Most international and some domestic adoptions are agency adoptions. In an agency adoption, after the birth of the child, the birth mother signs legal documents giving the right to place the child for adoption to a licensed adoption agency. This agency may be in Illinois, in another state, or in a foreign country. The agency then is legally in charge of the child until the adoptive parents and the attorney go to court to complete the adoption.
A traditional agency adoption is the process by which the birth parents of a child surrender their parental rights to a licensed child welfare agency, which in turn places the child with the adoptive parents. The prospective adoptive parents will first undergo a home study, and their home must be licensed under the standards set by the State of Illinois for foster homes. When a birth mother and father select the couple as the adoptive parents for their child, they usually meet each before the birth and plan together for the adoption. Occasionally, there will be no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents prior to the child’s birth, but this is not typical. The child and the adoptive parents are usually not related. For approximately six months after the adoptive parents have been given custody of the child, the agency supervises the placement and prepares a report of investigation, and then submits that report with its recommendation to the court.
More common today than traditional agency adoptions are so-called “agency-assisted” or “identified” adoption programs, whereby the adoptive parents, themselves, locate a pregnant woman who chooses the adoptive parents to adopt her unborn child. Normally, the fees are significantly less than in a traditional agency placement. Agency-assisted adoptions offer a number of advantages over private adoptions, including the ability of the agency to pay for the medical, living, and other expenses on behalf of the biological parents without a court order, and to provide counseling and other services to the birth parents. Also, an agency surrender is not required to take place at the courthouse, and is usually witnessed by an agency social worker who has developed a rapport with the birth parents, rather than by a judge. The baby can be discharged from the hospital directly to the adoptive parents as licensed foster parents, pursuant to the birth mother’s execution of a temporary foster care agreement with the agency.
In domestic agency adoptions, the agency can set criteria which the adoptive parents have to meet. For example, an agency’s policy may be that adoptive parents must be a certain age or a specific religion, have been married for a certain length of time, or have stopped infertility treatments before they may adopt from that agency.
In international adoptions, each foreign country has its own criteria for adoptive parents, so check carefully to make sure you meet that country’s requirements before you begin an adoption program. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also restricts what type of children may be brought into the United States by adoptive parents. In Illinois, the USCIS requires more work of adoptive parents in the adoption study process and that the adoption study be in a specific form.