Sommer legislation would ease intercountry adoptions

SPRINGFIELD –State Representative Keith Sommer (R-Morton) is sponsoring legislation to help adoptive families and adopted children by streamlining Illinois law governing the process. The bill passed the House Adoption Reform committee on Thursday following testimony by Shelley Hauter of Mackinaw and Kris McClelland of Dunlap, both of whom have navigated the intercountry adoption process in recent years.

“Federal law already lays out a series of guidelines for intercountry adoptions,” Sommer said. “Illinois law in some cases duplicates these guidelines, and in other cases actually adds more onerous requirements which make the process harder on the families and the children. This legislation eases that process, while adding important post-adoption support services.”

Under the current law, Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services can impose its own additional requirements on adoptive families who have already met all the requirements of the comprehensive federal law. Sommer’s legislation would eliminate the DCFS Intercountry Coordinator and clarify that DCFS shall not place additional requirements on families who have already met the federal standard.

Hauter told the committee about the state-mandated hearing which followed the adoption of her daughter from Bulgaria. The family had already completed the federal process. “My concern was that we had really gone through all the clearances when she came home. She was already a U.S. citizen, had a U.S. passport, a certificate of citizenship, a Social Security card; she had gone through all of this process. She was our child: irrevocable. And this court appearance wasn’t going to change that. And so it felt like a very redundant process.”

The legislation would also require DCFS to provide post-adoption services to adoptive families and to better publicize its post-adoption services. DCFS would be required to report to the General Assembly on the effectiveness of its post-adoption support services every year.

“This bill would eliminate that Intercountry Adoption Coordinator which no other state in the United States has,” McClelland said. “Our adoption agency in fact said ‘what state do you live in? Oh, it’s very difficult to adopt in Illinois.’ And it’s because of this process that you’re put through with this Intercountry Adoption Coordinator.”

The bill, which is co-sponsored by committee chairperson Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), is House Bill 3079.