Domestic, international, or special needs?

Families choose adoption for a variety of reasons and there are a lot of decisions to be made throughout the entire process. One of the first choices to make, is the type of adoption you would like to pursue and what your first steps would be after deciding.

TypesOfAdoptionCCYFBelow are the three most common types of adoptions and an explanation of what the initial or next step might look like for each one:

  • A domestic infant adoption takes placewhen a birth mother and/or birth father have individually or jointly made an adoption plan for their child. Often, birth parents will be able to work with a private adoption agency and get to choose the family they wish to have adopt their child. Other times, the agency will do the matching when a birth parent has elected not to be a part of the family selection process.

    First steps: In Wisconsin, families wanting to pursue a domestic infant adoption would first be required to select a private adoption agency licensed by the State of Wisconsin to complete their adoption home study.

  • An international adoption is when a couple or individual from the United States adopts a child from another country. Each country has its own rules for whether they will allow single people, unmarried couples, people of a certain age, etc. to adopt.

    First steps: In Wisconsin, families wanting to pursue an international adoption would first be required to select a private adoption agency licensed by the State of Wisconsin that is able to complete your international adoption home study and be your placing agency or able to work with a placing agency of your choice. (Please note that some private adoption agencies will be able to both complete your home study and be your placing agency, while others will only be able to complete your home study and work with your selected placing agency, based on the country you wish to adopt from.)

  • Special needs adoption, also known as adoption of a child from foster care, is when a family adopts a child who is in foster care and who cannot be successfully reunited with his or her birth family for a number of reasons.

    First steps: For Wisconsin families who have decided to adopt a child who is in foster care in Wisconsin, your first step would be to contact the regional Department of Children and Families office for your county and register to attend a mandatory two-hour informational meeting with the State Special Needs Adoption Program.

    For Wisconsin families who wish to adopt a child who is in foster care in a state other than Wisconsin, your first step would be to connect with a private adoption agency licensed by the State of Wisconsin to complete your adoption home study.

There are several other types of adoption not mentioned above, including, but not limited to, independent adoptions, relative adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and adult adoptions.

For more information about adoption in general, please contact us and ask to speak with a Resource Specialist. You can call us at 1-800-762-8063, locally at 414-475-1246, or reach us via email at In addition, you can also gather more information from our website, where you can download an informational packet on a specific type of adoption.

Please don’t take my sunshine away

“From the first day I received foster care placement of my son, then three months old, I sang him ‘You are My Sunshine’ constantly. But I always skipped over the ‘Please don’t take my sunshine sunshineaway’ part. I’d fallen in love with him the moment our eyes met, and the thought of letting him go was devastating. But it wasn’t about me. And for his sake, I wished for a happy healthy reunification. But it just wasn’t meant to be. A couple of years passed and I was asked if I’d be willing to adopt. A couple more years passed, and we had an adoption date. I remember every detail of that day. He wore little cuffed corduroys, an oxford shirt, and suede wingtips. I remember family and friends with balloons and cameras at the ready. I remember the judge letting him bang the gavel to finalize his own adoption.

“I remember walking out of Children’s Court on what should have been the happiest day of my life feeling the most unexpected profound sadness.

“How could everyone around us be celebrating? Didn’t they understand the depth of his loss? He no longer “legally” had siblings. His ties to his birth family have been severed. What must they be feeling today? And who could possibly understand the grief I’m feeling?”

Post Adoption Depression. Surely such a thing can’t exist for new adoptive parents? The sadnessfinalization of an adoption is the happy ending to what has often been a lengthy, nerve-wracking, emotional roller coaster ride. What possible reason could there be to be depressed when it finally ends?

There are a number of reasons that new parents might experience post-adoption depression, including:

  • Adoption may highlight unresolved fertility issues
  • You may not feel an immediate bond with your child, as you expected
  • The reality of parenting may not match expectations as you’d imagined them
  • You’ve experienced a major life change that requires an adjustment period
  • You may have a relationship with the birth family and cannot help but feel for their loss, even if they have voluntarily relinquished parental rights

Many new adoptive parents might feel reluctant to reach out for help, because most have spent a great deal of time and energy convincing their adoption worker what a great home they can provide for a child. A big step in coping with post-adoption depression is knowing you are not alone and seeking out help. Parenting is hard, for ANY parent. It rarely comes as “naturally” as we imagine it would, for both mothers and fathers.

