Anyone considering adoption should plan to do a fair amount of research when it comes to choosing an agency, recognizing that not all agencies are equal and that choosing the right one for your family is kind of a big deal. There are numerous adoption agencies in Wisconsin and you can read reviews of some of these on Google. Additionally, you can find a comprehensive list of adoption agencies in Wisconsin with a breakout of services, provider type, class, and license status here. Anyone who is going through the process or has completed the process will tell you the importance of learning about and feeling comfortable with the professionals who are going to be walking along with you every step of the adoption journey.

But wait. Before you start scrolling, reading, or reaching out to agencies, there are several personal questions that you should first ask yourself about regarding your desire to adopt that will come into play when you do speak with adoption professionals and determine whether or not this is, in fact, the road you want to travel.

What’s with all the questions and soul-searching, you may ask? Adoption is a lifelong chain of decisions and undertaking by all members of the adoption triad and beyond—from birth parents/family to adoptee to adoptive parents/family to all of the many agencies and facilitators, government representatives, legal folk, and support networks and community resources that work together to ensure every child who needs a family can find a family—and not just a temporary fix, but the forever right one.

According to The Child Welfare Information Gateway, locating adoption agencies in Wisconsin or elsewhere to assist you in building your family through adoption should take into account your family’s personal preferences regarding the adoption services provided by that agency. While there are overarching characteristics that should be true of any agency, there are different qualities that families might find important.

Is Adoption for Me?

The concept of adoption is vast with ever-shifting and changing rules and requirements as a result of political, social, and economic circumstances, beliefs, and opinions. Adoption.com’s “Adopt a Child” guide describes adoption as being “a legal process in which parental rights to a child (whose biological parents’ parental rights have been severed) are bestowed on adopting parents, creating a parent-child relationship where one did not previously exist. The adopted child has all the same legal rights and responsibilities as a biological child, including rights of inheritance.”

More than just a legal process the act of adoption is an intimate child-parent matching process. In addition to being legal, it’s situational, emotional, and logistical. Adoption.com describes adoption as “the process by which parents are matched with children who have none, either through death or inability to provide for [those children].”

Well before you decide on an adoption agency, you should really determine why you are adopting, what sort of adoption you wish to pursue, and learn everything that you can about the impact of adoption on adoptees so that you are confident and ready to support your adopted child. In the Adoption.org article “How Will I Know if I’m Ready to Adopt?,” the author poses the following questions to those considering adoption: Am I ready to put the child’s needs before my own? Am I willing to adjust my expectations? Is my family ready to adopt?

Of course, there are many other considerations when determining the how and the why and the when of adoption, but you should talk through all of the above early in your journey. You should also determine the path to adoption that best suits you. Are you interested in domestic adoption or international adoption? Are you open to a foster to adopt situation? What age feels like the right fit for you—infant, toddler, or older child? Are you hoping to adopt a child of the same race and ethnicity? Are you open to transracial adoption and ready for the challenges that come with it? Are you considering special needs adoption? Before you get too far ahead of yourself, you will also want to make sure that you meet the requirements to adopt in your state and/or internationally.

In order to qualify to adopt, prospective adoptive parents need to be at least 21 years old, have enough space in their home for a child, be healthy (physically and mentally), pass background checks, and complete any required training. Prospective adoptive parents also need to make enough money to be able to support a child.

People adopting can be married or single and they can own or rent their home.

In addition to meeting these basic state requirements for adopting a child in Wisconsin, hopeful parents will also need to meet the requirements of adoption agencies in Wisconsin. Which brings us to our next question…

What Is an Adoption Agency?

Per USLegal.com an adoption agency is “a state-licensed agency that provides counseling to birthparents, homestudies to prospective adoptive parents, relinquishment services, and post-placement programs for triad members. These Agencies may also provide intercountry and special needs adoption services.”

The website goes on to explain that adoption agencies typically prepare adoption home studies, match adoptive families with birth mothers, and in some cases, provide counseling and support for birth mothers. Some adoption agencies provide counseling for adoptive parents and adoptees.

Alternatives to Adoption Agencies in Wisconsin

In lieu of working with adoption agencies in Wisconsin, families considering adoption may instead choose to work with adoption attorneys, adoption facilitators, and adoption consultants. Similarly to researching adoption agencies, you should familiarize yourself with the differences between these options.

Adoption agencies are licensed businesses that often provide services during pre- and post-adoption. Adoption attorneys, on the other hand, are experts in adoption law but don’t offer as many services as an agency.

An adoption attorney will not locate or match prospective parents with birth mothers; however, they may assist by helping to place ads online, via print media, and within social groups.

