The 5 W’s of Adoption

The 5 W’s of Adoption

#1. What…?

What Is Adoption?

By definition an Adoption is the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from a child’s birth parents to the adoptive parents.  Adoption involves a life-long commitment to provide a child with a loving and stable home.  Through a legal process adoption creates a new set of parent - child ties which are the same as those created by birth. You, as birthparents, legally terminate your parental rights (TPR) to the child.

The adoptive parents assume legal responsibility for providing the child with a permanent home. Socially and emotionally, adoption is a life-long process for everyone involved - birthparents, adoptive parents, adopted persons, and their extended families.

What Are The Different Types Of Adoption?

Adoption takes many forms. As birthparents you have several options as to how much involvement you wish to have in choosing an adoptive family for your child. You also have some choice as to how much information you wish to have about the adoptive family.

Below are brief descriptions of the different types of adoption services that agencies provide:
Open Adoption: Birth and adoptive parents participating in an open adoption, exchange identifying information, and may choose to meet each other. Post-adoption contact becomes a possibility in this type of adoption. In Wisconsin agreements relating to future contact are not legally binding but are considered to be a “gentlemen’s agreement”.

Semi-Open Adoption: In this type of adoption, birth and adoptive parents meet or engage in telephone contact, but they do not exchange identifying information.

Independent Adoption: Sometimes known as “private adoption” refers to the type of adoption in which the birth and adoptive parents locate each other without agency intervention. Under Wisconsin law, independent adoptions are open adoptions and must follow all Wisconsin regulations.

What Is The Cost?

There is no charge to parents making an adoption plan.

Current law for Wisconsin states that a prospective adoptive parent or a person acting on their behalf may cover actual costs for the birthparent(s); however, the law states that payments can only be made for the following:
  • Pre and post adoptive counseling of persons considering adoption for their child.
    • Maternity clothes for the expectant mother within a reasonable amount.
    • Local transportation expenses for the expectant parent(s) related to the pregnancy or adoption.
    • Adoption agency services.
    • Medical and hospital care of the new mother and child related to the birth and pregnancy.  
    • Legal services of the parent(s) or child in connection with the adoption.
    • An expectant mother’s living expenses up to $5,000.00 if necessary to protect the health and welfare of the mother or fetus. This does not include lost wages.
    • Investigation of prospective adoptive home as ordered by the court.
    • Birthing classes.
    • Foster care
    • Gift to the expectant mother in an amount no greater than $100.00.
Payments must be made directly to the provider of service, adoption agency, or attorney as a reimbursable expense if appropriate documentation is provided. No one can receive additional money in excess of actual costs.

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#2. Why…?

Why Choose Adoption?

Adoption is a parenting decision made by birthparents. It is a big decision - a choice you must make for yourself and your baby. Look at yourself and decide what you want to do with your life. Possibly you are feeling too young to parent. You may want to complete your education. Think about your school and job situation. You may want your child to be parented by two parents who can provide security and financial life opportunities. Think about who can help you with your baby. Think about your baby and decide what you want for your child. You make the choice.

Why Talk To An Adoption Agency?

Adoption Services, Inc. is a licensed Wisconsin adoption agency. We provide services and help to expectant parents, birthparents, and to people hoping to adopt. We help expectant parents learn about their options. We give you facts about health care, schooling options, financial aid, and other information to help you throughout your pregnancy. Adoption Services will help you plan for yourself and your baby whether you make an adoption plan or choose to parent the child yourself.

Some expectant parents meet with the adoption social worker in the early stages of pregnancy and others wait until the child is born. In order to have the time to examine what may be best for you and your child; it is recommended that you seek information as early as possible in your pregnancy. It is not Adoption Services’ role to attempt to tell you what is best for you and your child. It is important that you give yourself enough time to make a good decision for yourself.  

Although it is good to have a plan in mind before your child is born, no final decision is made until you voluntarily terminate your parental rights in a closed adoption court procedure.

The petition to request a court date is submitted after the child’s birth. In Wisconsin, a period of approximately 30 days can be expected from the date of the baby’s birth to the actual date of court.  If you are making an adoption plan, you can withdraw from the plan at any point prior to the court hearing. However, after the court hearing is held and the parental rights have been terminated, the decision is final and cannot be reversed. The only grounds for a termination of parental rights to be reviewed and possibly reversed would be if a legal error had been committed. The parental rights of both birthparents must be terminated in order for the child to be placed with the adoptive parents.

During the period prior to your court hearing, your social worker will be available for counseling and support. Your social worker will also be available after the adoption for as long as needed following a placement.

