November is National Adoption Awareness Month
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and its purpose is to bring awareness to the many children without a permanent home who are available to be adopted by local families. In 2016 key policy changes were accomplished at both federal and state levels. The new Act for Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veteran Affairs et. al. extends benefits for fertility treatment and adoption assistance to veterans with reduced reproductive capacity caused by injury in the line of duty. Previously these benefits were available only to active duty members of military.
According to staff of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), in 2016, there are approximately 1,000 children in care of the state that are available to be adopted. This occurs when parental rights of birth family are terminated by consent of parents or by a court decree. Of those children, between 100 and 150 are in need of an adoptive home, and some are children with siblings. Often these children have been in state care for several years while a court gives their parents opportunity to “cure conditions that led to abuse, neglect or abandonment” in order for their safe return home.
Based on recommendations from adults that personally experienced foster care during their childhood, a new policy has been initiated by DCFS to promote normal life experiences of children while they are in foster care. One such change is designation as “youth in care” rather than “foster child”. Another policy change is giving foster parents more discretion over a child’s activities such as sports, school trips and social activities. Those that decide to become foster parents receive training and support from the agency that assists with their placement.
To build community awareness of these adoptable children, individuals can ask their schools and libraries to host discussions and provide current materials about adoption and family building options and attend adoption educational programs to learn about current trends in practice. More directly, those who want to help these children find a permanent, loving home can offer to adopt one or more into their own family.
Interested families can call the licensing division of DCFS at 312-808-5000 or the Illinois Center for Adoption & Permanency at 312-346-1516.
Sally Wildman, J.D., a Chicago and Northbrook attorney, represents adoptive families in all types of adoptions and presents workshops on adoption basics. For more information, visit SWildmanLaw.com.