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One family's story illustrates flaw in Illinois adoption law, p2

We are continuing the discussion from our last post about a private adoption that placed two children in a home with a sex offender. An Illinois jury recently determined that the man is a sexually dangerous person, and he will soon be transferred from jail to a public facility. With the trial behind them, the children who were his victims will now try to be survivors rather than victims, as the prosecutor said.

The man and his wife -- we are calling them Joe and Sue -- were married for almost 20 years when the allegations came to light. Joe had been convicted of sexually assaulting a young girl, but Sue believed him when he said he'd done nothing wrong.

As the years passed, Sue's daughter (from a previous marriage) had children of her own and developed a drug habit. By 2009, the daughter knew she could no longer care for them.

The daughter gave up custody, and Sue and Joe became parents to two of the little boys in a private adoption. Another child, a girl, lived nearby with another family member and occasionally visited Sue, Joe and her brothers.

One of those boys, the granddaughter and Sue's daughter all now claim that Joe sexually abused them.

But the adoption went off without a hitch, apparently, because the county where the family lives does not require criminal background checks in a private adoption. According to DCFS personnel, in cases like this, when a parent is surrendering custody, the department gives family members priority.

The department's aim is to keep families together. Families can provide continuity of care for the child, and the child can benefit from maintaining the same support network. If the child is in DCFS custody, though, the department will run criminal background checks on adoptive parents. Some counties, notably Cook County, also run background checks in private adoptions.

As a rule, the court decides custody and visitation issues -- anything, really, that has to do with children -- based on the "best interest of the child" standard. By not including a requirement for a criminal background check of every prospective parent in an adoption, Illinois is running dangerously counter to that guiding principle.

Source: Pantagraph, "Mason case raises questions about Illinois adoption laws," Edith Brady-Lunny, Dec. 1, 2013

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