Considering adoption in Illinois? It’s important to know the common types of adoption available in our area. Equipped with this information, you may be able to gain a better understanding of which form of adoption will be the right fit for you and yours — allowing you to begin the process with greater confidence and peace of mind.
What Is Adoption?
Adoption is a legal procedure which establishes a new family relationship between the adoptive parent or parents, and the minor or adult who is being adopted. After adoption of a minor, the adoptive parents have the legal right, responsibility, and duty to care for and support the minor child. Broadly speaking, a person in Illinois can adopt a child if they have a good reputation, do not have a legal disability, and meet all local residency requirements. Adopting parents can be single, married, or in a civil union. For more information on the procedures and rights involved in adoption, you may wish to peruse the contents of the Illinois Adoption Act, which regulates adoptions in our state. You can access the full text online, here.
Adoption can provide individuals and couples with the incredible opportunity to grow their families, while providing shelter, love, and care to someone who needs it. For children and teens, adoption can bring permanence and stability, especially for those youths who have spent significant time in foster care, group homes, or institutions.
At the same time, adoption can sometimes be a complicated and overwhelming process. Adopting in Illinois can be a major undertaking and a significant life transition, even under the best of circumstances. Adoptive parents may have to receive training and take classes before adopting, while also making sure that they complete all necessary paperwork correctly. There are also home evaluations and background checks to go through. This process can require patience and flexibility — and an experienced guide, who can help you navigate through each and every step.
Common Types of Adoption In Illinois
One of the first steps to successfully beginning the adoption process is understanding the types of adoption available here in Illinois. There are several different categories of adoption, each with their own procedures and rules to know.
Broadly speaking, here are five of the most common categories of adoption in Illinois:
1.) Related Adoptions
Sometimes known as a “kinship adoption” or “family adoption,” a related adoption occurs when a child is adopted by a family member by blood or marriage, such as a grandparent, an older sibling, or an aunt or uncle.
Commonly, this family member may be taking on the responsibility of caring for the child after the child’s parents lose parental rights, possibly due to substance abuse, mental health issues, or imprisonment. A related adoption may also occur after the child’s biological parent passes away.
This category of adoption also includes stepparent adoptions, or a situation in which a stepparent wants to legally adopt the child or children that his or her spouse had with a previous partner. If all parties agree, this process can be relatively straightforward; it may be more complex if the child’s biological parent opposes the arrangement, or cannot be easily located.
Generally speaking, related adoptions are often less complicated than other types of adoption in Illinois, and some procedures may be waived in order to make the transition easier for both children and their family members.
2.) Standby Adoptions
In many cases, standby adoptions are closely connected to related adoptions.
A standby adoption is an adoption that is put in place to go into effect upon the occurrence of a specified event. For instance, if a child’s parent is terminally ill and wishes to have a certain person care for the minor, a standby adoption is one mechanism to make sure their wishes are carried out. Broadly speaking, the legal parent must tell the court when to finalize the adoption; typically, it becomes final after the birth parent passes away.
3.) Agency Adoptions
An agency adoption is carried out through a public or private adoption agency licensed by the state. In this type of adoption, the child’s biological parents have already surrendered the child to the state or had their parental responsibilities otherwise terminated.
Licensed private adoption agencies may be organized by a charity, religious group, or social service organization.
In Illinois, the primary organization to know is the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Adoption agencies must be licensed through DCFS, and all out-of-state and foreign adoptions must also be licensed, registered, or approved by DCFS. DCFS is also responsible for placing those minors who are the responsibility of the state due to abandonment or the loss of their parents.
With an agency adoption in Illinois, you adopt a child who is being taken care of under the authority of the DCFS. There are multiple ways that this process can be completed. For instance, one key consideration may be fostering to adopt.
Working with a local attorney can help in your plans to foster or adopt, facilitating adherence to all of the associated rules, procedures, and laws, and assisting if any complications arise. Our own Jenny R. Jeltes is on the approved DCFS Panel List, and is able to represent families who are adopting children currently in DCFS care.
4.) Private Adoptions
In a private adoption — sometimes called an “unrelated,” “independent,” or “non-agency” adoption — the adopting parent or parents are not related to the child, and the placement is not made through an agency. Instead, the adopting parents receive the child directly from the child’s biological family, typically right after birth. Legally, the child’s birth parents have 72 hours in which to revoke their consent to the adoption.
There are many different ways in which this arrangement may be made. Perhaps most commonly, the adoptive parents and the child’s birth parents make a direct agreement. This process may also involve an intermediary, such as an attorney or doctor. In some cases, the adoptive parents and birth parents may also seek an adoption by identification, in which both sets of parents connect independently, before turning to an agency for assistance and resources that can help with completing the process.
Here in Illinois, there are some important restrictions and procedures to note when it comes to private adoptions. For one thing, remember that, even though a state-licensed agency may not be involved, the court will still require an authorized agency to investigate the adoptive parents’ home after the filing of a Petition of Adoption. After the adoption, there will also be one or more check-ins to ensure that the needs of the child are being met.
There are also some limits on the agreements that birth parents and adopting parents are allowed to make, as the Illinois State Bar Association explains:
“Adopting parents are not permitted to pay any money to the birth-parents in return for their agreement to the adoption, however they may pay the legal fees of the birth-parents and medical expenses of the birth-mother incurred during the pregnancy and birth. The adoptive parents may also be allowed to pay for the reasonable living expenses of the biological parents during the pregnancy, and up to one month afterwards, if the court enters an order allowing them to do so.”
Another important consideration is whether the parents want to agree to an open adoption. As FindLaw succinctly explains, this is an arrangement in which “biological parents maintain some form of limited contact even after adoption, though all parental rights stay with the adoptive parents.” As reporting from FindLaw points out, open adoptions “have become much more common in the United States” in recent years, and account for a significant number of private adoptions. You should discuss the legal enforceability of open adoption in Illinois with your attorney.
5.) Adult Adoptions
Adoption is not limited to minors. A person 18 years of age or older can be adopted by relatives, or with unrelated adults that they have lived with for at least two consecutive years. While the adult who is being adopted must agree to the process, no consent of the biological parents is required for an adult adoption.
Broadly speaking, the adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate why the adoption will be to the mutual benefit of both parties. For example, this step may be taken in cases where an adult wants to ensure the inheritance rights for a stepchild. There are also important requirements and protections put in place to help prevent the possibility of financial elder abuse.
Want to Discuss the Illinois Adoption Process With a Legal Professional?
Adoption can be an incredibly meaningful process for everyone involved, but there is much to consider before getting started. Working with an experienced legal professional can help you understand the many moving parts and considerations that go into adoption — before, during, and after this major life transition.
At the Law Offices of J. Jeltes, LTD., our compassionate and skillful team can help handle both related and unrelated domestic adoptions, including grandparent adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and adoptions of a ward through the state or a reputable adoption agency. After adoption, we can continue to provide access to information and resources that may help make the adjustment easier.
Founded in 2009 and offering more than 20 years of combined experience, the attorneys and staff at the Law Offices of J. Jeltes work together to provide skilled, efficient, and affordable legal representation to individuals and families. We know that restructuring a family or making a huge life change can be a vulnerable time, and we endeavor to remain thoughtful and effective in helping achieve the best possible results.
We know that every situation is unique, and our attorneys can provide you with a comprehensive one-on-one consultation to discuss your legal concerns and goals. Do you have any questions about any aspect of adoption in Illinois? Don’t hesitate to contact us to begin the conversation.