Reforming Illinois’ adoption laws and protecting the welfare of the state’s children have been two of my top priorities in Springfield in recent years. This year, I was honored to be chosen as the Republican Spokesperson on the House Adoption and Child Welfare Committee. The spokesperson leads the Republican members on the committee and seeks to work with the Democrat chairperson to find bipartisan consensus whenever possible.
The committee is chaired by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz of Chicago, a member I have known and worked with for several years now. In all, there are 13 members on the committee; eight Democrats and five Republicans. Because of the important role that our committee’s subject matter has on the future of our state, serving in this capacity is one of the most rewarding parts of being your legislator.
Our committee made headlines early in March when we held a hearing to look into problems at the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). We heard moving testimony from the acting director of DCFS as well as the DCFS Inspector General on cases where the state failed children in the DCFS system. I am committed to the goal of eliminating these failures. Children who are under the care of the state deserve this commitment.
While I was relieved to hear that the new leadership at DCFS is working to correct the problems which came to light at that agency, I will continue our aggressive oversight of the agency to make sure failures like these do not occur again.
Illinois also has a robust system of laws governing adoptions. These laws exist not only to protect the welfare of the adoptive children, but also to help adoptive families with the unique challenges they face. At times, these well-intentioned laws can lead to problems which we have to address in the legislature. Such was the case a few years ago when some Peoria-area families brought to my attention a duplicative state law which was adding unnecessary burdens onto families engaged in the international adoption process.
These families and I were able to work together with Republicans and Democrats on our committee to pass a historic adoption reform measure that will spare prospective adoptive families the bureaucratic headaches and the heartbreak that these families had to confront. It was also a good example of what engaged citizens can do when they reach out to their legislators.
As this spring’s legislative session continues, our committee will review more legislation intended to help children and adoptive families in Illinois. I am looking forward to continuing this important work as the year goes on.