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How to Adopt in Wisconsin

As a hopeful adoptive parent or pregnant mother considering adoption in the Badger State, you may feel overwhelmed by adoption processes, laws and qualifications. If you live in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, or anywhere else in the state, read on to learn how to adopt or place a child for adoption in Wisconsin.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Wisconsin

Every state has laws regulating the adoption process, from who can adopt to allowable adoption expenses. The following section provides information on basic laws and guidelines for adopting a baby in Wisconsin.

What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Wisconsin?

An unmarried adult, stepparent or husband and wife jointly may adopt in Wisconsin.

What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Wisconsin?

Adoptive families are permitted to pay the actual cost of the following:

  • Birth parent counseling
  • Maternity clothes up to $300
  • Transportation for the birth parents related to the pregnancy or adoption
  • Medical and hospital care in connection with the pregnancy and birth
  • Medical and hospital care received by the child
  • Legal services for the child and/or birth parents
  • Living expenses up to $5,000 if necessary to protect the health of the birth mother and baby
  • Birthing classes
  • A gift to the child’s birth mother, not to exceed $100 in value
  • The actual cost of services provided by a licensed child welfare agency
  • The cost of the home study investigation

The Department of Children and Families may charge a $75 fee to review, certify and approve foreign adoption documents.
An accounting of expenses must be provided to the court at the time of the hearing on the adoption petition. The report will include an itemized list of all transfers of anything of value made or agreed to be made in connection with the adoption. The list will show the goods or services for which each payment was made, as well as the date of each payment and the name and address of each attorney, doctor, hospital, agency or other professional receiving payment.

What are the laws to become a foster parent in Wisconsin?

Prospective foster parents in Wisconsin must meet the following minimum qualifications:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have sufficient income to cover your financial needs
  • Have enough room for the child
  • Complete training
  • Pass criminal background checks
  • Be in good physical and mental health

For more information about foster care in Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in Wisconsin?

If a Wisconsin resident adopts a child born outside of the United States, and if the adoptive parent presents proof of the facts of birth to the state registrar, the registrar will prepare a birth certificate for the adopted child indicating the child’s date and place of birth, adoptive name, the adoptive parents’ names and the source of information of each of these facts.

Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Wisconsin?

Only the following may use advertising in connection with adoption:

  • The department, a county department or licensed child welfare agency
  • A person or agency providing information through the state adoption information exchange
  • A foster care and adoption or post-adoption resource center
  • An adoptive parent who has received a favorable recommendation from the department, a county department or licensed child welfare agency
  • A person seeking to place a child for adoption

It is a felony to place or agree to place a child for adoption in exchange for anything exceeding actual authorized costs. It is a felony to solicit, negotiate or arrange the placement of a child in exchange for anything of value. Adoptive parents may only pay the actual cost of legal and other services connected with the adoption in order to receive a child for adoption.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Wisconsin

There are many Wisconsin adoption laws in place to protect birth parents’ rights throughout the adoption process. If you are considering adoption for your child, it is important to understand the basic rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in Wisconsin.

When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?

In Wisconsin, birth parents must file a petition for voluntary termination of parental rights. A hearing will be held within 30 days of filing the petition, but not before the birth of the child. If the child is of Indian heritage, consent cannot be executed prior to or within 10 days after birth.
The parent must personally appear at the hearing to give his or her consent to termination of his or her parental rights. The court may also accept written consent given before an embassy official, military judge or a judge of any court. A birth father may consent to the adoption by signing a written, notarized statement saying he has been informed of and understands the effect of termination of parental rights and voluntarily relinquishes any rights he has to the child.
If the child is of Indian heritage, consent must be executed in writing, recorded before a judge and accompanied by a written certification by the judge that the consequences were fully explained in English or interpreted into a language that the parent understands.

Who must consent to the adoption?

The child’s parents may consent to a voluntary termination of parental rights. The following people must be notified of any hearing for termination of parental rights:

  • The parent(s) of the child, unless the child’s parent has waived the right to notice
  • A man who has filed an unrevoked declaration of paternal interest before the birth of the child or within 14 days of the child’s birth
  • A man alleged to be the father based on information presented to the court, unless he has waived the right to notice
  • A man who has lived in familial relationship with the child and may be the father
  • The guardian or legal custodian of the child

If the child is age 12 or older, he or she must be notified to attend his or her adoption hearing.