According to an Adoption.org article, “An adoption facilitator is a person who serves as an intermediary between prospective adoptive parents and birth mothers considering adoption.” Whereas adoption agencies are licensed, not all adoption facilitators are, in which case they would need to refer families to a licensed facilitator to finalize an adoption.

Additionally, the article states that “adoption consultants serve as unbiased partners who help to educate adopting families to assist them through the adoption process. Consultants often work with agencies and attorneys and refer prospective parents to them. Consultants provide advice to hopeful parents who are in the process of creating adoption profiles.”

Who are the Children Waiting for Adoption in Wisconsin?

There are approximately 7,000 children waiting in foster care in Wisconsin; with over 1,000 of these children waiting for adoptive families. The children in care are from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the children in foster care are between the ages of 0 to 21. While there is a need for foster and adoptive families for children of all ages, an area of unmet need continues to be finding families for older youth and sibling groups.

What to Look for from Adoption Agencies in Wisconsin?

You can find tons of information about adoption agencies in Wisconsin online, in articles, blogs, or in person (you should probably cross-reference). Adoption.com also offers a vast amount of information here. You should plan to do plenty of thorough research. Remember that you are not only doing taking these steps for yourself, but on behalf of a waiting child.

A credible adoption agency will be ready and willing to provide you with the necessary resources and information to help you make important choices.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway lists the following important steps to properly assess the reputation of licensed, private adoption agencies:

 - “Contact the State Licensing Specialist in the state where the agency is located. The State Licensing Specialist will be able to tell you if the agency is in good standing, if there have been any complaints lodged against the agency and how long the agency has held the license. The State Licensing Office maintains complaint files as a public service.

- “Contact the State’s Attorney General’s Office to see if any legal action has been taken against the agency. The Attorney General’s office is a government office in the state capitol. You may find their contact information in Government section of the telephone book. Ask whether there is pending litigation against the agency or whether the agency has an established complaint file.

- “Request at least three references from the agency. Ask them to provide you with the names and phone numbers of three clients whose adoptions were completed at least three years ago. You may ask those adoptive parents how the agency handled the adoption process, including post-adoption services. Ask these parents if they had any problems or concerns with agency.

- “Join an adoptive parent support group in your area. In adoptive parent support groups, you can talk with other parents about their experience(s) with local agencies. You may encounter individuals who have worked with the agency you are considering. For a list of adoptive parent support groups in your area, and near the agency you are considering, search the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory. If there are several parent groups in your area, contact each of them to find out about their membership, activities, and any support services available, to find the one best for you.

- “Contact the Better Business Bureau closest to the agency. The Better Business Bureau also provides a helpful tip sheet on “Using an Adoption Agency.” Always ask the Better Business Bureau office staff person if that office covers the location of the agency and if their office takes complaints on adoption agencies. If they do not, then check with the State, City, or County Government Consumer Protection Office where the agency is located for complaints.”

You will also find that it’s beneficial to reach out to other adoptive families who have been there, done that so that you can speak with parents and children impacted by adoption.

What Questions to Ask Adoption Agencies in Wisconsin?

Because it’s normal to get nervous and forget to ask the millions of questions that you intend to ask during important consultations, you should plan to compose a list of questions for potential adoption agencies and bring it with you! Consider asking:

 - How long have you served the adoption community?

- Are you familiar with the type of adoption that I am interested in pursuing?

- Do you provide a fee menu?

- How long can I expect to wait for a referral/match?

- What sort of requirements do you look at when taking me on as a client?

- Can you provide me with solid references and proof of other successful adoptions?

Always ask for references from any adoption agencies that you consider. Make sure they are affiliated with other reputable organizations at the local, national, and international level, if appropriate. You will want to weigh the pros and cons of working with an agency, keeping your eyes open for red flags. Should things sound too good to be true, they probably are! Also, be prepared to walk away from a bad agency rather than wasting your time and resources. Many hopeful adoptive parents have felt trapped and confused and stayed with agencies only to find themselves being taken advantage of and with no real hope of seeing an adoption come to fruition.

Getting Started and Moving Forward

Finding an adoption agency is not as simple as a quick click on the internet (as tempting as that Google list is). Adoption is not momentary or temporary, but rather a lifelong commitment that should be taken seriously. Every adoption is unique and different for all parties involved. Although adoption can feel overwhelming and confusing for both adopting families and birth mothers, no matter the pathway, the right adoption agency can and will be able to help you through your unique process even after the paperwork has been signed and finalized. Before committing to an agency, make sure that they are just as committed to your family.

Ready to go? You can find an adoption professional in Wisconsin here today who can provide you with professional guidance, give you advice on adoption financing, and help you with adoption planning. You can also find professionals who specialize in international adoption in Adoption.com’s Provider Directory.

For information on foster care in Wisconsin, click here.

For information on adoption in Wisconsin, click here.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.