Adoption is much more than just a legal process — it is a profound and joyous way to add a new member to the family. Unfortunately, those considering placing their child for adoption or adopting a child can often be bombarded with misinformation that can make the process seem risky, daunting, or nearly impossible. However, the reality is something quite different, and understanding the reality of adoption can help to make the process less confusing. It can help to dispel some common myths and misconceptions about adoption in Illinois.
Myth: Adoption Isn’t Very Common
Nearly 60 percent of Americans have some close personal experience of adoption – meaning they themselves were adopted, or they, a close friend, or family member, have adopted, been adopted, or placed a child for adoption. And most of those adoptions are domestic. In total, about 20,000 American-born infants are placed up for adoption each year — more than the annual total of international adoptions.
In total, about one out of every 25 U.S. families with children has an adopted child, and about 2% of the child population is adopted, accounting for about 1.8 million adopted children. While adoption does not touch every family, chances are that most people in the U.S. know someone whose life has been changed by adoption.
Myth: It Is Impossible To Adopt A Foster Child
Families hoping to adopt through DCFS must first be qualified as foster parents through the agency, a process requiring a home visit, training, and licensing. Once this process has been completed, foster children can be placed in the home. Not all children will become available for adoption — the goal of DCFS is generally family reunification whenever possible and in the best interests of the child. However, children placed through the system are able to be adopted when a court determines that termination of a biological parent’s parental rights is in the best interests of the child.
Foster parenting can be a rewarding way for families to contribute to the well-being of children in the foster system. What is more, adoption through DCFS can be a way for families who are not wealthy to add to their families through adoption. Foster adoption can be virtually free. Among the resources available to families who adopt through the foster care system are:
- Reimbursement for costs associated with the adoption or guardianship, such as attorney fees and court costs;
- Continued support of the child’s basic needs like food and clothing through monthly adoption subsidies;
- Supplemental assistance with health care needs through enrollment in Medicaid;
- Support groups, counseling, ongoing training;
- Counseling services for the family and child, if needed; and
- Therapeutic day care.
Myth: Adoption Is Risky
Many potential adoptive parents are reluctant to undertake the process because they believe that adoption is risky — that their adopted child will not fit in with the family, or that a child’s birth parents can make a claim to get an adopted child back at any time.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Although movies and television usually paint a more dramatic picture, the actual experience of adoptive families is very different. Further, once an adoption has been finalized, there is little to no legal risk that a biological parent will return to make a claim for an adopted child.
Myth: Most Birth Parents Don’t Have Contact With The Children They Place For Adoption
Although in past years, most adoptions were closed, meaning children had no contact with their birth parents, this is no longer the case. Today, approximately 95% of domestic adoptions are open, and the adoptive family and birth parents have some level of communication. The level of communication is decided by the adoptive and birth parents, often by working with a representative of the agency that facilitated the adoption or working through private attorneys.
Open adoptions can help both birth parents and adoptive families avoid some of the most common fears associated with adoption. These fears can include the fear that adopted children will be traumatized by the “discovery” that they have been adopted, or that curiosity about a child’s birth parents will lead them to become alienated from their adoptive family. With an open adoption, there is no opportunity for “discovery” of the adoption, because the child is aware of their history in a way thoughtfully contemplated by both parent(s) and adoptive parent(s).
Myth: I Won’t Qualify To Adopt A Child
Many people are discouraged by the common misconception that it is difficult to qualify as an adoptive parent. Conventional wisdom may dictate that single people, LGBTQ+ couples, those who aren’t wealthy or don’t own their own home, or those who are older will not qualify according to the rigorous standards placed on adoptive parents.
However, this is not the case. In reality, the Illinois Adoption Act defines who may adopt a child under state law broadly. Anyone who is “a reputable person of legal age and of either sex” who has resided in the state may institute an adoption proceeding. The residency requirement may be waived in the case of family member adoption, and courts maintain discretion to waive the “legal age” condition if good cause is shown for the adoption.
Generally, in order to adopt, the person may be under “no legal disability,” and may be single, married, or in a civil union. LGBTQ+ individuals and couples have been eligible to adopt in Illinois since 1995, when an appellate court ruling determined that the language used in the law applied to same-sex couples.
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.