ARE YOU A CURRENT FOSTER PARENT SEEKING AN ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR ADOPTION?
If so, I would love to assist you!
As a former foster parent, and having adopted through DCFS myself, I can appreciate what it took to get you to the point of finally hearing DCFS say they are ready to get moving on your child's adoption!
Beyond my personal experience, for over 21 years I have devoted the majority of my law practice to adoption law.
Additionally, my prior employment uniquely qualifies me to represent foster parents in negotiating their adoption subsidies. Prior to receiving my law degree I was employed as an adoption specialist for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In this capacity I monitored, assisted, trained, and educated private agencies on the adoption process and the drafting of adoption subsidies.
After graduating from law school, I was an attorney for the Department of Children and Family Services, where I advised private agency workers, DCFS workers, and other DCFS attorneys on adoption assistance agreements, the grounds for terminating parental rights, and the adoption process.
I am a member and past chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Adoption Law Committee and a member of the america Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
I look forward to your call and the opportunity to represent you in the adoption your foster child!
Considering adopting through Foster Care in Illinois?
FOSTER CARE ADOPTION
Being a foster parent can be a very heart opening and rewarding experience where you have an opportunity to make an incredible difference in the life of a child. Many people are afraid to adopt through foster care because of the heartache that may come should a child be returned to their birth family. While this is a valid fear and something every family must consider, it is my hope that that more parents will reach out and take a chance to enrich the life of a child and ultimately enrich their own family life as well.
There are many wonderful children that become available for adoption through the foster care system but what does it mean to pursue adoption through the foster care system?
Legal RISK Placement
When you endeavor to adopt a child through the foster care system, generally speaking there are 2 possible roads to take: The first road, and the far more traveled one, involves “legal risk placements”. The second road "Legally Free" placements is addressed further below.
The phrase “legal risk placement” refers to children whom DCFS believes are likely to become eligible for adoption. Here, the biological parents’ parental rights are in the process of being terminated or DCFS believes there is a high probability that parental rights will be terminated in the near future. So prospective adoptive parents accept placement understanding their is a risk that the child may not become eligible to adopt.
PLACEMENT Risk Examples of why DCFS believes the child may become eligible for adoption
A birth parent has indicated that they plan to sign a consent to the adoption;
A child has been abandoned;
The child is a sibling to other children that have entered into the system and parents have a pattern of failing to cooperate with services which has led to the adoption of previous siblings
Birth parents have not cooperated with services and DCFS is preparing this child’s case for termination of parental rights.
New and improved legislation is supposed to prevent children from languishing in foster care and help the children move through the DCFS system faster by finding a permanent home sooner. When a child first enters the foster care system, a caseworker’s first duty is to offer services to the birth parents and attempt to reunify the family. However, if a child is not able to be reunified with their family, the next preferred goal for a child is adoption. As a result of the legislative changes, caseworkers have a duty to do concurrent planning for the children that enter foster care. This means that at a very early stage workers are encouraged to place children in foster placements that may also be able to offer permanency to a child if the birth parents cannot or will not comply with services.
Usually when custody is taken of a child DCFS explores placement options for the child in the following order:
Placement with siblings, if they are in foster care;
Placement with relatives;
Placement in a non-relative foster home
FOSTER PARENTING BENEFITS
The benefit of becoming a foster parent who wants to adopt is, once the child has resided with you for more than one year, if the child becomes eligible for adoption, you would be given preference and first consideration over all other applicants. Although this is not an absolute guarantee, since the court will always make the final decision about what is in the child’s best interest, this is true for the vast majority of cases.
So, foster parents who are interested in adopting a baby will almost always need to proceed with a legal risk placement. Of course, if you are interested in adoption and are taking this road you should make sure your caseworker is aware of this. Be up front about your intentions and desires to adopt a child during the licensing process. You can request a child that appears to have a greater likelihood of becoming eligible for adoption BUT you must understand and support the idea that the child may be returned home.
LEGAL RISK PLACEMENT
Legally Free for Adoption
The second road to adopting a child in foster care involves children who have been “legally freed for adoption”. “Legally free for adoption” refers to children whose biological parents have already had their parental rights terminated and are therefore free to be adopted. The number of children who are legally freed for adoption and are now waiting to find an adoptive home represent a small number of the children who are going to be adopted in a given year. The primary reason for this is that, as a child is becoming legally freed, the child’s current foster parent(s) often choose to adopt them. More specifically, as a child moves toward adoption, the caseworker will consider these adoptive placements first: The current foster home (especially if placed in home for over 1 year); Sibling foster placements or foster parents who adopted biological siblings; Relatives; Other foster parents who are interested in adopting within their agency. Usually a caseworker will be able to find an adoptive placement for a child in the above categories, if not, then they will list the child for adoption with the Adoption Information Center of Illinois (AICI).
Children Looking for Adoptive Placements
In Illinois, waiting children are listed with Adoption Information Center of Illinois (AICI). For more detailed information visit the Adoption Information Center of Illinois (AICI) website at adoptinfo-il.org or call them at 1-800-624-KIDS. For a more comprehensive list of children, waiting not only in Illinois but in several other states as well, the website http://adoptuskids.org is a great resource. It is generally recommended that you obtain your foster parent license prior to inquiring about a specific child. This makes good sense because if you go online and find a child you would like to be considered for and then begin your licensing process, there is a good chance that the child will already be placed prior to your completing your license. Additionally, when you are already licensed, the caseworker is more likely to be receptive to your inquiries as they will know you are really serious about adopting.
How do I Become a Licensed Foster Parent?
Here is a very general overview of what is involved:
Call the Adoption Information Center of Illinois (AICI) at 1-800-624-KIDS to be assigned to an agency near you.
The next step is for you to fill out an application, which includes attaching references, financial information, physical exams and getting finger printed.
Your agency will come out and check out your home and review your application. You need to have appropriate sleeping areas for the child and be financially secure enough to take care of your family plus the foster child.
Once this is established, you will need to sign up for foster parenting classes. Foster parents are required to attend 30 hours of foster parenting classes. Despite what many people think, these classes are not focused on teaching you how to be a parent. The focus of these classes is on how the DCFS system works, the perspective of a foster child and why, in many ways, parenting a foster child may differ from a child you have parented since birth.
Once the classes are completed, or nearing an end, your agency will begin a homestudy. A homestudy consists of interviews with every member of your family residing in your household. When finished, a homestudy will tell a story about your family and each member’s background. Through these interviews and discussions your agency should also be assisting you in identifying the type of child you are willing and able to parent.
How long does it take to become Licensed?
AICI states that it takes about three to six months from the time an application is completed until the licensing and training process is complete. I believe the six-month time frame is more realistic. If, however, you are planning to become a “specialized” foster parent (open to adopting a child with more specialized needs) the licensing process may be a little longer due to the additional training in medical services and behavior management that is required.
After Licensing, how long before a child is placed?
This time varies widely and can be influenced by many different factors. The most important factor is how flexible you are regarding the type of child you are willing and able to parent. The more specific you are about the type of child you are willing to parent the longer you may have to wait before a match is made. Equally important in making a placement is the type of home that is recommended for the child. Child welfare specialists often have an idea of what kind of home would result in the best match for a child. They may recommend that the child be placed in a home with no other children or believe that a home with other children is best, they may believe the child would be better off in a home if they were the youngest or the oldest, etc. The primary focus in finding an adoptive placement for the child will always be choosing a home that is in the best interest of the child. Of course another significant factor is luck and the saying “timing is everything” holds true here as well.
After placement when can the child be adopted?
The minimum amount of time the law requires that a child be in a non-relative adoptive placement before completing an adoption is six months. DCFS will also want to supervise the placement to be sure everyone is adjusting properly before consenting to the adoption. This time can also be affected by how long it takes to complete an adoption subsidy. Every situation is so different it is hard to give precise time frames. That being said, the earliest time frame would probably be 9 months to 12 months after placement. If the child has already been in your home longer than six months when parental rights are terminated, it is possible to finalize an adoption 3 to 9 months later. Again these time frames will vary wildly depending on the ability of your caseworker to complete the necessary adoption subsidy and paperwork.
Costs involved in Adopting a Foster Child.
Most of the children in foster care in Illinois will be eligible to receive an adoption subsidy. An adoption subsidy is a contract between the adoptive parents and DCFS in which DCFS agrees to pay for certain things after an adoption is complete. Each subsidy includes the legal fees and court costs paid for the adoption ($1,500. Cap), a monthly payment equal to your foster care payment until the child reaches age 18 and a medical card until age 18. Additionally the subsidy may include other services that the child may need such as counseling and physical therapies. Lastly, parents adopting a child whom DCFS has determined to be special needs, may be eligible to receive the adoption tax credit of $14,080.00 even if they do not have any qualifying adoption expenses.