Most international and some domestic adoptions are agency adoptions. In an agency adoption, after the birth of the child, the birth mother signs legal documents giving the right to place the child for adoption to a licensed adoption agency. This agency may be in Illinois, in another state, or in a foreign country. The agency then is legally in charge of the child until the adoptive parent goes to court to complete the adoption.

An agency adoption is the legal process by which the biological parents of a child surrender their parental rights to a licensed child welfare agency, which then places the child with adoptive parents whom the agency has licensed as pre-adoptive foster parents. In the traditional or true agency adoption (now less common than in years past), the prospective adoptive parents have applied to the agency, have undergone a home study, have obtained a pre-adoptive foster parent license, and have had the agency place a child, whom the agency has located, in their home. In most agency adoptions the child is unrelated to the petitioners. For approximately six months thereafter, the agency supervises the placement and prepares a report of investigation, and then submits that report with its recommendation to the court directly. More commonly today Illinois child welfare agencies operate “agency-assisted” or “identified” adoption programs, whereby the adoptive parents, not the agency, locate the child to be adopted. The fees are typically significantly less than in a traditional agency placement. Advantages to the prospective adoptive parents who choose agency-assisted adoption over private adoption include: that the agency can pay for the expenses of medical, living, and other expenses on behalf of the biological parents without a court order, that the agency can provide counseling and other services to the birth parents, that the agency can take a surrender other than in court, and that the agency can discharge the baby from the hospital before 72 hours and place the child with adoptive parents pursuant to the birth mother’s execution of a temporary foster care agreement.

In a domestic adoption, because the agency has legal control of the child, it can set criteria which the adoptive and birth parent(s) have to meet. For example, the agency can decide that adoptive parents must be a certain age or a specific religion or have stopped infertility treatments before they can adopt from that agency. Always ask any adoption program what its requirements are before you begin working with them.

In international adoptions the requirements are often set by the foreign country. Each country has its own criteria for adoptive parents, so be sure to check carefully to make sure you meet that country’s requirements before you begin an adoption program. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also restricts what type of children may be brought into the United States by adoptive parents. In an international adoption, you must meet the requirements not only of your home state but also those of the USCIS. In Illinois, the USCIS requires more work of adoptive parents in the adoption study process and that the adoption study be in a specific form.