.

Private Adoption Agency Annual Domestic and International Adoption Data Reporting

In 2015, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) requested each licensed Child Placing Agency (CPA) licensed for private domestic and international adoptions to provide information for all private domestic and international adoptions the agency facilitated for the period of January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2015 occurring in Wisconsin.

Based on the information gathered, the Department determined ongoing data collection is necessary to gain a better understanding of the adoptions transpiring in Wisconsin.

DCF is requesting, under its’ authority in Chapter DCF 54.06(6), each CPA licensed for private domestic and international adoptions provide information for all private domestic and international adoptions finalized by the agency in Wisconsin each year.

CPAs will access their agency specific spreadsheet in the new Adoption Data folder located in the Provider Information Exchange (PIE) site.

  • CPAs completing private domestic and international adoptions will have access to the folder at any time, allowing data to be entered throughout the year.
  • The PIE lead for the CPA will have access to the folder and will need to enter all finalized adoptions that occurred in Wisconsin each year, no later than January 31st of the following year.
  • If the PIE lead does not have access to the folder, the lead should email the DCF Help Desk at DCFHelpDesk@wisconsin.gov to request permission to the Annual Adoption Data folder for their agency. 

Instructions for 2017 data entry will be coming soon.

Adoption Worker Resources

Wisconsin Statutes and Administrative Code

Adoption Agencies in Wisconsin must comply with all applicable statutes and Administrative Code regarding Adoption in Wisconsin, including the following:

Children’s Code
Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48

Facilitating the Adoption of Children with Special Needs
Chapter DCF 50 Administrative Code

  • Adoption Assistance and Amendment Requirements
  • Establishes an Adoption Information Exchange

Adoption of Children with Special Needs and Pre-adoption Preparation Training
Chapter DCF 51 Administrative Code

  • Screening and approval of families adopting children in the Special Needs Adoption Program
  • Pre-adoption Preparation Training required of most adoptive parents

Adoption Information Search and Disclosure
Chapter DCF 53 Administrative Code

  • The Adoption Search Program

Child Placing Agencies
Chapter DCF 54 Administrative Code

  • Licensing of Child Placing Agencies, including Private Adoption Agencies

Foster Home Care for Children
Chapter DCF 56 Administrative Code

  • Licensing foster homes, including pre-adoptive homes

Adoption Assistance Applications

Adoption assistance helps support parents raising a child with special care needs who meets the eligibility criteria for adoption assistance in Chapter DCF 50 Administrative Code. 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

Adoption Assistance Packets may only be submitted by the Adoption Agency. Use the Adoption Assistance Forms Checklist/Routing Instructions to complete the packet.

A list of Adoption Assistance Forms is available in the Adoption Forms data table. Sort on the Key column to find all of the forms applicable to Adoption Assistance.

If you have questions about submitting an Adoption Assistance Packet, please talk to your supervisor or contact the Adoption Assistance Eligibility Coordinator at AAEligibility@wisconsin.gov.

Adoption Forms

Adoption Forms for Agency Workers provides a table of forms pertaining to the adoption of children in Wisconsin. All columns are sortable. Sort on the Key column to find forms for a specific adoption process.

Post Adoptive Resources

Post-adoption resources are available for adopted persons, birth parents and adoptive families. Licensed adoption agencies and other service providers may offer some post-adoption services. Wisconsin has five regional Post Adoption Resource Centers.

Agencies are now required to report the names and contact information of all adoptive parents to the regional Post Adoption Resource Center (PARC) within 90 days of the adoption, unless the adoptive parent(s) opt(s) out of the release of that information.

There is a form for agencies to complete allowing the adoptive parent to opt out of sharing their information with the PARCs. This form must be included in the adoptive parent’s file.

Information Provided to the Wisconsin Post Adoption Resource Centers

The State of Wisconsin offers an Adoption Search Program.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a law ensuring children moving from state to state under court jurisdiction have the same rights and protections as children in Wisconsin. The ICPC establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children. Wisconsin ICPC statute can be found at Chapter DCF 48.988.

Private Adoptions across state lines that are subject to the ICPC must be submitted to the Wisconsin ICPC office.

The ICPC is overseen by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (AAICPC). AAICPC consists of members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Unregulated Custody Transfer (UCT), also known as “re-homing” is the practice of adoptive parents transferring custody of a child to another individual or group without involvement of relevant authorities.

Wisconsin and states across the nation are encouraging agencies to be aware of this issue and work together to ensure adoptions are occurring safely and under all applicable laws of each state.  For information about what you can do to prevent UCT, please see this Tip Sheet, developed by the Children’s Bureau.

Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE)

Adoption Agencies are required to conduct an investigation on the suitability of a family for adoption using an assessment system approved by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF has established the Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) tool as the required standardized assessment tool for approval of adoptions.

The statutes do not require the SAFE home study for court requested adoption investigations by a tribal child welfare department under Chapter DCF 48.88(2)(ag); or step-parent adoptions. Policy Memo 2016-35i (Emergency Rules for the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard & the SAFE Home Study) provides additional information.

The Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard

Chapter DCF 56 Administrative Code requires licensed foster and adoptive parents promote normalcy for the children placed in their home by applying the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard. The Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard brochure (DCF-P-5105) provides more information.