An adoption journey can take many forms, but this post will discuss some of the most common routes at a high level. In future posts, I will go in-depth on each type of adoption to better prepare those who are exploring their options.
Agency Adoptions: An agency will assist in pairing unrelated children with prospective adoptive parents. The agency will coordinate a home study and provide prospective parent training, counseling to adoptive and birth parents, and post-adoption support. They will help guide you through the adoption process from your initial interest to finalization and beyond.
DCFS Adoptions: This situation is also commonly referred to as Foster-Parent Adoption. Adopting a child through DCFS means that this child was the subject of child abuse or neglect and parental rights were terminated during a Juvenile Court proceeding. In less frequent situations the child may be a part of the foster system due to parental death with no alternative caretakers available.
Related Adoptions: Adopting a child that is related through blood or marriage/civil union is considered a relative adoption. Most commonly, this is a step-parent adopting their spouse’s child, a grandparent adopting their grandchildren, or a same-sex couple where one parent is biologically related to the child.
For same sex adoptions where conception was assisted by a donor, the court process is more streamlined and generally takes less time. For other relative adoptions, whether the biological parents are willing to consent or must have rights terminated by the court will determine the time and court costs.
Independent Adoptions: Independent Adoption is the term used to describe an adoption where the adoptive parents are not related to the child through blood or marriage and there is no agency involved. This can either be a situation where the biological parents know the adoptive parents and ask them to adopt or could be less direct, such as in situations where someone advertises that they are seeking to adopt. Although these adoptions can go smoothly, there are more risks and considerations than agency-assisted adoptions.
International Adoptions: The process of adopting a child from another country depends on both the child’s origin country and whether the child is considered an “orphan.” US immigration laws, the Hauge Convention, and state laws all interact to govern this complex process. This process does not always involve an agency, but is generally less risky with a Hauge Certified International Adoption Agency. Often, even if an adoption if finalized in another country, the child must be re-adopted in Illinois depending on the type of visa the child has.
How you envision your future family: Often, a family vision drives the route a prospective parent chooses. Agencies generally match birth parents with prospective parents prior to a baby’s birth, meaning that you are more likely to adopt a newborn through an agency. DCFS adoptions are generally not of newborn children and these children have often been exposed to trauma or have special needs. So, whether you are able to ensure a stable future for a special needs child or have other children in your home could impact what route is the best fit.
Cost: Each path has different financial considerations. Related adoptions and DCFS adoptions are the least expensive, followed by independent adoptions and Agency adoptions, with International adoptions being the most expensive. Adopting a special needs child can result in more long-term expenses (though subsidies may be available). These financial considerations are important when choosing what path is right for you and different options may provide opportunities for financial support.
An Agency Adoption can cost $20,000-$40,000. This cost is determined by the agency you choose and typically covers the home study, adoption education, case-worker follow up, birth parent counseling and support, and attorney fees (a very small piece of this puzzle).
Unrelated adoptions/independent adoptions also require a home study, which can cost several thousand dollars. Some organizations offer lower cost home studies based on household income.
If you are considering an adoption through DCFS, DCFS will provide a subsidy (monthly financial support) until the child reaches the age of 18 (longer in some circumstances). At the time of writing, this amount starts at $439/month and increases as the child gets older. The amount is also higher if the child has special needs. The subsidy amount is something that can be negotiated by your attorney. DCFS also pays for your attorney fee if you choose an attorney on their Panel. Our firm is a member of the approved DCFS attorney panel.
Time: Time also varies widely depending on the path. From a legal perspective, Related adoptions can be finalized in as little as 8 weeks from filing, while unrelated adoptions may take 6 months or longer. Keep in mind, this is just the court process – the placement process may be significantly longer. If you are considering adopting a child through the DCFS foster system, there are children ready for adoption and looking for the right family today. If you are interested in fostering a child that may some day be available for adoption, know the Juvenile court process can be unpredictable and it could take years before the child is available for adoption (parental rights are terminated). Placement through an agency is also unpredictable and could happen quickly or take years, as many agencies have wait lists for prospective parents.
The Role of your Attorney
No matter what route you chose, the adoption must be made official through the court system. This means that a Petition for Adoption must be filed on behalf of the adoptive parents with specific language required under the Illinois Adoption Act. The Court needs to know who the Petitioners (adoptive parents) are, who the biological parents are, whether they consented to the adoption or if their parental rights still need to be terminated by the Judge. The Court will also appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (an attorney that represents the child) and Investigator to look out for the best interests of the minor. The Adoptive parents and the child being adopted will need to appear in court to meet the judge (currently this is being done by video chat). Although this process can be done without an attorney, there are specific documents that must be filed, which can make the process and paperwork difficult to navigate. Family Forward Law, LLC will navigate this process with you to ensure that once complete, the adoption is official and your forever family can move forward. Feel free to call us at 312.529.8535 or email Tiffany@FamilyForwardLaw.com for more information on how we can help.