It is important to understand that as the agency providing the pregnancy counseling, Adoption Services, takes guardianship of the child, after parental rights have been terminated, for a period of not less than six months. Even though the child is with the adoptive parents, the agency maintains guardianship to ensure that the adoptive placement is working out and that the child and adoptive parents are making a good adjustment to one another.

Why Do I Have To Go To Court?

In Wisconsin, the procedure for permanently ending the legal relationship between parents and their child is called a Termination of Parental Rights or TPR.  The TPR takes place in court, in front of a Judge.  The petition for the hearing is signed by the birth parent.  The attorney involved will file the petition with the court.  The petition is filed soon after the birth of the child and the court date is generally two to four weeks later.  Your social worker will prepare you for the court hearing and she will be present at the hearing.

Why Have Other Women Chosen Adoption?

These are some quotes and comments made by birthmothers that placed their children with Adoption Services.

"Knowing that 'my kids' are being raised by a mom and dad who's whole world revolves around them is a great benefit; I never worry. Adoption doesn't have to be an experience to be ashamed of. I'm proud of the decision I made and the fact that 'my kids' will have opportunities I couldn't provide."

  ~ Amy, birthmother to Ellie and Isaac, on what she wishes others knew about adoption.

"I was very nervous, so when I met them I had some close friends come with me. It has changed because I'm not so nervous now and they are just another part of my life that I'm proud of."
  ~ Jessica, Birthmother to Nathan, on adjusting to open adoption.

"I thought I could give her up and forget about her, with no strings attached. It may sound sad, but it's being honest. I had to learn to accept it and deal with it. I lost the bonding between a child and parent. I gave birth to her, but I don't know her. I don't feel her pain, see her smiles, watch her take her first step, say her first word. As a birthparent it's hard to get adjusted to giving your child away, but it's not like you're giving your child away. You, as a parent, must put your child's interest first... Life is not perfect or fair. Every day I think of my child, but it gets easier. I watch her grow up in pictures and every day I thank the Lord that I got to bring this Angel into this world, even if it means that someone else will have the joys, heartaches, pains, and happiness of this child. I brought happiness to a couple that couldn't have that happiness unless a birthparent like me gave it to them. So to me that is the most fulfilling gift I could ask for and I'm very proud of that... If you are having second thoughts about the adoption, that is normal. As a birthparent I will always play the "what if" in my head, but deep in my heart I'm happy with the choice I made."

  ~ Jody, Birthmother to Joely, on the joys and pains of adoption.

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#3. Who…? Who Needs To Know?

My Parents?

Legally, they do not have to be involved. However, families play an important role in our lives and can offer you a great deal of support. It will be your choice to whatever degree your parents, or any other family member, is involved.

The Birthfather?

The birth father does not have to be present at any point.  However, any identifying information must be disclosed so that he can be legally notified.  If the birth father does not appear at the court hearing, and he has not declared paternal interest before the hearing, his rights will be terminated by default.

However, if a Birthfather chooses to be part of the parenting plan our agency can help by counseling him as to his rights and responsibilities. If your child is going to be adopted, he will be asked to give a complete medical history of himself and his family. He may also be asked to sign a petition that states his agreement to an adoption plan. This agreement states that he neither admits nor denies paternity but is willing to terminate his parental rights.

Adoption Services can help him work through these decisions and responsibilities. We can share with him the same information about the adoptive family as we would the birthmother and he may decide to meet them. We can answer his questions and help him to learn through this experience.

Who Are The Prospective Adoptive Parents?

Not every couple who inquires about adoption is accepted by the agency. Because of the emotional loss of couples who have experienced infertility, Adoption Services works with couples to determine if building their family through adoption is the best plan for them.

Just as birthparents choosing adoption must grieve the loss of not being with their children, potential adoptive parents must also grieve the loss of not being able to have biological children.

Couples who are accepted by the agency are then carefully counseled about adoption and also must complete a very thorough home study process. The home study process involves discussion of family, marriage, education, health, career, and parenting expectations. It also includes discussion about future communication with the agency and birthparents.

At Adoption Services we feel that birthparents should have as much information as possible about adoption. This belief includes the philosophy that birthparents should be actively involved in the selection of the adoptive parents.

If an expectant parent is making a parenting decision that the best thing for their child is adoption, then they are encouraged to discuss with the social worker what characteristics would be important to her/him in the selection of adoptive parents.

Your information and wishes are then considered by the social worker in presenting appropriate profiles to you of waiting couples. After reviewing profiles and selecting a potential couple, it is then your choice whether or not to meet the couple or speak with them by phone.

Who Is Involved In Selecting The Adoptive Family?

