Special Needs Adoption

What does “special needs” mean?

These are children with special physical, behavioral and emotional needs stemming from some difficulty they have experienced. Many of the children in the program have been in foster care and need a permanent, safe home with a loving family.

All children who have experienced the trauma of child abuse and neglect and who have been separated from their biological families have some special needs. Some children may be part of a sibling group that needs to remain together.

Adoptive families can have a dramatic, positive impact on these children by providing a forever family. Training, information and referrals to community resources are provided for parents to help them deal with issues that their children may experience.

Children of all ages and from diverse backgrounds need to be part of a forever family. Can you help them find a safe, permanent home?

How to become an adoptive parent

You can:

  • Work full-time, part-time or be a stay-at-home parent
  • Be single or married
  • Be a homeowner or renter
  • Be any race or a different race than the child
  • Have children of your own or not

You must:

  • Be 21 years of age or older; no upper age limit exists, although it is necessary that adoptive parents be young enough and/or healthy enough to raise children to adulthood
  • Attend an informational meeting
  • Participate in a home assessment and attend training
  • Pass a criminal background and caregiver check
  • Have no prior history of involvement with a child welfare agency due to an upheld allegation of child abuse or neglect
  • Possess sufficient verifiable sources of income
  • Meet physical home environment requirements and have homeowner's or renter's liability insurance
  • Have vehicle liability insurance
  • Participate in 36 hours of professional training provided during the licensing process
  • Have love and patience to share
  • Be invested in the future of our community's children

To begin the adoption process, families come to an informational meeting to learn about the children and how the system operates. Adoptive parents are provided with support and guidance throughout the adoption process.

After attending an orientation meeting, families are invited to fill out a parenting interest form and return it to the licensing agency/county. The form is evaluated to assess if the needs of the family match the needs of the children in the program. At this point, a caseworker is assigned for the home study.

The home study process, which includes background checks, can take up to 120 days. As part of the process, families and/or individuals become licensed as a foster care provider for the time prior to adoption. Discussions take place about what kind of child would work in the family’s home so an appropriate match can be found.

Once the home study is approved and training is completed, the matching process begins. For the first two months of a child being placed in the home, staff conducts home visits based on the child’s and the family’s needs.

The Heart Gallery provides information on children located throughout Wisconsin who are waiting to be adopted.

Community Services is proud to partner with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to support the mission of ensuring every child will have a permanent home and loving family.

Frequently asked questions about special needs adoption

What is the background of the children available for adoption?

These children have been removed from their families, usually because of abuse and/or neglect. The adoption worker will make every effort to find the kind of child you want, but it will largely depend on the children available at the time of your request, and how long you are willing to wait.

Do I have to be licensed for foster care in order to adopt?

To adopt in Wisconsin, you must be licensed as a foster parent. Families must participate in an Adoptive Family Assessment (AFA)/Home Study and will be issued a foster home license as part of that assessment.

How long does the adoption process take?

While every case is different, the adoption process from home study to placement takes an average of six months to a year. Interested individuals can begin the process by attending an orientation meeting and filling out an application. Background checks are then conducted and a home study begins. Then the matching process begins. Your adoption worker guides you through every step, answering your questions, addressing your concerns and being responsive and sensitive to all of the people involved.

Should I go through foster care if I want a newborn who might become available for adoption?

Newborn placements are rare, even in foster care. Foster care is temporary, and many foster children are reunited with their families. If you are only interested in adopting a newborn, you should consider other types of adoptions, such as independent, international, domestic or private adoption.

What are the costs associated with the adoption process?

The costs are less than $50 and are reimbursable once the adoption is finalized. Costs include a charge to receive a new birth certificate and a court-filing fee. Adoptive parents are also required to undergo a physical examination by a doctor, the cost of which is reimbursable after the adoption is finalized.

Will I receive any financial help once I adopt?

You are financially responsible for your adopted child. This includes providing for daycare if you are employed. The vast majority of children being adopted from foster care are eligible for Adoption Assistance, which is administered by the state and provides a monthly stipend and health insurance for children with special needs until age 18.

Are there any age, education, employment, income, housing or other restrictions that would prevent adoption?

The only age requirement is that an adoptive parent must be at least 21 years of age. No upper age limit exists, although it is necessary that adoptive parents be young enough and/or healthy enough to raise children to adulthood.

There is no specific education level requirement. What is important is your ability to love and parent a child.

Adoptive parents may work as other parents do. However, you will be encouraged to spend time with the child when he or she is placed in your home. You will be asked to provide an acceptable plan for before- and after-school care, if day care is needed.
There is no income requirement, other than that an adoptive parent be able to support him/herself and the child he or she is adopting. Any money received for the support of the child cannot be the sole source of income for the family.

Home ownership is not a requirement for adoption. The home should have enough space and household equipment to promote a safe, comfortable environment, and meet foster home licensing requirements.

In order to adopt in Wisconsin, you must be legally married, never married, widowed, or divorced. Married couples must have been married for one year prior to applying to adopt. Only one person of an unmarried couple may adopt a child. In other words, two single people (living together) may not adopt the same child. Finally, people who are separated from, but not divorced from, a spouse are not eligible to adopt. These requirements benefit an adopted child by providing clarity about who will be adoptive parent(s) and promoting family stability.

No one may be refused an adoption application or approval based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

What if I’m not in perfect health?

All adoptive parents are asked to provide a medical statement. If you have problems that would interfere with your ability to parent, your health issues will be reviewed carefully with you and your physician, and a decision will be made as to your eligibility to adopt.

What if I have a police record?

All criminal history must be carefully reviewed as part of any adoption process. There are some crimes that will permanently prevent you from adopting, because they will prevent you from being approved as a caregiver for children. Some crimes make it necessary for you to participate in a “rehabilitation review” process. Remember that you must have been convicted of the crime in question in most cases.

What if I move out of state?

Once the adoption is complete, you are free to move wherever you wish. If you are receiving Adoption Assistance and provide proper notice, it will follow you wherever you live in the majority of cities. Moving out of state prior to the completion of the adoption is not recommended, and can only be done in consultation with your adoption caseworker.

Once I adopt, will contact with the biological parents end?

Many adopted children maintain contact with their biological family, if the adoptive family decides it is in the best interest of the child. This is discussed with the adoption caseworker during the adoption process and, ultimately, is a decision you can make as a family.

Can birth parents change their mind after I’ve adopted?

Once the adoption is finalized, you are the child’s legal parent. In fact, Wisconsin has some of the most stringent adoption laws that benefit the child and the adoptive family.