SPRINGFIELD –Legislation sponsored by State Representative Keith Sommer (R-Morton) to help adoptive families and adopted children by streamlining Illinois law governing the process passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The bill passed the House Adoption Reform committee last month following testimony by Shelley Hauter of Mackinaw and Kris McClelland of Dunlap, both of whom have navigated the intercountry adoption process in recent years.
“When families who have adopted children overseas and those have become final, yet there is a process of re-adoption in Illinois to provide more documentation of the status of those children. This process is being streamlined. It is going to be cheaper; there are fewer steps for families to take,” Sommer said. “Unfortunately, the practice in Illinois has been to make the process more difficult.”
“Our goal is to provide loving, secure homes for children,” he added. “This bill will go a long way to do that.”
Existing law allows the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to impose its own additional requirements on adoptive families who have already met all the requirements of the comprehensive federal law. House Bill 3079, which passed the House 115-0 on Wednesday, eliminates the DCFS Intercountry Coordinator and prohibits DCFS from placing additional requirements on families who have already met the federal standard.
“There are a lot of people who are adopting internationally who get hung up in the state of Illinois in particular. It’s a position that only exists in this state,” said McClelland, who watched the debate from the House gallery. “(The bill) would simplify the process. It would allow more children to come home to safe families that were approved by Immigration and don’t need DCFS getting involved at the state level.”
“This bill will take a lot of the grief out of the process when you’re dealing with the state of Illinois,” Hauter said. “It’s a frustration that every family has had to go through in the past. It’s time wasted and it feels like time robbed from your child.”
The legislation also requires 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.
The bill is a bipartisan effort of Sommer and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). It now will be considered by the Senate.
For the full video of Rep. Sommer’s comments on the House floor, and comments from McClelland and Hauter, click here.