Starting the Process of Adoption In Illinois

Welcoming a child into your home through adoption can be an incredible opportunity to grow your family and fill your life with love. However, as you first start to consider everything that goes into adoption in Illinois, the process can quickly begin to feel complex and overwhelming. In some cases, it can be tricky to even know how, when, and where to get started. 

So, what steps can you take to get ready to adopt a child in Illinois — and how do you begin this life-changing process? 

It’s important to understand that everyone’s adoption journey will be unique. With that said, there are some important steps you can take in order to embark upon the adoption process with confidence and peace of mind.

Considering adoption, but not sure how to get the ball rolling? Here are four key pieces that go into starting the adoption process in Illinois: 

Learning More About the Illinois Adoption Process

If you’re thinking about adopting a child, one of the most important steps you can take early on is to learn more about the process, and what makes adoption in Illinois unique. The more you can demystify and understand the ins and outs of adoption in advance, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be able to feel down the road. 

As you start to move forward with adoption, it’s important to address some common FAQs and concerns that will inform the process and impact you along your journey. Here are some of the important questions and concepts you may want to explore as you first start to think about adoption: 

Who can adopt a child in Illinois?

Broadly speaking, individuals and couples in Illinois are eligible to adopt if they do not have a legal disability, meet basic residency requirements, and have a good reputation. In order to adopt a child, the prospective parent must be able to financially manage and support the new addition to their family, including providing them with suitable housing. There are no specific income requirements. Single people, unmarried couples, and married spouses are all eligible to adopt. For people who are married, both spouses must be a part of the adoption process, unless they have been separated and living apart for more than one year. 

Different types of adoption in Illinois

One of the most important things to research is the most common types of adoption used in Illinois, so that you can understand which strategy will be the right fit for you. Broadly speaking, there are four primary forms of minor adoption common in Illinois: 

  • Related. Also sometimes called a “family” or “kinship” adoption, this occurs in a situation where the child is adopted by family members, such as a stepparent, grandparent, sibling, or aunt and uncle. This form of adoption is often the easiest to navigate, because some procedures and requirements may be waived. 
  • Agency. In an agency adoption, the parents receive the child from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or a licensed private adoption agency. In this type of adoption, the biological parents have already surrendered the child to the state or had their parental rights terminated.
  • Private. A private adoption occurs when the adoptive parents receive the child directly from the biological family. 
  • Standby. A standby adoption is put in place to go into effect upon the occurrence of a specific event, such as the death of a biological parent.

Illinois also allows for adult adoptions, which occur when a person over 18 is adopted by parents who are related to them or with whom they have lived for several years. The adult who is being adopted must agree to the process, but no consent of the biological parents is required.

Timelines and costs for adoption in Illinois

Everyone’s road to adoption will be somewhat different — but there are some important signposts and benchmarks to prepare for. As you start to look into adoption, it’s important to prepare for a process that can last for more than six months, if not longer, depending on the type of adoption and your unique circumstances. It’s also important to plan ahead for costs and fees, including court fees and the expenses associated with future childcare. At the same time, you may wish to look into reimbursements and financial support, which you may be eligible to receive as an adoptive parent. 

Understanding all of your options

In addition to understanding the common types of adoption used in our state, it’s important to consider the different roads available to you — as well as possible alternatives to adoption, based on your unique circumstances. For example, in some situations, you may wish to seek guardianship of a minor, rather than adoption. It’s also important to understand what goes into fostering to adopt in Illinois. Fostering can be a viable option for individuals or couples looking to expand their family. Becoming a foster parent requires getting a license through DCFS, which includes completing a criminal background check, receiving a health screening, and taking specialized training courses.

What are the first steps to a successful adoption?

Once you’ve considered the factors described above, be sure to take some time to familiarize yourself with the most common steps of the adoption process here in Illinois. 