Some Suggestions for How to Feel Better

  • Connect with a local adoption support group
  • Reach out to a therapist who specializes in adoption issues
  • Ask your case worker for information regarding post-adoption resources
  • Check out online adoption forums, groups, and chat boards
  • Join a weekly play group with other adoptive families

Please know that you don’t have to go through your journey along. The Coalition for Children, Youth & Families is here to help and support you and your whole family. For more information on post-adoption and other resources, please contact us.

Never Too Old: Adult Adoption

When most people think about adoption, they often picture a baby, an infant, or a toddler. But did you know that it is possible to not only adopt older children and teenagers, but even an adult? Wisconsin allows for an adoption to occur at any age, whether the “child” is 1, 19, or 59!

Mother and daughter

There are many reasons why someone over the age of 18 may be interested in being adopted. For starters, hundreds of youth age out of the foster care system every year in Wisconsin alone. Many of these youth spend a good amount of time in one or more foster homes and develop close relationships with these families. As a result, some young adults are eventually adopted by their former foster parents, or other adults that they felt connected to. Adult adoptions may also occur when a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild over the age of 18, or when an adult is estranged from their biological parents, but has developed a parent-child relationship with another adult(s) that they wish to legally recognize.

In order for an adult adoption to occur in Wisconsin, a Petition for Adoption form needs to be completed and a court date is then scheduled. The adoptee and the prospective adoptive parent(s) must consent to the adoption, and the court must feel that the adoption is in the best interest of all involved. If so, the adoption will be granted and the adoptee is issued a new birth certificate. Finalizing an adult adoption severs the legal relationship between that person and their biological parent(s). Adult adoptions do not require a home study, background checks, or, for that matter, any involvement from social services. In a sense, adult adoptions can be fairly quick and easy to complete.

The benefits of adoption for an adult are often similar to what adoption brings to children: stability, a feeling of belonging, and a loving family. Another reason some families chose to complete an adult adoption is so that the adoptee can more easily access the family’s financial assets, property, or other inheritance rights. No matter the reason for the adoption, no one is ever too old to need or want a family.

Do you know anyone that would benefit from learning more about adult adoption? You can contact the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families at (414) 475-1246 for more information on adult adoption or other types of adoption; we are dedicated to helping find permanence and stability and for ALL children and families.

Highlights from the Coalition Lending Library

IMG_0652One of the first sights you’ll take in if you’re able to drop into our office here at the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families, is walls of books, CDs and DVDs, framing a comfortable seating area. We take pride in offering a large, ever-growing selection of informative and supportive books and teaching tools to families and child welfare workers throughout the state of Wisconsin, for free!

If you aren’t familiar with our library offerings, take a look at our website to peruse by title, author, or subject. You can select materials, add them to your cart, and check out online instantly. We mail them out to you with return postage paid. We always welcome you to come into our office and hand-pick your items, as well. We want what’s most convenient for you and your family.

Here are a handful of titles to give you a sampling of what we have to offer.*

Popularly Checked Out

  • Telling the Truth to your Adopted or Foster Child, by Betsy Keefer & Jayne Schooler
  • Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, by Heather T. Forbes
  • Adoption Healing: A Path to Recovery for Mothers who Lost Children to Adoption, by Joe Soll & Karen Wilson Buterbaugh
  • Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care: Traumatic Separations and Honored Connections, by Deborah N. Silverstein
  • The Interracial Adoption Option, by Marlene G. Fine
  • In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell their Stories, by Rita J. Simon & Rhonda M. Roorda
  • Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge
  • Relatives Raising Children: An Overview of Kinship Care, by Joseph Crumbley & Robert L. Little
  • Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child, by Beth O’Malley
  • Working with Traumatized Children: A Handbook for Healing, by Kathryn Brohl
  • Are We There Yet? – The Ultimate Road Trip: Adopting & Raising 22 Kids!, by Hector & Sue Badeau


  • “Beyond Consequences Live,” by Heather T. Forbes
  • “Struggle for Identity – Issues in Transracial Adoption”
  • “Characteristics of Successful Adoptive Families,” by the National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoption
  • “Creating Secure Attachment for Adopted Children,” by Heather Forbes
  • “Sensory World,” by Dr. Karyn Purvis, Dr. David Cross & Carol Kranowitz
  • “Bonding Through Touch,” by Three Hearts LLC
  • “Understanding Traumatized and Maltreated Children: The Core Concepts,” by Dr. Bruce Perry
  • “Foster Parents Working with Birth Parents,” by Vera Fahlberg

