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One family's story illustrates flaw in Illinois adoption law

Sexual assault charges against an Illinois man put him in jail two years ago. The state chose to set the criminal charges aside in order to pursue a civil commitment. Toward the end of November, a jury concluded that the man is a sexually dangerous person. He will soon move to the sex offender unit at a state facility.

We are writing about this case in a family law blog because it highlights what many believe is a serious gap in Illinois' adoption laws. This was not the man's first brush with sexual abuse charges, but the laws governing private adoptions did not keep the state Department of Children and Family Services from putting children in harm's way.

Joe met and married Sue 20 years ago. (These are not their real names.) It was not Sue's first marriage. She was breaking free from an abusive husband at the time and had children from that relationship. She believed Joe when, at some point early in their courtship or marriage, he told her about an incident that had occurred in 1989.

Joe had a criminal record. He had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl. To Sue as well as the police he maintained his innocence. He took a plea deal, however, to avoid a trial, and he was required to register with the state as a sex offender. Sue believed in his innocence.

Around 2009, Sue's daughter realized she could no longer care for her own children. When she surrendered custody, the state looked to relatives to take the children. Enough time had passed that Joe's name was no longer on the sex offender registry, so the way was clear for Sue and Joe to adopt.

We'll continue this in our next post. 

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

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