When is consent not needed?

Notice of a hearing to terminate parental rights does not need to be sent to a man who may be the father of a child if he meets all of the following requirements:

  • He is not married to the child’s mother
  • His paternity has not been established
  • He failed to establish his right to notice

In addition, consent is not required from a parent whose rights have been terminated involuntarily. A parent’s rights may be terminated if the parent has abandoned or abused the child, the parent has failed to assume responsibility for the child or establish a relationship with the child, the parent caused the child’s conception as a result of incest or sexual assault, etc.

When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?

A parent who has given consent may file a motion within 30 days of the entry of judgement or order terminating parental rights to withdraw consent based on the following grounds:

  • Mistake, surprise or excusable neglect
  • Newly discovered evidence that entitles the parent to a new trial
  • Fraud or misrepresentation
  • A voided judgment
  • A prior judgement upon which the judgment is based has been reversed or vacated

What rights does the father of the baby have in Wisconsin adoptions?

A man is considered to be the parent of a child if he is a biological parent, a husband who has consented to the artificial insemination of his wife, or a parent by adoption. A man is presumed to be the natural child of a father if he and the child’s mother have acknowledged paternity.
An unmarried man claiming to be the father of a child may file with the department a declaration of paternal interest. A declaration may be filed any time before the birth of the child or within 14 days after the child is born.

Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Wisconsin

One of the most important steps for prospective adoptive and foster parents in Wisconsin is the home study. The home study determines whether prospective parents are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child. The following section answers common questions about the Wisconsin home study process.

What is included in the Wisconsin home study process?

The Wisconsin home study includes the following:

  • Criminal background checks
  • Child abuse registry checks
  • Pre-adoptive training

Who is included in the home study process?

The Wisconsin home study includes the adoptive parents and any other adults residing in the home.

Who will conduct the home study?

If an agency has guardianship of the child, the agency will conduct the home study. In a relative adoption in which an agency does not have guardianship of the child, the department, a county department or a licensed child welfare agency will complete the home study. If the child is a foreign citizen and is under the guardianship of an individual, the agency that conducted the home study prior to the child’s entry into the United States will conduct the home study.

On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Wisconsin?

The home study may not be approved if the petitioner has been convicted of murder, homicide, battery, sexual assault or exploitation, child abuse or neglect, incest, child prostitution or child pornography.

When should the home study be completed?

The court will order a home study investigation after an adoption petition is filed. The agency conducting the home study must file its report at least 10 days before the hearing on the petition.

What are the post-placement study requirements for Wisconsin?

This issue is not addressed in Wisconsin adoption laws.

What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Wisconsin?

In a stepparent adoption, the department, a county department or a licensed child welfare agency will conduct an interview with the petitioner and check the petitioner’s background through public records, including those maintained by the department or any county department.

What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?

If a child born in Wisconsin is being placed in an adoptive home outside of the state, an appropriate agency in that state must complete the home study and ensure the adoptive placement meets the criteria established by that state’s laws. Any interstate placement is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?

If the adoptive parents have previously completed the home study and foster care licensing process, the agency will obtain criminal history and child abuse and neglect records checks.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted Wisconsin home study providers:

  • Adoption Choice

    Adoption Choice Inc. is a Wisconsin licensed nonprofit child placing agency with offices in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison. The agency provides services for international, domestic, independent, out-of-state, relative and stepparent adoptions.
  • Adoptions of Wisconsin
    Adoptions of Wisconsin, Inc. (AOW) is a full-service licensed adoption agency providing services for interstate, independent, stepparent, relative and LGBT adoptions, as well as home studies for embryo adoption.

Visit 1800HomeStudy.com to learn more about Wisconsin home study providers.

Wisconsin Adoption Professionals

For more information about adoption in Wisconsin or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:

For more information about foster care in Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

Things to do in Wisconsin

Whether you find yourself in the Badger State for visits with prospective birth parents or you’re waiting for ICPC approval, here are a few fun places for adoptive families to visit in Wisconsin:

More information about visiting Wisconsin is available at http://www.travelwisconsin.com/.

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