Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Wisconsin

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Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.88

The study shall include the petitioners and any other adults residing in the petitioners' home.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.88

The court shall order one of the following to conduct or supplement the investigation:

  • If an agency has guardianship of the child: the guardianship agency, unless the agency has already filed its recommendation and has filed with the recommendation a report of an investigation
  • If no agency has guardianship of the child and a relative other than a stepparent has filed the petition for adoption: the Department of Children and Families, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency
  • If the child is a citizen of a foreign jurisdiction and is under the guardianship of an individual: the agency that conducted the home study required under Federal law prior to the child's entry into the United States

If the child is an Indian child, the court may request the Tribal child welfare department of the Indian child's Tribe to conduct the investigation.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.82; 48.84

When practicable and if requested by the birth parent, the adoptive parents shall be of the same religious faith as the birth parents of the adoptee.

If otherwise qualified, no person shall be denied the benefits of this section because the person is deaf, blind, or has other physical handicaps. No otherwise qualified person may be denied the benefits of this subchapter because of his or her race, color, ancestry, or national origin.

Before a child may be placed for adoption with a proposed adoptive parent who has not previously adopted a child, the adoptive parent shall complete the preadoption preparation required under this section. The preparation shall be provided by a licensed child welfare agency, private adoption agency, the State adoption information exchange, the State adoption center, a technical college, or an institution or college campus within the University of Wisconsin system. If the proposed adoptive parent does not reside in this State, he or she may meet this requirement by obtaining equivalent preparation in his or her State of residence.

The department shall promulgate rules establishing the number of hours of preadoption preparation that is required and the topics covered under that preparation. The preparation shall include training on issues that may confront adoptive parents, in general, and that may confront adoptive parents of special needs children or foreign children. In all cases, the training shall cover the topics of attachment, trauma, neglect, and abuse, including sexual abuse.

A proposed adoptive parent shall obtain at least 25 hours of the preadoption preparation, including the following:

  • At least 6 hours of training that is provided in person, either individually or in a group
  • At least 6 hours of training that is appropriate to the specific needs of the child to be adopted

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.88

In determining whether the petitioner's home is suitable for the child, the investigating agency or Tribal child welfare department shall consider whether the petitioner is fit and qualified to care for the child, exercises sound judgment, does not abuse alcohol or drugs, and displays the capacity to successfully nurture the child.

The investigation shall be conducted using an assessment system that is approved by the department. The assessment system shall provide a reliable, comprehensive, and standardized qualitative evaluation of a petitioner's personal characteristics, civil and criminal history, age, health, financial stability, and ability to responsibly meet all requirements of the department.

If the investigating agency has special concern as to the welfare of the child or the suitability of the placement, the investigation may include a clinical assessment of the petitioner's mental health or alcohol or other drug use. A person who provides the assessment shall not be employed by the investigating agency and shall be a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, advanced practice social worker, independent social worker, clinical social worker, or professional counselor.

If the petitioner was required to obtain an initial license to operate a foster home before placement of the child for adoption, the investigating agency shall do the following:

  • Obtain a criminal history search from the records maintained by the Department of Justice and a fingerprint-based check of the national crime information databases
  • Obtain information maintained by the department regarding any substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect against the petitioner and any other adult residing in the petitioner's home for any State in which the person has lived within the preceding 5 years

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.837

In the case of a child on whose behalf adoption assistance payments will be provided, if the petitioner has been convicted of any of the offenses specified in § 48.685(5)(c), including murder, homicide, battery, sexual assault or exploitation, child abuse or neglect, incest, child prostitution, child pornography, or incest, the agency may not report that the petitioner's home is suitable for the child.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.837

When the proposed adoptive parent or parents of a child reside in this State and are not relatives of the child, a parent having custody of a child and the proposed adoptive parent or parents of the child may petition the court for placement of the child for adoption if the home is licensed as a foster home under § 48.62. At the request of a custodial parent and the proposed adoptive parents, the department, a county department, or a child welfare agency may place the child in the home of the proposed adoptive parent or parents prior to the filing of a petition.

After an adoption petition is filed, the court shall order an investigation. The agency making the investigation shall file its report with the court at least 10 days before the hearing on the petition.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.84; Admin. Code DCF § 51.10

A person who is providing the required preadoption preparation shall offer to the adoptive parent at least 6 additional hours of training appropriate to the postadoption needs of the family, to be provided after a court issues an order granting the adoption.

In regulation: The entity that provides the required preadoption training shall refer adoptive parents with postadoption needs to resources appropriate to the specific needs of the family or offer to provide at least 6 hours of training, if the entity has sufficient expertise with the family's specific needs.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.835; 48.88

A parent having custody of a child may place the child for adoption in the home of a relative of the child without a court order.

If a stepparent has filed a petition for adoption and no agency has guardianship of the child, the court shall order the department, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency to conduct a screening consisting of no more than one interview with the petitioner and a check of the petitioner's background through public records, including records maintained by the department or any county department.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.837; 48.988

When the proposed adoptive parent or parents of a child reside outside the State and are not relatives of the child, a custodial parent and the proposed adoptive parent or parents of the child may petition the court for placement of the child for adoption in the proposed adoptive home if the home meets the criteria established by the laws of the other State for a preadoptive placement of a child in the home of a nonrelative. An appropriate agency in the other State must complete an investigation of the home and file a report and recommendation concerning the home with the department, county department, or licensed child welfare agency.

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Foster to Adopt Placements

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.833; 48.88; Admin. Code DCF § 56.14

The department or a licensed child welfare agency may place a child for adoption in a licensed foster home without a court order if the proposed adoptive parents have completed the preadoption preparation required under § 48.84(1).

If the petitioner was required to obtain an initial license to operate a foster home before placement of the child for adoption, the agency making the investigation shall obtain a criminal history search and a child abuse and neglect records check. If the petitioner has been convicted of any of the offenses specified in § 48.685 (5) (bm), 1 to 4, the agency may not report that the petitioner's home is suitable for the child.

In regulation: A foster parent who is licensed solely for the purpose of adoption of a domestic infant or a foreign child will not be required to complete the foster parent training if the foster parent completes the preadoption preparation training required under Admin. Code DCF § 51.10.

Links to Resources

State regulation DCF 51: Preadoption training