Exciting Illinois Adoption Updates

An Unforgettable Adoption Day

To kickoff the Chicago Adoption Day festivities on Friday, November 18, 2022, Greenlight Family Services’ CEO Dr. Maria Nanos LCSW, Phd, joined Chief Judge Timothy Evans and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as they made an exciting announcement. As of November 15, 2022, Cook County has lowered its filing fee for adoptions from $265 to $89. By lowering the fees for adoption, legal adoption becomes more accessible for any family willing to open their hearts and their homes to Illinois youth in care.

From 2014 to 2021, Cook County experienced a 42% drop in adoption filings. Appellate Court Justice Sanjay Tailor, who assisted in drafting the legislation for the lowered fees, says he anticipates the removal of this financial barrier will increase adoption cases in Cook County. This means more youth finding forever families!

As of Dec 2022, there are over 20,000 youth in foster care waiting to be adopted. The national observance of Adoption Day brings awareness to this growing issue and hope to the children in need. Greenlight was proud to co-sponsor Chicago’s Adoption Day celebration at the Richard J. Daley Center. Six forever families finalized their adoptions and each child, along with their new siblings, took home a Greenlight gift bag full of goodies in celebration of this joyous occasion.

CEO Maria Nanos speaking into microphones in front of several news cameras

“So you’re officially a soccer mom” says teen Danesha to her newly adoptive mother Julissa Green. Greenlight’s own Director of Legal Services, Karin Carli JD, supported Danesha and Julissa on their seven-year journey to legal adoption. Karin stood alongside the mother and daughter as the Judge asked, “Is it your intention to stay together and be a forever family?” and with an enthusiastic “Yes!” in response, the adoption was complete and the courtroom filled with clapping and cheering.

There are many pathways to permanency. Greenlight works with each family to decide on which option is best for them.

Greenlight Adoption Services

Last year, Greenlight served nearly 3,000 families in Illinois with more than 35,000 hours of adoption services. We assist with many types of adoption for a variety of circumstances. Whether someone is a grandparent caring for their grandchild, a partner in an LGBTQ+ relationship, or a step-parent seeking parental rights, Greenlight’s adoption services provide permanency options for all Illinois residents.

Adoption Listing Service of Illinois

Greenlight runs the Adoption Listing Service, called the Heart Gallery, for the entire State of Illinois. The gallery includes a picture of each child available for adoption along with their interests, strengths, hopes, and dreams. It can be filtered by individual child or sibling groups, gender, and an age range. Every child within has experienced some level of loss and trauma, and many struggle with behavioral and emotional challenges and have special needs. Like any child, the youth in the Heart Gallery need to feel safe, loved, and accepted. 

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids

Greenlight’s amazing team of Family Development Specialists are hard at work recruiting prospective adoptive parents and matching them with youth in need of a forever home. With our partnership with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) program, we provide adoption services for Illinois youth who are often overlooked, such as teens, sibling groups, and children with special needs. Our WWK Recruiters have smaller caseloads to allow the focus and attention required to achieve permanency, the best outcome, for each child.

Relative & Non-Relative Adoption

This type of adoption is for families interested in adopting a child who is currently in their care. Whether the caregiver is a grandparent raising their grandchild, a relative raising a younger relative, or a friend of the family raising a friend’s child, Greenlight offers information and services for caregivers who are considering adoption. Regardless of blood-relation with the child in their care, adoption may be an option for a caregiver if they have taken over primary responsibility of sheltering the child, financially providing for the child, and providing for the child’s health and education.

Second Parent Adoption

Greenlight believes that family is everything. Each family looks different, loves differently, and came to be in different ways. One thing all families have in common is the need to be legally protected as a family. Greenlight is proud to provide LGBTQ+ adoption legal services. 

Within the LGBTQ+ community, it is often in the parents’ best interests to pursue a second parent adoption for their child(ren). While both parents are most likely already providing care and parenting the child(ren), oftentimes only one parent has legal parental rights even if both names occur on the birth certificate. a second parent adoption will formally recognize the second parent legally with all the same parental rights as the birth parent. With the birth parent’s consent, second parent adoption gives the adoptive parent the same rights and responsibilities to make decisions regarding the children’s safety and well-being forever.

