There are many children in the world that do not have a loving home or parents to provide care and affection. Fortunately, there are people in the U.S. and throughout the world that are willing to adopt these unfortunate children as one of their own. Each year in the U.S. alone, about 135,000 children are adopted and given the opportunity to grow up in a loving home that cares for them and provides for their needs. Adoption is a win-win scenario because the adopted child gets to experience a normal life and loving family while the adopting parents experience the joy of not only having a child, but making a positive change in the life of the child.
In the U.S., adoption laws and policies are determined by the states. Those looking to adopt can work with various adoption agencies or DCFS to adopt newborn children and children who are currently in foster care. Illinois adoption laws also allow for international adoption. If you are considering adopting a child, it is very important for you to think deeply about whether you are willing and able to take a child into your life and provide them with the love and attention they need. Once you make the decision to adopt, it is beneficial to hire an attorney that is familiar with Illinois adoption laws to help you through the process.
Adoption and Guardianship
The State of Illinois views adoption and guardianship as two different things. It is important to understand the legal definition of each:
- ♦ Adoption: When you adopt a child, you permanently become the legal parent and assume the same rights and responsibilities as if you were the biological parent of the child. Full custody of the child transfers from DCFS or foster care to you, which includes major decisions involving health care and medical treatment for the child, and consent to marriage or enlistment in the armed forces. Adoption can only occur in Illinois if the birth parents give up their parental rights voluntarily or if a court terminates their parental rights.
- ♦ Guardianship: Legal guardianship is a permanent option for children that cannot return to their home or be put up for adoption. Obtaining legal guardianship is common among relatives that care for a child and want to provide them with a permanent home. If a child has been living with a licensed relative for six consecutive months, the relative can apply for legal guardianship. Being appointed as a legal guardian by the court is different than adoption because the birth parents do not have to lose or give up their parental rights for a guardian to be appointed. There is also no involvement of DCFS in the case of a guardianship. The legal guardianship ends when the child turns 18 and if you become the guardian of a child cared for by DCFS, you may be eligible for financial and non-financial assistance.
Illinois Adoption Laws
The following are the Illinois laws and statutes regarding legal adoption:
- ♦ Who is eligible: Any adult that is 21 years of age or older and does not have a legal disability is eligible to adopt a child. In certain scenarios, the court can waive this age restriction. If the adopting parent is not related to the child, or if there is no agency involved in the adoption, the parent must have been a resident of Illinois for at least 6 months, or 90 days if a member of the armed forces. Married couples must petition jointly, same-sex couples can also petition for adoption.
Illinois Domestic Adoption Laws
- ♦ Under Illinois law, adoptive parents can advertise for birth parents.
- ♦ Adopting parents must go through an agency licensed by the state of Illinois or a contracted agent with the approval of DCFS.
- ♦ Adopting parents may pay up to $1000 without pre-approval from the court to cover the pregnancy-related expenses of the birth parents. The court must pre-approve amounts that exceed $1000 in private adoptions, and an Illinois licensed agency must pre-approve an exceeding amount in adoptions involving an agency. Adopting parents must pay the expenses starting 120 days before the due date of the child and ending 60 days after the child’s birth. For private adoptions, the accounting must be submitted to the court within 14 days of the completion of the adoption. For agency adoptions, the agency must receive the accounting before finalizing the adoption.
- ♦ Birth mothers can grant consent for adoption 72 hours after the child is born. Birth fathers can grant consent before birth, and they have the right to revoke their consent for up to 72 hours after the birth of the child. Once the birth mother signs her consent for adoption, the consent can no longer be revoked. Birth fathers give up their right to revoke their consent 72 hours after the birth of the child.
Illinois International Adoption Laws
- ♦ The State of Illinois will recognize a foreign adoption decree if the child enters the U.S. with an IR-3 or HR-3 visa, the adoption takes place lawfully, and the adopting family is investigated after the adoption takes place. Adopted children that enter the U.S. with a different type of visa must be readopted in Illinois for state recognition.
- ♦ Adopting parents who are Illinois residents can obtain a birth certificate for a foreign-born child by providing the State Registrar of Vital Records with a copy of the child’s IR-3 or HR-3 visa, proof of the child’s date of birth and place of birth, a certified copy of the adoption decree, and contact information of the adoption agency the family used to complete the process.
Adoption Subsidies in Illinois
Adopting parents may receive subsidies for a special needs child if the child fits one of the following criteria:
- ♦ At least 1 year old or older
- ♦ One of a sibling group being adopted together if one of the siblings is a special needs child
- ♦ Has a physical, mental, or emotional disability
- ♦ Adopting parents receive subsidies for another child or have another adopted child that has one of the same birth parents.
Choosing to adopt a child is a major decision, but one that can provide a child with a real, loving home and a chance at a normal and happy life. If you are a resident of Illinois that is considering adoption, it is beneficial to review Illinois adoption laws and policies to get an idea of the process and requirements.
Note: Individuals should not rely solely on the information presented in this article when making a decision regarding adoption. You must talk to a qualified attorney to discuss your options.