LSSWis - Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan

Lutheran Social Services of
Wisconsin and Upper Michigan

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Domestic Adoption

With a genuine commitment to service, we recognize the needs of each member of the adoption triad – birth parents, child and adoptive family – and the uniqueness of each adoption. Our experienced domestic adoption team has brought hundreds of birth parents and their children together with adoptive families – in fact, we've provided domestic adoption services for more than 100 years.

Domestic adoption services include:

  • Complete, caring guidance from a professional staff
  • Options for open adoption, in which birth parents have some contact with the adoptive family
  • Assistance with developing your family’s adoption profile

What is an open adoption?

In an open adoption, birth parents and adoptive families create healthy lifelong relationships that address the ongoing needs of each member of the adoption triad.

  • Birth parents choose and meet the adoptive family
  • Through the support and guidance of an LSS adoption counselor, the birth parents and adoptive family build a foundation for a healthy lifelong relationship.
  • The birth parents and adoptive family create a trust agreement that outlines ongoing communication and contact as well as exchange of pictures and letters with one another.
  • Birth parents design their open adoption according to their comfort level of openness.
  • We continue to assist you after the placement of the child. Some birth parents seek additional counseling or join a support group to share experiences with other birthparents.

What are the advantages of open adoption?

The ongoing contact and communication enables the birth parents to know their child is thriving in the adoptive family home. It reaffirms the reason why the birth parents created this plan for their child.  Secure in the knowledge that birth parents fully support the adoption, the adoptive family is free to welcome the birth parents into their lives. The most significant piece of this relationship is the child's ability to have direct access to information and support from the birth parents, allowing for the child's development of self-esteem and identity.

Agency Domestic Adoption 

We've been working in domestic adoptions for over 100 years, and understand the adoption process can be very challenging and confusing.  We have professional adoption counselors available to help you navigate the process and help support your family before, during, and well after the adoption of your child. The Agency Domestic Program provides stable, loving homes for infants and children born in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. 

  • Applications for this program are limited. Applicants must be Wisconsin or Michigan residents. Please inquire with the LSS office in your area for more details.
  • Adopting couples must be married for at least one year
  • Children are primarily newborns
  • Adopting couples must be open to a fully identified (i.e., open) adoption
  • We do not have restrictions on families based upon the age of adopting parents, number of children already in the family and infertility
  • Birthparents select the adoptive family for their child from non-identifying portfolios prepared by adopting parents
  • Profiles of our Waiting Families are available for viewing by birthparents being served by all LSS offices in Wisconsin and Michigan that provide adoption services. Adoptive families have the option of creating a Waiting Family profile on the LSS adoption website.
  • A history of the birth family is usually available

Independent Domestic Adoption

We provide home studies, post placement and other services for adoptive families and birthparents who become matched on their own without the help of an agency, known as an independent domestic adoption. The states of Wisconsin and Michigan require that the adoptive family be studied and approved by a licensed adoption agency.

  • We are licensed by Wisconsin and Michigan to conduct adoption home studies
  • We can provide services for the birthparents, helping them explore their options, prepare for the process and cope with their grief and loss
  • Married couples and single persons are eligible for an independent adoption
  • We do not have restrictions on families based upon the age of adopting parents, number of children already in the family and infertility

Special Needs Adoption

We work in partnership with the State of Wisconsin Special Needs Adoption Program to place children from the foster care system into loving adoptive homes.

LSS Special Needs Adoption

There are a number of children in Wisconsin with special care needs waiting to be adopted. Efforts are made to find an adoptive family that best meets the needs of a child when it is not safe for the child to live with their birth parents. It may take time to find the appropriate family that can provide the extra measure of patience, acceptance, caring and understanding of the child's needs because of their mental or physical handicaps, disruptive behavior, medical problems or other factors. 

Children who are waiting for a family may come from a variety of situations. Many children are currently living in foster homes. It may be their first placement after being moved from their family of origin, or it may be one in a series of moves the child has experienced. 

Relative/Stepparent Adoption

Many children are adopted by someone who is related to them. We call this type of independent adoption “relative adoption.”

For the purpose of adoption, Wisconsin's definition of "relative" requires that the relationship with the child be that of a biological grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle. The adopting relative can also be a step-brother or sister, half-brother or sister, brother or sister-in-law, second cousin, step-uncle or aunt or any person of a preceding generation as denoted by the prefix grand or great; or, a spouse of any of these relatives.

Adoption by a child’s step-parent is handled a little differently than relative adoption. For adoption by a stepparent, the state of Wisconsin requires an investigation by an agency that is licensed to perform adoption home studies: we are licensed to do this. Our investigation will include one or two visits by a LSS social worker, who will provide a written recommendation to the court.

For a relative or step-parent adoption, it’s best to hire an attorney to facilitate the legal steps involved. 

To begin the adoption process, simply fill out our interest form. There’s no fee to apply, and no obligation on your part to use our services: the online application simply lets us know that you are interested in relative or stepparent adoption, and a member of our staff will contact you.

In the News

As part of National Adoption Month, Kim Westfahl, director of adoption & out of home care for Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan, talks about how the adoption process works on KTI Country Connection, hosted by Libby Collins on 94.5 KTI Country in Milwaukee. 

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647 W. Virginia Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
414-281-4400

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