While it may not sound consequential to become legally recognized as a family, it becomes exceptionally important when traumatic events occur in a family. Without being legally recognized as a parent, the second parent does not have any more legal rights than a stranger would, regardless of how long the parent has been living with and caring for that child. Completing a second parent adoption through Greenlight legal services protects the family and allows them to focus on their loved ones rather than a custody battle. Second parent adoption protects everyone involved if events such as sickness, death, separation or divorce occur. It allows parents to continue providing care and making important decisions for their children.

Step-Parent Adoption

Greenlight provides step-parent adoption services for individuals who have entered a marriage with a spouse who has children from a previous relationship. Adoption can be a way of formalizing their bond with their stepchild(ren). Through adoption, the step-parent accepts full responsibility for the child(ren). Adoption allows the stepparent to make legal decisions in regards to the medical, educational, and physical needs of the child(ren). It also establishes inheritance rights, making it possible for the child(ren) to inherit from their step-parent.

There are factors that each family must consider before deciding to move forward with an adoption through Greenlight legal services:

  • The stepparent must have a legal bond with the custodial parent (the parent who has full custody of the child). This legal connection is most often established through marriage. Unmarried couples who have not established a legal bond in some other way (through a civil union, for example), will not be able to complete the step-parent adoption.
  • The noncustodial parent (the parent who does not have legal custody and usually does not live with the child) will no longer have any rights or responsibilities to the child. This means that if the noncustodial parent provided assistance through child support or gifts, they will no longer be required to continue providing assistance once the step-parent adoption has been completed. Assistance can continue through a private agreement between the parties, but the noncustodial parent is not legally required to continue supporting the child once their parental rights have been terminated.
  • A stepchild who is age 14 or older must consent to the adoption.
  • The noncustodial parent must voluntarily consent to the adoption, knowing that once the adoption is complete their parental rights will be terminated. If consent cannot be obtained, such rights may be terminated by a finding of the court.

Standby Adoption

The death or incapacitation of a parent can leave a family devastated and too often it is the children who face the most uncertainty as their futures are decided by others.

Parents will sometimes try to plan ahead by providing instructions for the care of their child in a legal will. However, what many families and some attorneys do not realize is that a legal will is not enough. Because a child is not property, he or she cannot be willed to a person of the parent’s choosing. This sometimes leads to custody battles among relatives, or with the child entering the foster care system if no one steps forward to take them in.

A standby adoption provided by Greenlight legal services allows the parent to choose who will care for their child in the event of death or incapacitation. It is a legal process that allows the standby parent to easily gain legal custody of the child if the need arises.

Adult Adoption

Although not as common as adopting a minor, it is possible to adopt an adult who is aged 18 or older through Greenlight Family Services.

There are many reasons an individual or couple might consider adopting an adult. Sometimes a stepparent who did not adopt their spouse’s child while the child was a minor may want to formalize their relationship as that child’s parent. Sometimes an individual or couple who had guardianship of an adult when the adult was a child decides to adopt in order to provide the adult with inheritance rights. Whatever the reason, Greenlight legal services can provide a free consultation and walk the family through the process of adoption.

Legal Guardianship

Guardianship is an appropriate alternative to adoption for many. With guardianship, a caregiver can make decisions for the child in their care without terminating the rights of the biological parents. 

Greenlight believes that guardianship is ideal in situations where the caregiver hopes to eventually return the child to their parents, or in situations where the parents are unwilling to have their rights terminated. Guardianship allows the caregiver to make legal, medical, educational, and financial decisions for the child or adult in their care.

After becoming the legal guardian through Greenlight legal services, the caregiver will have an easier time:

  • Retaining custody
  • Enrolling the child in school if the caregiver is seeking guardianship of a minor
  • Consenting to medical treatment the child may need
  • Applying for public benefits the child may be eligible to receive
  • Making financial decisions if the caregiver is seeking guardianship of a disabled adult
  • Regulating visits with the biologic parent(s)

Adoption or guardianship is a big step for any family, and Greenlight is here to help. We are committed to achieving a permanent family for every child in Illinois. 

Available Services

For a free consultation, contact Greenlight at 773-728-7800 or 800-572-2390 or email info@greenlightfamilyservices.org. Prospective parents can follow the Heart Gallery of Illinois on Facebook.