There’s a famous quote that “family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.” Adoption is a powerful and meaningful way to expand your family, and give a child or teenager the love, comfort, and care they need to live a full and complete life.
However, getting started with adoption can be confusing and overwhelming — and if you’re just beginning to look into how this process works in Illinois, you’re bound to have plenty of questions. Even before getting started with adoption, it’s important to make time to think about all of your options, and whether or not this journey will be the right one for you and your family.
A Quick Overview of Illinois Adoptions
In short, adoption is a legal procedure which establishes a binding family relationship between the adoptive parents and the minor who is being adopted. In Illinois, the rules and guidelines governing adoption are set down in the Illinois Adoption Act, which you can read online here. Once the adoption process is complete, the new adoptive parents have all the same rights, duties, and responsibilities to the child as a birth parent would have.
In order to adopt a child in Illinois you must be “a reputable person of legal age,” and meet all local residency requirements. You can be single or divorced, or part of a couple. Unmarried couples can adopt a child together; if the adopting persons are married, both spouses must be part of the petition to adopt.
There are several different types of adoption available to prospective parents in Illinois, based on your unique circumstances and the circumstances of the minor. Depending on the type of adoption you pursue, there may be a number of important steps to consider and address along the way — such as receiving training, taking classes, completing paperwork, and submitting to investigations, including home evaluations and background checks.
Considering Adopting? Ask Yourself These Questions First
Even when everything goes smoothly, adoption can be a long and complicated process. It’s easy and understandable to feel overwhelmed. While adoption can be a wonderful way to grow your family and share your love, it may not be the right fit for everyone.
As you start to do additional research and consider whether adoption is going to be right for you, it’s important to take some time to do a little bit of self-reflection.
One of the most important steps in navigating the process successfully is to take stock of your hopes, your goals, and your expectations. When it comes to adoption, it’s important to be realistic, to go in with a clear understanding of your unique situation, and to know where you can turn when you need help or guidance.
Here are 7 crucial questions to ask as you get ready to begin the adoption process:
1.) “Is Everyone On the Same Page?”
Adoption is not something to be entered into lightly. It’s important to be realistic about your own willingness to grow and adapt as you welcome a new child into your household.
Even more importantly, it’s crucial that everyone who may be impacted by the adoption understands what’s going on. Above all else, this means having long and in-depth discussions with your spouse or partner, to make sure that you’re in agreement about wanting to adopt, what your motivations and goals are for wanting to adopt, and what parenting means to you. Are both of you committed to the adoption process? Are you both able and willing to provide for the child — financially, personally, and emotionally?
Even if you are single, keep in mind that adoption can be a big change for others in your life, including your kids, your parents, your close friends, and even your pets.
If you have children, be sure to sit down and address any thoughts or feelings they may have about having a new brother or sister. If you have a pet, think about their temperament. Will your dog or cat be willing to accept new members into the household, or are they a bit too shy or overly protective? Does your furry friend have a health condition or need a high level of attention and care? And finally, consider bringing up adoption with your close friends and family. They’re an important part of your support network, and may play a hand in helping to take care of your adopted child down the line — while also giving you emotional support and strength, when you need it.
2.) “Do I Understand All of My Options for Adoption in Illinois?”
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to adoption. Here in Illinois, there are many different paths that one may take in order to successfully adopt a minor, including:
- Related adoption. This type of adoption occurs when the child is adopted by a family member, such as a stepparent, grandparent, or older sibling. In a related adoption, some common procedures may be waived in order to make the process easier and more efficient. Closely related to the related adoption is the standby adoption, which the child’s biological parent will 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.
- Agency adoption. With an agency adoption, the adoptive parents receive the child from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), or through a reputable, licensed adoption agency. There are different paths that may be taken here, as well. For instance, it may be worth considering fostering to adopt through DCFS, which can be a viable option for individuals or couples looking to expand their family.
- Private adoption. In a private adoption, the adoptive parents receive the child directly from the minor’s biological family, rather than through a placement agency. There are many different ways in which this arrangement may be made, including working with the biological family directly, or working through an intermediary such as an attorney.
3.) “How Will I Know If a Child Will Be the Right Fit?”
As you move further into the adoption process, it’s important to get a sense of what makes your household unique. Be realistic about how much responsibility you can take on, and think about who might benefit the most from living with your family.