You can choose to be very active or not at all active when picking the adoptive parents for your child.  When you choose a family that you are interested in, you can meet them.  Many birth parents may go out to dinner with the adoptive family, go to doctor visits together, talk on the telephone and/or write to each other.  You can be the one to hand the baby to them in the hospital.  If this type of open adoption does not appeal to you, you can make your choice without meeting the adoptive parents.  Open adoption allows you to decide how open or private you want your relationship to be with the family you choose.

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#4. When…?

When Should I Contact An Agency?

If you are thinking about adoption you should contact an agency as soon as possible if for nothing else but to talk with someone and gather information.

When Will My Baby Be Able To Get Information About Me?

Your child will be able to search for you according to the Wisconsin Adoption Records Search Law.  When the child is 18 years old, they can request identifying social history and medical/genetic information about the birth parents.  At age 18, the child may request a search for their birth parent’s identity and location as well as a copy of the original birth certificate, if the birth parents have signed an Affidavit of Consent.

ADOPTION RECORDS SEARCH PROGRAM: A specialized program for:
  • Adult Adopted Persons
  • Adults whose birth parents terminated parental rights but were not adopted
  • Adoptive Parents
  • Birth Parents
For information on this program or to request an application packet please contact:

Adoption Records Search Program
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916

By Phone: 608) 266-7163
By Email: Jacy.Boldebuck@wisconsin.gov / Judy.Ranney@wisconsin.gov
Website:  http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/children

When Will I Be Able To Find My Child

In Wisconsin, adoption law does not allow birth parents the ability to search for their birth children.  However, birth parents can sign an affidavit that states their willingness to have contact with their birth child.  This affidavit is then placed in their file at the adoption agency and with the State of Wisconsin.  When an adoptee initiates a search they will know that their birth parent wants to be contacted.

When Can The Agency Contact Me If My Child Searches For Me In The Future?

It depends, if you have not signed the Affidavit of Consent, you can contact the agency first to be given the chance to sign the Affidavit of Consent or refuse.  The child might contact you first without the agency’s knowledge or involvement.

When Can I Send/Receive Pictures Or Gifts To/Of My Baby?

You can take as many pictures as you want at the hospital.  You can also make arrangements with the adoptive family to receive pictures and information for an agreed upon amount of time. However this is an agreement between you and them and the agency cannot enforce or police it.

You may send a gift with your child or to the agency and we will ensure that the child receives any gifts or letters from the birthparents until the termination hearing. Beyond that it is up to the birthparents and adoptive parents to come to an agreement, with special circumstances always taken into consideration.

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#5. Where…?

Where Will The Adoptive Family Come From?

Any family in our pool of prospective families will have a completed homestudy and are residents of Wisconsin. The agency does work with couples who live out of state; however, 90% of our prospective adoptive families live in Wisconsin. You will be told the general area that a family lives in prior to selecting a family.

Where Can I Spend Time With My Baby And Who Can Visit?

After your baby is born, you may have the baby stay with you in the hospital room, if that is what you would like.  If you are having an open adoption, which is most common, you may want to consider including the adoptive parents in caring for the baby during your hospital stay.  However, make sure that you take enough private time for you and your child.  If you find that it is easier not to see the baby at all, that is fine.  You must do what feels most comfortable for you, not what others may expect you to do.  Inform your counselor of you choices in this matter.

Before the Termination of Parental Rights, other family members, friends, and birth father are allowed to see the baby with your permission.  After the Termination of Parental Rights, visits can be arranged with the adoptive family if all parties are comfortable with that.

Where Does My Child Go When I Leave The Hospital?

If you have chosen adoption for your child, or if you are still undecided about your parenting plan when you leave the hospital, you have three choices.  

You may take your baby home with you or place him/her with a relative. Some women choose to take their baby home, so they have time to bond, and say goodbye. If you do not have access to baby necessities, Adoption Services can assist you in finding the resources you will need to parent your baby while you are considering an adoption plan.  

If you have already chosen an adoptive couple for your baby, and they are an approved foster family, you may place the baby in their care. Some women like this because it allows the baby to begin bonding with its new family. However, it is important to remember that you still have custody of your baby until your court hearing. That means you still have the right to see the baby, even when it is with the adoptive couple. It is up to you if you want to able to see the baby after your TPR.

Adoption Services will arrange for the baby to be placed in a bridge home. Our bridge homes provide a safe and nurturing home for the child while you are making your parenting decision. Bridge homes are carefully screened and provide foster care because they love children and want to be helpful to persons considering adoption.  It is important that you know that the child is safe prior to the termination hearing. Another purpose for bridge care is to give you time to think about the finality of their decision while being apart from the baby. You may visit the baby at anytime while they are in bridge care. You may also give the prospective adoptive couple permission to visit the baby.

The next step is your decision to make. Whatever you choose we wish you and your baby the best of luck in life.

Meet Our Waiting Couples

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