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How Do You Pick a Lawyer for Your Adoption?

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Do a Google search for "Peoria IL Adoption Attorney" (we certainly have). Perhaps that's how you found your way here. There's a lot of results, right? And not being in the business of law

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Do a Google search for "Peoria IL Adoption Attorney" (we certainly have). Perhaps that's how you found your way here. There's a lot of results, right? And not being in the business of law every day, it's probably hard to filter who's who in that list of results. We all go through this process in some way, whether it's hiring a roofer or finding the best ortho doctor - you want to make sure your roof won't end up leaking, or that your wrist regains full range of motion. You don't know one attorney from another, but you know that some (such as the attorneys themselves) probably do. When we're talking about adoption, the stakes are big: this isn't about patching a leaky roof; it can be about having to lose a child because the adopt falls through.

We want you to get the decision of hiring a lawyer right just as much as you do. To us, adoption law can easily cause impostors that don't regularly do adoptions to stick out like a sore thumb. For example, it's because they have websites that talk about their adoption services in clumsy or potentially inaccurate ways. Let's take an example of a high-ranking local search result's web page on adoption (we're not going to name anybody, and this is for illustration only), which we've snipped and pasted below:

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Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? Maybe not. Let us help.

First, to be picky, the adoption industry usually talks about local "agencies" or international "agencies" rather than a "service." Really though, if you're screening a lawyer for handling your adoption, try asking them to name off the top of their head each of the main local agencies, or better yet, the main adoption workers that they employ. If they blank on these questions, then they aren't regulars.

Second, any attorney who represents you in your adoption is going to be required by law to attend court with you. The question (for an attorney) is what court hearings are involved? The procedure, type, and number of hearings can vary depending upon the type of adoption. So can they readily explain to you each step and each court appearance that will happen in your case, and how your testimony will go?

Third, and we're going in order of their list, they will communicate with adoption agencies on your behalf. OK, that's fair. But typically the adoption agency MUST speak with you and only you directly, because in private adoptions (domestic or international) they must do a home study and supervise the placement of the child for about 6 months. An attorney can't handle this for you, by design, because it's an intimate and focused study of you, your home, values, background, and other aspects. The agencies, by the way, have a lot of really nice people - not scary at all! And if you're doing a foster adoption, then the attorney will speak with agencies on your behalf about how state subsidy documents should be typed- but only two attorneys locally are currently licensed by DCFS to do this work. So really, there's not a lot of communication with agencies on your behalf that will occur; why, then, is this listed as a service?

Fourth, and maybe most important, they claim to "negotiate fair terms with biological parents and prepare adoption agreements." Uh oh. They may have just violated Illinois state law. In a private adoption, under Illinois law there can be no promises, things of value, or agreements in exchange for biological parents' consent - period. We get these requests all the time from birth parents, and the difficulty comes not in achieving agreements but rather avoiding them while still completing the adoption. To do so can mean the consent - and thus the adoption - is unstable and can come undone. Other states in the USA do allow post-adoption contact agreements, which makes us wonder if this page copied someone else's website that is in another state.

Last but not least, they claim to make sure the international process "runs as smoothly as possible" and will arrange proper immigration. Is this typical in international adoption?

Don't take our word for it. From the Illinois Continuing Legal Education Guide on international adoptions, it is said: "A prospective adoptive parent may consult an attorney for information on how the intercountry adoption process works, differences from domestic adoption, and referrals to agency resources, but it is rare for an attorney to be involved any further until the adoptive parent returns home with the child." It's fair to say that the great majority of international adoptions occur through the assistance of an agency skilled and accredited for international adoption - and usually one studiously in tune with particular countries and individual country requirements, which can vary widely from country-to-country. The number of agency-assisted international adoptions is indicated indirectly, for example, through the number of foreign-born orphan visas from the US Department of State. The number peaked in 2004 at 22,990 but fell to 12,753 in 2009. Reasons for the recent dramatic decrease in intercountry adoption are attributed to many countries scaling back or closing their foreign adoption programs (as we noted HERE-Click in our blog post for 2015 updates), increases in overall cost, and additional red tape (which we've also discussed in the past HERE). The Chicago Tribune discussed these numbers, their decline, and the red tape in this article HERE (Click).

Long story short: (1) international adoptions are becoming expensive and uncommon; (2) when they occur, you typically won't need to figure out immigration issues; (3) and this is because skilled international agencies (such as Lifelink) have completed much of the work, which includes guiding the adoptive couple through State Department channels for visas. The children who typically come in on orphan visas do not then have any immigration issues to worry about.

CONCLUSIONS

We've taken one webpage (keeping it anonymous) and made it our whipping boy. We're not trying to pick on anyone, but now that you see our perspective, do you feel comfortable hiring that business? Would you have before reading this post? Locally there are a number of firms that practice in family law that do pick up a stepparent or relative adoption here and there. They may not know every nuance of the Adoption Act, but as long as the case has no surprises, they can coast to the finish. Even so, we would guess that they would blank on one or more of the questions above that can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Maybe it's just us, but we like knowing the roof won't leak when it rains.

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