Broadly speaking, the adoption process kicks off with the filing of a Petition for Adoption, along with a Final and Irrevocable Consent to Adoption completed in person by the child’s biological parents, and acknowledged by the court.

Court hearings and conferences will follow to determine the eligibility of the adoptive parents and the willingness of the birth parents to consent to the adoption of their child.  A Guardian ad Litem will be appointed by the court to investigate and file a report as to the suitability of the adoption and confirmation that all requirements have been met. In most cases, a home study is conducted, along with a thorough background check of the adoptive parents. 

After all necessary investigations have been completed, a final judgment hearing will be held, granting final legal rights to the new adoptive parents. After the judgment, the adoptive parents will be able to change the child’s birth record.

Sound daunting? Remember, you do not have to go through this process alone. Experienced adoption lawyers can help you through every step along the way. From understanding the unique variables of your situation, to preparing the necessary legal paperwork, to representing you in court proceedings, your legal professional will be an important guide and advocate as you navigate the road to adoption.

Getting Emotionally Ready for Adoption

With all the planning and logistics that go into adoption, it can be easy to forget that this process has an incredibly strong emotional component, as well. After all, adoption is about growing your family and taking a child into your care. This can be a big adjustment, and a major life transition. Even before you complete the adoption, the process can have some emotional ups and downs. 

It’s important to be ready to ride the rollercoaster. As you get ready to adopt, remember to take time to get emotionally prepared for what’s to come. 

This might include spending time talking with your family to get everyone on the same page. In addition to your children and partner, consider how best to bring up the subject of adoption with your parents, siblings, and extended family. What boundaries do you want to put in place? How do you want to communicate about all things adoption-related? 

In talking with your attorney and other adoption professionals, be sure to address your concerns and hopes for the process, and work together to set realistic expectations. At every step of the way, remember to take care of your own needs. Self-care is important for adoptive parents, just as it is for anyone going through a significant transition in life. Eating well, getting enough sleep, making time for exercise, and finding ways to unwind can all help you manage stress, anxiety, and the potential for burnout. 

Reaching Out for Assistance and Guidance

To paraphrase an old proverb: “If you want to go far, go together.”

As you get started with adoption, remember to take some time to build up your support network. This includes family and friends, as well as professionals you can turn to for guidance and assistance. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your loved ones. They may be incredibly enthusiastic about pitching in, wherever and whenever they can. At the same time, look for local resources that can help you navigate the adoption process. Early on, this might include reading books and guides, doing research on adoption forums, or talking with a neighbor or friend who has gone through the process before. There are also lots of support groups, meetups, and classes available for prospective adoptive parents at each and every stage of their journey. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your attorney with any questions or concerns. Your attorney is there to help you navigate the adoption process, including helping you to connect with resources designed for families hoping to adopt. 

Getting Organized

There are a lot of pieces to adoption — and taking time to get organized early on can help make it easier for the picture to come together. 

Working closely with your attorney, you may want to start collecting and organizing important information and paperwork, including personal documents (birth certificates, financial records, marriage licenses, reference letters, estate documents, and so on) as well as any court documents you file or receive. 

Learn about the costs associated with adoption and start budgeting, while also looking into any local resources that may be available to help. Don’t be afraid to plan ahead. You might even create a checklist or calendar of important steps, so they don’t fall off your radar — including the dates for home visits, court appearances, mandatory classes, attorney meetings, paperwork deadlines, and so on. Your legal professional can be an invaluable asset here, helping you to plan and prep for every step of the adoption process. Once the process is underway, don’t forget to set benchmarks for all the big transitions to come after adoption, including planning for future childcare needs. 

Ready for a Helping Hand as You Navigate the Adoption Process?

Feeling ready to learn more about the Illinois adoption process? Want to get this process started, with the support of a compassionate and experienced legal professional on your side? 

At the Law Offices of J. Jeltes, LTD., our 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. Before, during, and after this major life transition, we can provide access to information and resources to help you understand the process and 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 get in touch to begin the conversation.