I was so excited when I found out I was going to be able to write an article for adoption in Wisconsin. That is, of course, because that is where we live and adopted our son! Sit back, take a deep breath, and let’s talk about adoption in Wisconsin.
If you have found yourself questioning whether adoption is right for your family or not, you probably know there are several types of adoption. For instance domestic, international, and adopting from the foster care system. Since we adopted through the infant domestic process, I will focus mostly on that. A lot of the processes are the same, however, for international adoption, you will just need to research the requirements for your child’s birth country. Let’s see what it takes to complete an adoption in Wisconsin.
First and foremost no matter what route you decide, you want to do as much research as possible on choosing an adoption agency. If you are anything like us, you might also want to start asking around your closest friends and family if they also went through the adoption process. Finding the right agency is probably one of my biggest pieces of advice. The adoption process is very personal and emotional, and you work very closely with your agency and social worker. Having a good standing relationship with the agency and worker will go a long way. There are several options for adoption agencies in the state of Wisconsin. You can find a list here, but other agencies include Lutheran Social Services, Saint A’s, and many, many more. If you are unsure where to start, Adoption.com can certainly help you get started in the right direction. Or, as I said, start networking to find out what agencies others went through and what they liked or disliked about their agency.
Once you have decided what agency to go through, the next big step is getting all of the required paperwork done. Again, this will depend on what type of adoption you decide to proceed with. But for a few things, most of the required paperwork will be the same. This is essentially the start of the process. There is usually an application you will have to complete for your agency. Make sure to ask your adoption agency for an outline of steps so you don’t lose track of anything and are staying on top of what needs to get completed. This also includes having a background check done. This is usually accomplished by having your fingerprints done at a sheriff’s department or jail. I know for us, we had to complete an application, background check, doctor visits, employment verification, personal statement, bibliographies, and had to create a portfolio (more about that later). The process took us approximately three months to complete. We probably could have taken longer, or we probably could have gotten it done faster. It all is a personal preference and how fast and much you want to work on in a day! It will take time, organization, and skill to get it all done nicely. And trust me, you will be a master when you are all said and done!
Along with the paperwork comes completing your home study. Part of your home study is completing all of the paperwork. Once that is all complete, your social worker will come to your home to make sure you would be bringing a child into a safe environment. He/she will make sure you have adequate space, outlet covers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire escape plans, etc. I know, it seems ridiculous at the time and all-consuming but know it is for the best for you and your children. I remember being so frustrated that I had to have outlet covers on my electrical units to adopt an infant, but there are people out there who don’t even think of that! It was frustrating, to say the least, but it is best. Just remember you will be more prepared as a parent. I also was one of those people who cleaned her house for days before our social worker came. But I was having a conversation with someone else who was preparing their house for their home study, and she said she baked her social worker cookies. Well, why didn’t I think of that?! But of course, if you don’t, that is okay too! The best advice on how to survive your home study is to just be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not. I know it is like having a fine-tooth comb go through your life, but they are going to accept you for who you are. So just be yourself and let the rest go!
This all may seem overwhelming while you are going through it. And I don’t blame you. It is overwhelming and exhausting. It seems like the to-do list never ends, and you will never see the results. Trust me. I have been there. This is when you should really find a support system. I had one main supporter outside of my husband through our almost six-year wait. If I didn’t have this person, I don’t know how I would have made it through. There are easy days and there are hard days when you are just waiting for the time to become a mom. I had other close friends and family that I would talk to when things got hard too. This is a very important part of any adoption, not just if you are going through adoption in Wisconsin.
Once your home study is complete, if you haven’t completed a portfolio already, you will have to have that done to begin being matched. We started our process what seems like a lifetime ago, and a lot of things have changed since then. But back when we did it for our adoption in Wisconsin, we used a paper portfolio. It basically was a big scrapbook about our lives. We included a letter to the birth parents at the beginning and several pictures of what we like to do as a family, who we were as individuals, and who we were as a family. If you have pets, you would include them too. It is used to give the potential birth families an idea of who you are before they meet you. We actually made more than one draft throughout our wait. Like I said, back then, we used paper copies of the portfolio. Now, many organizations are utilizing the Internet to create online portfolios. And actually, just at the end of our wait, our organization started putting the potential adoptive couples up on their website. Which is actually how we were found by our son’s birth mom. So now I am a big supporter of having them out on the Internet. If the organization you are going through would allow you to use Adoption.com’s Parent Profiles, you could also add your portfolio there! If you are not only focusing on adoption in Wisconsin but outside of Wisconsin, I really think this is something you should look into. This is a great opportunity to have more birth parents look at your portfolio. I know it is a strange concept to get past, that you want more and more birth parents looking at your portfolio, but the more that look at your portfolio, the quicker you may become a parent.
Lastly, let’s take a look at what requirements are needed for adoption in Wisconsin. First, you have to be at least 21 years old to adopt in Wisconsin. You can be married, single, or divorced. Like I mentioned above, you also have to pass a criminal background check. If you have any of the following charges, you will not be able to adopt in Wisconsin: homicide, battery, sexual assault, physical abuse or neglect, soliciting a child, possession of child pornography, or child subduction. Other than those areas of concern, all you need is to be yourself and have a love for a child.
Once you meet the requirements, have all of the paperwork done, your portfolio is done, and your home study is complete, you now wait. This just may be the hardest part of all. Like I said before, we waited almost six years to become a family of three. But I know others who waited only three months, or six months, or two years. There is no magic number for how long you will wait. Again, this is when your support group will be crucial. My other piece of advice for you is this: Don’t stop living your life while you are waiting. I missed out on a lot of life right in front of me because I was waiting for a child to come into my life.
The process can be long and the wait can be hard to find a reputable adoption agency that you feel comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get feedback from your social worker. Don’t overthink things or stress too much about the little stuff. Find a great support network. Don’t forget to keep living your life. And in the end, the child that was created to be yours will be yours!