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Do familial adoption laws need to be reformed in Illinois?

17592784_S.jpgWhen parents become unable to take care of their children, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services typically attempts to place the children with suitable family members. And, in many cases, this placement leads to a formal adoption.

Because Illinois law favors family members as adoptive parents, the adoption process in such cases is somewhat expedited. When a child is adopted by someone other than a relative, for example, that person must meet a number of requirements before the adoption is approved. Relatives do not face such scrutiny.

In order for a person to adopt a child to whom he or she is not related, the adult is subjected to an intense background check. When the prospective adoptive parent is related to the child, there is no background check requirement. As an unintended result of this loophole, it is sometimes possible for unfit or dangerous adults to adopt children.

The Pantagraph recently chronicled the case of an Illinois man who had been convicted of sexually abusing a child in 1989. Just three years later, the man married a woman and in 2009 the couple adopted two of the woman's grandsons.

The fact that the man is a convicted sex offender was not an issue during the adoption process, because no background check was performed; but by 2011, one of the man's adopted children reported that the man had molested him. Later, the other boy also reported being sexually abused. A third child later came forward to report that the man showed her sexually explicit materials.

The man was arrested and last week a McLean County jury ruled that he is dangerous and that he should be committed to a sex offender program.

While this case has come to a close, its outcome continues to shine a spotlight on step-parent and familial adoption laws in Illinois. Illinois' adoption laws were designed to help keep families together, but many are now arguing that safeguards must be implemented to protect children.

Source: Pantagraph.com, "Mason case raises questions about Illinois adoption laws," Dec. 1, 2013

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