In this article, we review the ten different adoption choices available under the Illinois Adoption Act. Adoption, for any reason, is a selfless act that will no doubt require some sacrifice but also has the capacity to bring great joy. It’s important to understand the different stipulations between each type of adoption as they will determine which route is the best for your situation. Our qualified attorneys can help guide you through the adoption process and figure out what is the best option for your growing family.
In related adoptions, one or both of the adoptive parents are already related to the child. One of the most common types of related adoptions is the stepparent adoption. In this scenario, both the parent and the stepparent must petition and the new spouse of the biological parent becomes the legal parent of the child. Other examples include when at least one of the adoptive parents is the child’s biological brother, sister, grandparent, stepbrother, stepsister, etc. This type of adoption should be straightforward, but there are a number of issues that commonly arise:
The attorney will review the child’s birth certificate, marriage license of the petitioners (if applicable), any dissolution orders, and custody orders related to the child. The point is to confirm the petitioning parents can legally adopt a child in Illinois. The attorney will also review the petitioner’s employment, residence, and criminal history.
Adult options involve the petitioners legally adopting a “child” over the age of 18. The adult child must consent to his or her own adoption. The biological parents of the adult child will not receive legal notification because their consent is not required. If the petitioning parents are not related to the adult child then he or she must have lived with the petitioning parents for a minimum of two years. An investigation is still required for non-related adult adoption, but it is usually minimal.
In an agency adoption, the biological parents surrender their legal parental rights to a child welfare agency, which then places the child with adoptive parents already screened by the agency and eligible as preadoptive foster parents. There are two types of agency adoption processes.
Some of the benefits of agency-assisted adoption include the agency paying for the medical, living and other expenses of the biological parents without a court order, the agency providing counseling to the birth parents, being able to take a surrender outside of court, and placing a newborn child with the adoptive parents within 72 hours or less after the birth of the child, as long as the biological mother has signed the proper paperwork. The attorney involved in this case will mainly need to be in communication with the adoption agency after the placement of the child in the adoptive parent’s home.
A private adoption involves the biological parents placing their child for adoption directly with the non-related adoptive parents. In this type of adoption, there is no adoption agency involved and the attorney will bear the brunt of the work. The attorney will be the main means of communication between the adoptive and biological parents. The attorney can only represent one party and it’s very important that this point be clear to both parties involved. There are different fees associated with private adoptions for both the attorney and related to the mother’s well-being before and after birth.
Typically, payment for “reasonable living expenses” for up to 120 days before the birth of the child are customary and for 60 days after the birth of the child. A gift of $200 is also required for the birth mother or biological parents. Payments and fees may also include attorney fees for the biological parents. The attorney will handle all the paperwork and timely filing of the necessary documents.
As the name implies, intercountry adoption is the legal process by which a child born in a foreign country becomes the legal child of US parents. The adoptive parents must comply with the adoption laws of the child’s country of origin, the United States and the State of Illinois. A home study must be done by a licensed child welfare agency and the adoptive parents must be approved before the adoption process can begin. Since 2008 the US has been a “Convention country” with regards to intercountry adoption, meaning the US follows the Hague Convention, which is designed to make sure the adoption is done in the best interest of the child and to decrease the occurrence of child abuse, child trafficking, etc.
Even before the parents can be considered for a home study they must submit the proper application and an investigation must be done. The intercountry adoption process can be lengthy and involves a number of legal milestones. However, with the help and guidance from the adoption agency and a good adoption attorney the process should proceed smoothly.
Children whose biological parents had their parental rights terminated under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 become available for adoption. Often, these children have been abused, neglected, or exposed to drugs on a regular basis. The court handles appointing a guardian with the power to consent to an adoption. The guardian can be a private person, but in most cases is the DCFS Guardianship Administrator. If another person(s) is petitioning for a DCFS adoption the guardian must consent to the adoption, or refuse under the grounds that they intend to legally adopt the child.
The attorney will collect all the necessary documentation for the adoption process. A DCFS adoption usually moves quickly as the child is already living in foster care.
Co-Parent Adoptions, also known as “Second-Parent Adoptions” are when two unmarried individuals become the legal parents of a child. In a large majority of these cases, one of the petitioners is already the parent or related to the child. Parties in a civil union will be treated as a married couple. Not all counties in Illinois will authorize a co-parent adoption and those interested in this adoption option should strongly consider filing in the Cook County court. If one petitioner is already related to the child then the adoption will proceed normally as a “related adoption.”
A standby adoption is when the current biological parent of a child allows the future adoption of the child contingent on a future event such as death, illness or some other event specified. This type of adoption is often seen in elderly patients or terminally ill patients with an underage child.
These are adoptions when the adoptive parent(s) live in a different state from the child. These adoptions follow the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children Act in an effort to enact uniform procedures across the US and to place the child in the best situation. This act also exists to regulate the state to state movement of adopted children and to decrease the occurrence of child trafficking. Generally, Illinois law recognizes the consent of the biological parents and child in the state in which they reside.
There are some states that allow the biological parents to sign Illinois consent documents and at times this can be advantageous if the other state has more stringent laws. In Illinois, the adoptive parents will file their paperwork here but can file their paperwork in the adoptive child’s state if that state has no residency requirements and it would be advantageous to do so. Interstate adoptions can be cumbersome and if both states have adoption agencies involved in the process it will pose fewer problems. Adoptive parents should seek the guidance of a qualified adoption attorney depending on their situations, as some states prohibit private adoption across state lines.
Every adoption situation is unique and navigating the often complex process of adoption can be difficult without proper guidance. Whether you’re working with an adoption agency or not, having a knowledgeable and competent adoption attorney is key to a smooth adoption process.
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O'Flaherty Law is happy to meet with you by phone or at our office locations in: