Understanding The Illinois Adoption Act?

The Illinois Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/0.01 et seq.) is the law that governs adoption in Illinois. Illinois law applies whenever an adoption is to be finalized in Illinois, no matter where the child was born. The requirements for the adoption of a related child (such as a stepchild) or an adult are different than the requirements for the adoption of a child either privately or through an agency. This section will focus on private and agency adoption.

Several basic requirements must be met before a petition for adoption can be filed in Illinois. First, Illinois must have jurisdiction over the parties to the adoption. Jurisdiction is what gives the court the power to order the parties to act and to issue rulings and judgments in a case. The parties to any legal case are those people who have a legally protected interest in the case. The adopting parents and the child are always parties to an adoption. Depending on the circumstances of the adoption, others may also be parties to the adoption; the child welfare agency to whom a biological parent has previously surrendered that parent's rights to the child, the person who has taken consents to adoption from the biological parents and (in some instances) the biological parents and/or putative father of the child. The court obtains jurisdiction over parties when they are served with notice of the pending adoption.

The adoption is commenced by filing a petition to adopt with the court within 30 days of the child's birth. A petition to adopt cannot be filed until a child is legally "available" for adoption. A child is available for adoption if that child's biological parents have either surrendered that child for the purpose of adoption by placing the child in the custody of a licensed child welfare agency and that agency has consented to the adoption or if the biological parents have consented to the adoption by signing a final and irrevocable consent to adoption and placing the child with the adoptive parents. If the biological parents have already signed consents to adoption or surrendered their child to the custody of an agency, the court will enter an order terminating their rights and they are not made parties to the adoption.

The next step is for the court to enter an interim order of adoption, which gives the adoptive parents legal allocation of parental rights and responsibilities of the child during the pendency of the adoption proceeding. It takes approximately six months from the filing of the petition until a final judgment for adoption is entered.

During this time, several things will take place. The adoptive parents will have several post-placement visits with the agency and that agency will generate a report to the court. The validity of birth parents' consents to adoption will be established and the parental rights of the birth parents terminated. Putative fathers who do not establish paternity will have their rights terminated. The guardian ad litem (attorney for the child) will review the agency's reports, may perform a separate inquiry and will also make a recommendation to the court. When the court is satisfied that all of the requirements have been met and that it is in the best interest of the child, a final judgment for adoption will be entered, and a new family will be created!