Recent Additions

  • Loving Harder: Our Family’s Odyssey through Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder, by Lori Hetzel & Aleksandra Corwin
  • Mindful Co-parenting; A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce, by Jeremy S. Gaies, Psy.D. & James B. Morris, Jr., Ph.D.
  • Building Self-Esteem in Children and Teens Who are Adopted or Fostered, by Dr. Sue Cornbluth
  • The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals, by Stephanie Brill
  • The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst
  • Guiding Your Teenager with Special Needs through the Transition from School to Adult Life, by Mary Korpi
  • ADHD Living Without Brakes, by Martin L. Kutscher MD
  • Parenting Without Panic: A Pocket Support Group for Parents of Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum, by Brenda Dater
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk MD

Books for Children & Youth

  • Maybe Days – A Book for Children in Foster Care, by Jennifer Wilgocki & Marcia Kahn Wright
  • Families Change – A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights, by Julie Nelson
  • Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation: How Children (and Frogs, Dogs, Flamingoes and Dragons) Can Use Yoga Relaxation to Help Deal with Stress, Grief, Bullying and Lack of Confidence, by Michael Chissick
  • I Wished for You: An Adoption Story, by Marianne Richmond
  • Adolescent Volcanoes – Helping Adolescents and their Parents to Deal with Anger, by Warwick Pudney
  • Some Bunny to Talk to: A Story about Going to Therapy, by Cheryl Sterling
  • Little Volcanoes: Helping Young Children and their Parents to Deal with Anger, by Warwick Pudney
  • It Happened to Me – Adopted: The Ultimate Teen Guide, by Suzanne Buckingham Slade
  • You Grew in Our Hearts, by Vachelle Johnston
  • Creative Expression Activities for Teens – Exploring Identity through Art, Craft and Journaling, by Bonnie Thomas
  • The Disappointment Dragon, Learning to Cope with Disappointment (for All Children and Dragon Tamers, Including Those with Asperger’s Syndrome), by K.I. Al-Ghani
  • Keisha’s Doors – An Autism Story, by Marvie Ellis
  • Dear Wonderful You, Letters to Adopted & Fostered Youth, by Diane Rene Christian & Dr. Mei-Mei Akwai Ellerman
  • Why do I Have to? A Book for Children Who Find Themselves Frustrated by Everyday Rules, by Laurie Leventhal-Belfer

Our Resource Specialists are available in the office, or by phone, to help you locate just what you’re looking for, or to brainstorm ideas around a challenging issue you may be encountering. We look forward to helping you find the tools and information you’re seeking.

*Most items are in limited supply, so you may be added to a wait list to receive library materials.

See something that you want to read or view but you prefer not to wait? You can shop online and support the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families! Simply start out at (instead of simply and select the Coalition as your charity of choice.

Are you ready? Preparing for placement

You never thought the day would come. While dreaming of fostering or adopting, you slogged through mountains of paperwork, passed the home inspection, and finished your pre-placement training. It seemed endless. vintage tone, teddy bear sitting alone at Railway PlatformBut then the call came — a child needs a home. Suddenly your excitement turns to apprehension. Are you really ready?

Following are some tips to help you prepare for that magical moment when a new child walks through the door to join your family, whether temporarily, as a foster child, or permanently, as an adopted one.

  • If the placement decision isn’t urgent, consider requesting a pre-placement visit or visits. These could range from an hour or two to an overnight stay. While not possible in urgent situations, these visits allow both the child and your family to test the waters and determine whether this match will be positive for everyone. This might also be an opportunity to connect with your child’s birth family and get a sense of what this relationship will look like.
  • Check in with the other children in your home: what are their feelings now that a new child is coming to stay? Depending on the child, feelings could range from excitement to concerns about how they’ll get along with a new sibling, to fears about receiving less of your attention. Assure your children that you will continue to be the parent they’re counting on. You may also want to review the basics of confidentiality with your children.Father and son with groceries
  • Take stock: is your home ready? A place to lock up medications, fresh linens for the child’s bed, and the home diagram and fire evacuation plan are just a few of the many physical requirements to attend to. Are there special items you need to obtain for the child? Medical equipment, a restricted diet, or other special needs could mean you have extra homework. Having everything on hand will save your family the stress of running errands during those important first few hours after the child arrives.
  • Consider putting together a “welcome home book” for the child. This book serves to bridge the gap between the scary unknown and what will become familiar, safe, and secure. A welcome book could include photos of family members, written greetings using the child’s name, pictures of her new bedroom, and things to see or do in the community or neighborhood. (See our Tip Sheet for more details.)
  • Your licensing or social worker has likely provided you with some information about the child and his situation. Be prepared to ask questions and have conversations with workers about the plan for birth family contact, crisis or safety plans, feedback you provide to determine the child’s Level of Need (the CANS tool), and whether there are any special conditions in the child’s court order that you should be aware of. Practicalities such as medical appointments and school enrollment, upcoming court hearings and visitation arrangements may all bombard you within the first few days of the child’s arrival. You may want to talk with your work to help ensure you are prepared to understand exactly what your role is in each of these important events.

