What types of adoption are available to Illinois residents?
The following categories of adoptions are available:
1) Private/Direct/Independent - Private adoption is legal in Illinois, as it is in the majority of states. In this type of adoption, the birth parents place their child with a specific adopting family through the services of an attorney. Even though no agency is involved, counseling can be provided through an independent counselor. Identities of all parties may be kept confidential.
2) Agency - In an agency adoption, the birth parents "surrender" their parental rights to an agency, which then chooses the adopting family from its list of families who have been pre-approved by that agency.
3) Agency-Assisted/Identified/Designated - An agency-assisted adoption is a hybrid of a private and agency adoption. Here, the birth parents select the adopting family without the help of an agency. The agency is then retained to provide counseling services to the birth parents and adopting family, conduct a homestudy of the adopting family and make all the arrangements for the adoption. Legally, the birth parents "surrender" to the agency, and the agency then places the child with the identified adopting family.
4) Interstate - When the child resides in a state different from the adopting family, the adoption is interstate, and the adoption must comply with a law called The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. An interstate adoption can be private, agency or agency-assisted. For Illinois residents, the adopting parents must have completed a homestudy and obtained a foster parent license from an Illinois child welfare agency, even if the adoption is private. Typically, the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated in accordance with the law where the child resides, and the adoption is completed in the state of residence of the adopting parents. In addition, the Interstate Compact authorities in both states must approve the placement before the child is allowed to physically leave the state where the birth parent resides and enter the adopting parents’ state of residence.
5) Intercountry - When the child resides in a country different from the adopting family, the adoption is intercountry. The adopting family must complete a homestudy conducted by an Illinois child welfare agency, therefore most intercountry adoptions begin with the assistance of an Illinois agency. Agencies and other resources outside the state of Illinois are often involved as well. In many countries, the adoption is actually completed in the child's country of origin, although many adoptive families "re-adopt" the child in a legal proceeding in the United States to confirm the validity of the foreign adoption. In a few countries, such as Korea, the Philippines and India, the adoption must be completed in the United States. As of April 1, 2008, adoptions from countries that have signed The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption must comply with new rules and procedures (www.adoption.state.gov).
When should prospective adoptive parents consult with an attorney?
Even when prospective adopting parents are working with an agency, they should consider consulting with an attorney knowledgeable in adoptions to advise them of their legal rights and the possible risks they may face in an adoption. At a minimum, an attorney must be retained to represent the adopting parents in a domestic adoption proceeding after the child has been placed. In a private adoption, an attorney should be retained as one of the first steps. As with any business relationship, adopting parents are entitled to a clear explanation of an attorney's services and charges prior to retaining that attorney.
What laws apply to adoptions?
Adoption law is primarily state law, and every state has its own adoption statutes. Court decisions interpreting adoption statutes are called case law, and give further meaning to these statutes. In addition, federal law, such as the United States Constitution, the Immigration and Naturalization Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act, impact on adoptions.
Is a preplacement homestudy required in order to adopt?
A homestudy is not required in a private adoption where everyone involved resides in Illinois. A homestudy and foster parent license is necessary to adopt through an agency and in an interstate adoption, including a private adoption. A homestudy is required in an intercountry adoption where the adoption is completed in the country of origin, and a homestudy and a foster parent license is required where the intercountry adoption is completed in Illinois. Note that there is always an investigation, which includes criminal background checks, home visits and required disclosures of financial and medical information, in every unrelated adoption in Illinois
What expenses can be legally paid by the adopting parents?
Illinois law allows adopting parents to pay their own legal fees, agency fees and medical expenses of the birth mother without prior approval of the Court. Adopting parents must first obtain the Court's approval in order to legally pay for a birth parent's living expenses (food, clothing and shelter during the pregnancy for the period beginning 120 days prior to the expected due date and up to 60 days after the child's birth only) or attorney’s fees, for any amount exceeding $1000. Adopting Parents may also give a gift to birth parents as long as the gift’s value does not exceed $200. Except for these specific types of payments or for payments to, or by, licensed child welfare agencies, it is a felony to pay, or receive, compensation for the placement of a child. An illegal payment also might allow a birth parent to invalidate her consent, and force the adopting parents to return the child to the custody of the birth parent, the agency or the Department of Children and Family Services.
What information is legally required to be given to the adopting parents about the child?
Illinois law requires agencies to give non identifying information, if known, regarding the child's mental, medical and social history to the adoptive parents and also to the child once he reaches the age of 18. Adopting parents are entitled to this information prior to the child being placed with them by an agency. In a private adoption, the adopting parents (or their attorney) must obtain written permission from the birth parents to receive any mental, medical and social information about the birth parents from third parties.
What are the procedures involved in a birth parent consenting to the adoption of his or her child? When are consents final? Under what circumstances can a consent be revoked?
In Illinois, a birth parent must sign a consent to adoption (or surrender, in an agency adoption) in front of a judge, a person authorized by a judge to acknowledge a consent, a representative of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or a licensed child welfare agency. A birth mother must wait a minimum of 72 hours after the child's birth before signing a consent or surrender. A birth father may sign a consent or surrender prior to the child's birth, but he may revoke that consent up to 72 hours after the child's birth. He may also sign after the 72 hour period has passed. In addition, a birth father may waive his parental rights to the child before or after the child's birth either by signing a notarized Denial of Paternity, or by failing to respond in 30 days to notice of the adoption. A consent or surrender is final and irrevocable unless it was obtained by fraud or duress by the person taking the consent or by the adopting parents (or by someone acting on their behalf). In addition, a birth parent has no more than 1 year from signing the consent or surrender to challenge its validity.
What are the rights of birth fathers? Is the father's consent required?
Every birth father does not have the power to block the adoption of his child. A father who has demonstrated his commitment to his child through:
marrying the mother;
- living with and supporting the mother and child,
- obtaining a court judgment of paternity; or
- registering with the Illinois Putative Father Registry as well as suing to establish himself as the child's legal father in a timely way
- must give his consent to the adoption of his child, or the adopting parents must prove that he is "unfit" to be the child's parent. If the father does not show his commitment in one of these ways, he must be notified of the adoption, but his consent is not required.
Must the child be placed in foster care prior to being placed with the adopting parents?
No, interim foster care is not required in Illinois.
How long does an adoption take to complete?
Generally, the adoption takes at least 6 months from the date of the interim order granting initial custody of the child to the adopting parents, or from the date that the child was placed with the adoptive parents by an agency. An intercountry re-adoption may take only a few weeks, depending on how long the child has been with the parents.
When can adoptive parents get a birth certificate and social security number for their child?
An amended birth certificate is issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) for all Illinois-born children and foreign-born children adopted in the state of Illinois. The original birth certificate is sealed and a new one is issued with the child's adoptive name and substituting the adoptive parents' information for that of the birth parents. These certificates are issued 2-3 months after the request is received by IDPH. In order to have a social security number issued in the child's adoptive name, the adopting parents must wait until the adoption is complete and the child's name has been changed legally. While the adoption is pending, adopting parents may obtain an Adoption Tax Identification Number (ATIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. An ATIN is good for 2 years and can be used in place of a social security number until the adoption is final.