This week, the state of Illinois took several steps to crack down on illegal online, underground, and for-profit adoptions. First, the state filed an historic lawsuit against a for-profit adoption agency that it claims to be illegally targeting ads to Illinois. Second, the Illinois state House held a committee hearing on Tuesday on adoption reform. These measures aim to enforce and reinforce Illinois current adoption laws, already some of the strictest in the country, as well as examine whether additional laws are necessary to combat suspicious adoptions in the internet age.
The state filed suit against the Adoption Network Law Center, a California-based, for-profit adoption provider that is not licensed in Illinois, or any state for that matter. However, the provider is one of the first websites that comes up when a person in Illinois searches for adoptions, and the website features the profiles of more than 30 couples in in Illinois. Indeed, one only need do a Google search for “Illinois Adoption” to see the provider in the sponsored links with the link “Illinois Adoption Service.” According to the lawsuit, the company is not approved by the Illinois Department of Children and Family services to place children.
For-profit adoption services are illegal in Illinois under the 2005 Illinois Adoption Reform Act. The Act aims to prohibit corrupt providers from operating in the state, and to take the financial motive and aggressive marketing out of adoption. However, the law is difficult to enforce against online services, which often lure couples desperate for a child by offering to bypass the lengthy processes and procedures of traditional, state-licensed agencies. The lawsuit is the first of its kind as an enforcement effort of the 2005 law.
The lawsuit was filed just one day before an Illinois House committee hearing on adoption law reform focusing on adoption in the internet age. The panel focused much of its discussion on “re-homing,” a practice of relocating adopted children, usually via internet chat rooms, that usually escapes the oversight of the state. The practice has received increased attention since Reuters ran a series on the practice which featured Illinois couples.
Many of the children who are re-homed are either adopted from foreign countries or come from the state's foster care system. A substantial number have severe emotional and behavioral problems, often stemming from mental illness, attachment disorders or prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol. Parents seeking help from established social service agencies are regularly turned away due to decreased budgets over recent years. As a result, overwhelmed adoptive parents have turned to re-homing their children when they feel as if they cannot provide adequate care.
The most substantial takeaway from the committee hearing was that ethical adoptions have become increasingly difficult due to the internet. There are still many unlicensed, unscrupulous operators whose focus is on profit and not the well-being of the adoptive children.
If you need help with an adoption, an experienced adoption attorney can provide an invaluable service in addressing your issues, especially in an area of law that is particularly fact sensitive.Contact us today to discuss how to ensure your adoption is legal and safe.