How to Adopt a Foster Child in Wisconsin
One of the first choices hopeful parents need to make in their adoption process is determining the type of adoption they want to pursue. While American Adoptions focuses solely on providing domestic infant adoption services, there are many wonderful ways to bring a new child into your family — including an adoption from foster care in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin foster care adoption can be a rewarding way to grow your family and help a child in need of a permanent, loving home. The following provides a basic guide to foster care adoption in Wisconsin so you can determine whether it might be right for you.
Understanding the Goal of the Wisconsin Foster Care System
The primary goal of the foster care system is to reunite children with their biological families. While a Wisconsin adoption through foster care is certainly possible, it’s important to understand that a child only becomes legally available for foster adoption in Wisconsin when the state determines that he or she cannot safely be reunited with biological family members.
With this in mind, then, you have three options for getting involved with the Wisconsin foster care system:
Become a temporary foster parent. When children enter the foster system, they are placed in temporary foster homes while their biological parents work toward a reunification plan. Foster parents are needed to provide these children with the care they need while they await a permanent situation, either with their biological family or adoptive parents.
Foster to adopt in Wisconsin. About one in four children in the foster care system do become legally available for adoption. Knowing this, some families choose to become foster parents with the intent to adopt a foster child if he or she cannot be reunited with biological family members. This process is known as “fostering to adopt” in Wisconsin and, while a child’s foster parents often do receive priority if and when the child becomes eligible for adoption, the process can be emotionally risky. Because most foster children do not ever become legally available for adoption, parents who want to add to their family permanently may instead consider adopting a foster child in Wisconsin whose parents’ rights have already been terminated.
Apply to adopt a waiting child from foster care. Of the nearly 7,000 children currently in Wisconsin foster care, about 1,400 are eligible for adoption. These foster children for adoption in Wisconsin cannot safely be reunified with their birth families and are awaiting a permanent home. If you are interested in adopting from foster care in WI without becoming a foster parent first, you may be able to apply to adopt one of these waiting children.
There are many factors to consider as you determine which of these paths is right for your family. A foster care professional can also help you decide between a permanent adoption vs. foster care in Wisconsin.
Requirements to Adopt a Foster Child in WI
To become a foster parent or adopt a foster child in Wisconsin, you must meet the following minimum requirements:
Be at least 21 years old
Be in good physical and mental health
Be able to raise a child in a safe, caring environment
Have sufficient income to meet your financial needs
Have adequate space for the child, whether you rent or own your home or apartment
Complete proper training requirements
Pass criminal background checks
As long as they meet the above requirements, parents of any race, marital status and sexual orientation are welcome to complete a foster care adoption in Wisconsin.
How to Adopt a Foster Child in Wisconsin
Every adoption is unique, and your Wisconsin foster child adoption process will vary based on your individual circumstances and your child’s case. In general, however, you can expect to complete the following steps:
1. Learn more about foster care and adoption in Wisconsin.
The first step for any hopeful parent considering adoption is deciding that you are truly ready to commit to the adoption process. Adopting through foster care in Wisconsin is a big step that comes with many unique joys and challenges. It’s important that you’re fully aware of the implications of adopting a child from foster care in WI before moving forward with the process.
Reading foster care adoption stories, contacting local foster care professionals and attending orientation meetings are important first steps you can take when considering adoption and foster care in Wisconsin.
2. Contact your local foster adoption agency.
Whether you are fully committed to a Wisconsin foster care adoption or simply want to request more information, you should contact the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families or find more information about getting involved with foster care in your county here.
3. Be approved to foster or adopt from foster care in WI.
Your foster care professional will walk you through the requirements to become a foster or adoptive family in Wisconsin. You will need to complete an application and attend training, which will help you prepare for the unique needs and challenges of parenting a child adopted from foster care.
You will also need to complete the Wisconsin adoption home study, which includes interviews, home visits, a review of important documents, background checks and more to ensure that your family is physically, mentally, financially and emotionally prepared to adopt.
4. Receive placement of a child.
Once you have been approved to foster or adopt in Wisconsin, you can officially be matched with a child. Your caseworker will walk you through the matching process and contact you about potential placements. If you find a child for adoption on AdoptUSKids or another Wisconsin adoption photolisting site, you may be able to submit your home study and application to adopt that specific child.
If you are selected as the adoptive parents for a child, you may have the opportunity for some pre-placement visits as the child transitions into your home. Your caseworker will provide the support and services you need as you make this transition.
5. Finalize your foster care adoption in Wisconsin.
After your child is placed in your home, you will need to take some additional steps to complete the adoption process, including continued post-placement visits with your caseworker. Once all of the requirements for a WI foster care adoption have been met, you will attend a finalization hearing to officially welcome your new child as a permanent legal member of your family.
How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Foster Child in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin foster care adoption costs are minimal; most adoptions are completed for $2,500 or less. In addition, many children adopted from foster care qualify for adoption assistance (also known as adoption subsidy in Wisconsin). You can learn about your child’s eligibility for adoption assistance, the Wisconsin adoption subsidy payment schedule and more through the Department of Children and Families.
Meet the Foster Kids for Adoption in Wisconsin
The foster children for adoption in Wisconsin come from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. While children in care may be of any age, the average foster child is school-aged, 5–14 years old.
Many children in foster care qualify as having “special needs” because they are older, part of a sibling group or have certain medical, physical or emotional needs. While every child needs a loving home and family, the area of unmet need continues to be finding families who are interested in adopting an older child from foster care in Wisconsin.
You can learn more about the children available for adoption through the Wisconsin foster care adoption photolisting.
Adoption from Foster Care vs. Adoption of an Infant in Wisconsin
Adopting a child from foster care can be an amazing, life-changing experience, both for you and the child you adopt. However, you have many family-building options, and you should take time to explore all of them before choosing the path that is right for your family.
As you compare adoption from foster care, domestic infant adoption, international adoption and other adoption options, consider factors like adoption costs, wait times, the types of adoption opportunities available and more. It’s important to choose the type of adoption that will best fit your family’s personal goals and preferences.
If you are debating between adoption from foster care and adoption of an infant in Wisconsin, you can request free information online, or reach out to your local foster care agency in Wisconsin to learn more about which option might be best for your family.
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