Children deserve to grow up in a nurturing environment, but a safe and stable home is not always a possibility with their legal parents. Foster care offers individuals and families looking to adopt the opportunity to provide a temporary solution for children and young adults in need that may lead to a permanent adoption.
Illinois Foster Care System
Foster care involves individuals and families providing a home to children who are unable to find safety, security and love in their current environment. Although beginning as a temporary solution with the goal of familial reunification, foster care can also serve as an adoption method so long as the legal parents relinquish their parental rights either voluntarily or involuntarily.
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), along with other agencies, works to find the best placements based on each individual or family’s circumstances, skills and priorities. Those who can provide safe havens for children receive support from the government including:
- Financial assistance
- Medical care for the foster child
- Education services
- Personalized support
Foster Care Adoption Requirements
In the state of Illinois, family members can adopt or become guardians of children placed in the foster care system. Additionally, individuals can become licensed foster parents through DCFS.
Prospective foster parents and families should generally prepare to complete:
- Foster care and adoption training hours
- Home inspections
- Social assessment
- Background checks of all household members
- A health screening including immunization verification
Foster Care Adoption Process
A licensed foster parent can accept a placement at any time, though not all children will be available for adoption at the time of their placement. Unlicensed individuals can also be called upon to provide temporary foster care for family members at any time.
Regardless of licensing, after a placement, DCFS will retain temporary custody of the child until the adoption process has been finalized.
Following temporary custody being granted:
- DCFS caseworkers will visit the home generally once per month to support the foster family and child.
- A caseworker will work with the foster family throughout the adoption process, which must be approved by the court and DCFS.
The timeline to adopt children in foster care varies case by case. Some children in foster care may not become available for adoption for months or even years after their initial placements. Once parental rights have been terminated, the adoption itself can take several additional months to finalize.
In the state of Illinois, DCFS will also pay for all legal services associated with the adoption process with the requirement that the foster parent selects an attorney that is part of the Statewide Illinois Adoption Attorney Panel. Adoption is a life-changing step for many families, and as such, it is important to understand every option.
For those considering foster care or adopting children already in their care, it is important to have a team of experienced attorneys to answer any questions that come up along the way.
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