Contact us flat illustration with icons

Have more questions, or just want to talk to someone confidentially? At the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families, we want to support your family and all your hard work as a parent. If you need someone to talk to, referrals to additional resources, or information, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 414-475-1246, 800-762-8063, or

Under the Umbrella: 4 Tips for Transracial/Transcultural Families

Fans of the TV series Modern Family will remember the classic episode where six-year-old Lily (who is adopted by two daddies) is confused about her heritage. Mitch and Cam realize they know very little about her country of origin, so they decide to expose her to Vietnamese culture by taking her to a Vietnamese restaurant. What ensues is disastrous, if not humorous. Lily wants a cheeseburger, not pho. She is not interested in engaging with the Vietnamese waitress. The scene ends with a very defiant and even more confused Lily shouting, “I hate Vietnam!”
HiResCertainly Mitch and Cam are loving parents, so where did they go wrong?
Here are four tips to consider if you have completed or if you’re considering pursuing a transcultural or transracial adoption:
  1. Be prepared to answer questions and help your child respond. When parents and children have different races and culture, there is no getting around the awkward questions and comments. You see your child as your own, but the world around her sees her as “different.” It is inevitable she will be asked about her “real parents” or other intrusive questions that can chip away at her identity and sense of belonging.
  2. Understand that sometimes children just want to blend in. More often than not with a transcultural or transracial family, your child’s adoption will be conspicuous. Your child may tire of standing out, especially at ages where it is so important to fit in. You can help by keeping a strong focus on giving him or her consistent, positive affirmations concerning adoption and belonging.
  3. Teaching your child about her culture is a process, not an event. Weaving your child’s racial and cultural identity into the fabric of her daily life may help her develop a strong sense of self. It may be tempting to tell your child something along the lines of, “I don’t see color, I only see my beautiful little girl!” However, that message may come across as, “I don’t see you.”
  4. You can help celebrate all aspects of your child by doing your best to be as culturally diverse as you can be. Will your child see you having positive relationships with other adults of his race? Or does he see himself as the exception? Will he see others who look like him at school, church, the grocery store or in the neighborhood? Living, learning, and growing in a culture that is completely isolated from his own culture can mean that your child will lose a part of himself.

Adopting across race and culture can be beautiful and enriching when you are committed to addressing issues of racial and cultural identity and pride. Clearly, transcultural and transracial adoptions present challenges that your child is going to be faced with, perhaps on a daily basis. While the challenges may be tough, with additional support and education, you and your family can overcome.

Under the Umbrella: Exploring Your Child’s Talents

Each one of us has innate talents that we are born with, and perhaps some that we have enhanced over time thanks to practice and hard work. What talents does your child have?

Beautiful Girl Dancing

If you do not immediately know that answer to that question, take the time to observe your child and notice what distinctive talents they possess. Some children are naturally skilled artists; whereas other children may lack creativity, but have athletic skills that help them thrive on a basketball court. Notice what activities your child gravitates toward when she is provided with different options.

Many parents want their children to experience activities of their choice, or do things that they enjoyed as a child. Resist the temptation to sign your child up for piano lessons because you always wanted them. Rather, ask your child what activities she enjoys, as well as what she thinks she is skilled at. Children should be encouraged to explore and try out various activities of interest to them. Now more than ever, there are many diverse activities that children can participate in. You can enroll your child in cooking classes, yoga, and even engineering workshops! However, involving them in too many different activities can be stressful and prevent children from honing their skills at something that they are truly passionate about.

Little photographer

Also, you may want to consider broadening your view of what can help a child determine and pursue her talents. Even seemingly insignificant activities, like playing video games, may help children hone their talents. For example, a child can build skills in the areas of problem solving, graphic design, animation, etc. through video game or computer play.

It is important for all children to have opportunities to explore their talents, and this can be especially beneficial for children who were adopted or are in out-of-home care. Discovering and/or building on a talent can help a child foster positive self-esteem. In addition, providing your child with a choice of activities to pursue provides her with some much-need control and freedom. Although the children in your home may not share your DNA or your talents, and they may not be the next David Beckham or Picasso, chances are they have some great talents that make them unique!