Would you prefer to adopt a newborn or toddler, or would you be comfortable with a teenager or young adult? Do you have the capacity to support a child who may be experiencing mental or physical health challenges? Would you be willing to adopt siblings in order to keep a family together? Are you more comfortable with girls or boys?
In Illinois, there are thousands of minors waiting to be adopted, from newborn babies to teens. When you foster to adopt through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or work with an adoption agency, adoption professionals will generally consider both your preferences and the needs of the child in order to find a good match for everyone involved.
4.) “Am I Ready to Commit Plenty of Time and Effort — Before, During, and After the Adoption Process?”
As we have indicated already, adoption can be a long and winding road, with plenty of bumps along the way. Are you someone who has the patience and flexibility to handle these unexpected challenges as they come up?
At every step of the way, you may need to be willing to shift your expectations and make adjustments, which might be difficult in the moment. As an example, many agencies require the adoptive parents to complete hours of training and classes before bringing their child home. You may need to file a significant amount of paperwork, or even appear in court.
Even after the adoption process has wrapped up, there may still be new hurdles to face. For example, many children find it difficult to make the transition into a new home in the first few months, or even years. You may need to look into local resources in your area, such as pre- and post-adoption therapy, to make things easier, safer, and healthier for the children — and for yourself as a new adoptive parent.
Keep in mind as well that the adoption process can be slow, and may move forward in fits and starts. Will you be ready to take action when necessary, even at a moment’s notice? Can you make arrangements at work to accommodate changes to your schedule? Will you be able to take care of yourself through the ups and downs, mentally, spiritually, and physically?
5.) “Am I Ready to Be Transparent and Open With Officials?”
Adoption will almost always involve opening up about your home and your past, as caseworkers and guardians ad litem appointed by the court check to make sure you’ll be able to create a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment for the child.
Broadly speaking, adopting through DCFS or a private agency will include completing a thorough background check. This includes a CANTS background check, which ensures that the adoptive parents have never been subject to an investigation by the DCFS. In addition, a home study will be conducted in most circumstances, in order to help establish the suitability of the adoption and confirm that all requirements have been met.
If you are not comfortable with individuals and agencies evaluating your home, your finances, your arrest record, your employment history, and other sensitive and personal aspects of your background, then adoption may not be a practical path for you.
6.) “Have I Factored in the Financial Side of Adopting?”
When thinking about adopting a child, it’s important to factor in the financial commitment involved. Raising a child can be expensive, as you provide shelter, food, clothing, positive experiences, healthcare, and a complete education. If you are not financially stable enough to comfortably provide for a child for years to come, adoption may not be the best option for you.
With adoption specifically, it’s also important to consider the costs involved in every step of the process. Unfortunately, adoption can be costly in some cases — particularly when adopting through a private agency or participating in a non-agency adoption, in which you may pay for legal fees, medical expenses, and living expenses incurred during the pregnancy and birth of the child.
With that being said, there are certainly resources and avenues available to help mitigate some of the expenses involved. For example, DCFS may help reimburse some costs associated with fostering and adopting, including attorney fees and court costs, if necessary. Foster parents may also be eligible to receive financial benefits, based on the age and needs of the child or children. Adoptive parents may also be eligible for certain subsidies, along with additional support services from local resources, such as the Illinois Foster & Adoptive Parent Association and Partners Available to Help (PATH) After Adoption.
7.) “Who Can Help Me Navigate This Process?”
Adoption is a profound act of love and generosity — but it can also be challenging, confusing, and, at times, difficult to understand. Fortunately, you do not have to go through this complicated journey alone.
Don’t hesitate to talk with friends and family, who can help give you emotional support as you move through the adoption process. You may also look into local support groups and resources for adoptive parents in your area.
Finally, remember that adoption will involve many legal steps and procedures. Working with an experienced attorney can help you understand the ins and outs of the process, at every step of the way.
An adoption attorney with experience in your area can help make things go more smoothly. A legal professional can facilitate adherence to all of the rules, procedures, orders and laws involved with adopting a child in the Chicago area. Should complications arise at any point, your lawyer can be an indispensable partner, ready to step in and help make things right.
Have Any More Questions About Adopting a Child In Illinois?
Curious about what goes into the Illinois adoption process? Ready to learn more about how you can begin your personal journey toward adoption? We are here to help give you confidence and peace of mind, from beginning to end.
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. Don’t hesitate to contact us to begin the conversation.