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Governor Blagojevich salutes adoptive families in Illinois on National Adoption Day

November 20, 2006, 0:00 2957 www.illinois.gov

Governor’s adoption reform regarded as national model; 1,867 children adopted into loving families in Illinois in 2005

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich marked National Adoption Day today by recognizing the generosity and compassion of the many families in Illinois who have adopted a child into their home. Last year nearly 1,900 children were adopted into families throughout Illinois.

“Every child deserves a loving family and a place they can call home,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Today, we honor and thank thousands of families in Illinois who have opened their hearts and homes by adopting a child in need.”

In 2005, 1,867 adoptions were finalized in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) collaborates with the Adoption Information Center of Illinois to provide families with information on how to adopt. Families considering adoption are encouraged to call 1-800-572-2390, or to visit the Center’s website at www.adoptinfo-il.org.

The Illinois Adoption Advisory Council, an advisory body to DCFS comprised of parents, child advocates and professionals, echoed the Governor’s call. “Please join us in honoring our adoptive families in Illinois,” said the Council in its statement of support for National Adoption Day, part of National Adoption Month of November. “This is a time to celebrate the special joy and lifelong attachments that adoption brings.”

During the last four years of the Governor’s administration, DCFS has reached out to the public to engage and encourage potential foster and adoptive parents. An innovative social marketing campaign – “DON’T WRITE ME OFF – FOSTER KIDS ARE OUR KIDS” – aims to change perceptions of these often-forgotten children and youth, and challenges the public to become involved with their local community child welfare agencies. The campaign, now entering its second year and drawing notional attention, is a collaboration between DCFS, Families Support America, Voices for Illinois Children, WGN-TV, and over 70 private child welfare agencies across Illinois. Interested families can learn how to help by visiting www.fosterkidsareourkids.org, or by calling 1-888-4RKIDS2.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has also played an important role in supporting and facilitating efforts of Illinois parents who have adopted children from abroad. “Recognizing that families who want to adopt children from other countries face unusually high burdens imposed by the government of those countries, the staff at IDFPR share the Governor’s commitment to helping them,” said IDFPR Secretary Dean Martinez. “Our staff has worked with representatives in Ukraine and other former Soviet block nations to cut through the red tape required to complete adoptions of foreign babies by Illinois couples.”

Gov. Blagojevich established Illinois as a national model for adoption reform with his signing of the Illinois Adoption Reform Act on Aug. 14, 2005. To prevent instances such as the “Baby Tamia” case in Illinois, the law provides sweeping protections for families involved in the adoption process in this state, and gives DCFS broader oversight of adoption agencies. The “Baby Tamia” case brought the tactics of predatory adoption agencies to public attention: the 6 month old Chicago girl was nearly adopted by alleged drug users in Utah after her birth mother, who was suffering from post-partum depression, gave the baby to a for-profit agency doing business in Illinois through newspaper ads. A legal challenge by the baby’s grandmother resulted in a court order returning the infant to Illinois.

The Act provides basic protections for families including: a Bill of Rights for Biological Parents and Adoptive Parents; assurances that agencies disclose policies, fees, and other relevant material prior to a child’s placement in advance of adoption; and requirement that the fees agencies charge are reasonable. The law further requires all child welfare organizations providing adoption services to be 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, and bands unlicensed companies from advertising adoption services in Illinois. DCFS is also required under the law to license any entity providing adoption services for compensation, and to establish a statewide adoption complaint registry.

Illinois also extends its hand to its most vulnerable children – those newborn infants at risk of being abandoned by parents in crisis. In June of 2006, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation amending Illinois’ Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, commonly known as the Safe Haven Law, extending the time that a parent may legally and confidentially relinquish an unharmed newborn from 72 hours to 7 days after the birth. The law provides that a parent may relinquish a newborn to staff at a hospital, emergency care facility, or fire or police station without fear of prosecution. The child is then placed for adoption with a loving family. The 2006 amendment signed by the Governor gives these parents critical extra time to make a responsible decision, and strengthens Illinois’ efforts to save the lives of these babies. Since the law’s inception in 2001, 27 newborns have been safely and legally relinquished and adopted by families in Illinois.

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