How many children are placed each year through ECFA?

The numbers vary from year to year. For the last three fiscal years (FY), ECFA placed 3 ECFA infants in FY 2014, 2 infants in FY 2015 and 1 four-year-old child in FY 2016. ECFA assisted 5 families with interstate infant adoptions and 2 families (3 children) with adoptions from foster care during that same three-year period, in addition to helping multiple families adopt internationally and to adopt infants identified for an independent adoption.

Does ECFA work with other countries?

ECFA is permitted to conduct adoptive home studies for any family adopting internationally and/or interstate, if the family has a placing agency that works directly with that country and/or state. ECFA does not work directly with other countries. The placing agency must be on the DCFS approval list (link). If the placing agency is not on the list, the agency should contact DCFS for information about becoming included on the approval list.

What is involved in a family study?

A family study involves four to six meetings, all at the ECFA office, except the final one, which occurs in the family’s home. Examples of topics covered in a family study include the following: information on applicant’s family of origin; health; marriage issues; adjustment and readiness of existing children; experience with children; employment and finances; adoption-related training; home and community/neighborhood; guardianship; religious background; motivation to adopt; the type of child a family is considering; and helping the family to understand their limitations. The family study/approval process usually takes about 12-16 weeks to complete. At the end of the study, the adoption team reaches a consensus regarding the readiness of the family.

What training is required?

If a family works with a placing agency other than ECFA, the training requirements of both agencies determine the training curriculum. If a family uses ECFA exclusively for their adoption services, ECFA has its own list of training topics that includes online and in-person training (see here). The topics include introduction to adoption, attachment, grief and loss, transracial adoption, how to speak to children about adoption, behavioral management, helping persons to better understand their limitations, and others.

Does a family need to have a foster home license?

Any family adopting domestically is required to have their home licensed. The license pertains to the home, not the family. This process includes required documents and a home visit. The requirements are determined by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. A family adopting internationally also will need to be licensed if the adoption is finalized in the United States.

How long is ECFA involved in a family’s adoption?

Once a family has completed their post-placement requirements and the adoption is finalized, the adoption case is closed. In the state of Illinois, for example, a visit is conducted and report written at one month, three months, and six months after placement. Adoptions are typically finalized after six months in Illinois. A family is welcome to contact ECFA any time after finalization for consultation or referrals.

Can people adopt from the foster care system?

ECFA is licensed to conduct home studies for families desiring to adopt from the state foster care system. Almost all such children have special physical and/or emotional needs. Families are encouraged to be proactive in searching for children that are listed as eligible for adoption. ECFA adoption staff is willing to inquire about children from the foster care system that have been identified by the adoptive family, and send the family study to the child’s caseworker upon the family’s request. It is critical for families to be honest with themselves about their openness and limitations regarding the type of child they can accept. ECFA encourages families to spend time learning about the foster care system before choosing to pursue this type of adoption through ECFA.

What is Illinois law regarding birth parents signing surrenders?

Birth mothers can only sign a Surrender (terminating her parental rights) 72 hours after giving birth or later. Surrenders are considered non-revocable. Typically Surrenders are taken by the PSS staff after 72 hours post-delivery. In some cases, the Surrender may need to be signed in court before a judge. A birth mother has the right to choose to parent anytime prior to signing a Surrender.

Birth fathers have different regulations regarding their options to sign a Surrender. This is determined on a case-by-case basis and is not able to be generalized.

How long will we wait to receive a child?

For families working solely with ECFA for their adoption services, the wait can range from one to more than two years. Factors that determine waiting time include the age and race of the child and special characteristics, such as mental health diagnoses of birth parents. ECFA encourages families to use the waiting time to further prepare and educate themselves on adoption issues.

Does ECFA promote open adoption? Is that legally enforceable?

ECFA promotes openness in adoption. Minimum openness requirements include: meeting at least once before delivery; pictures and letters sent at one month, three months, six months, and one year; a visit at six months and a year; and pictures, letters, and a visit annually thereafter.

In the state of Illinois, no “openness” document is legally enforceable. When a family is matched with a birth parent, they sign an “Openness Covenant” which is ECFA’s version of an agreement of good faith. The success of the “Openness Covenant” depends entirely upon the mutual integrity of both parties.

How do you match families?

Birth parents choose an adoptive family for their baby based on viewing family profile books. ECFA utilizes an infant description checklist and openness factors to match family’s preferences with those of the birth parent(s). Profile books shown to the birth parents are developed by the adoptive family with guidance by the adoption counselor. Adoptive families are responsible for creating a profile book once their family study is completed. Profile books include photos and narrative information about members of their family.

What is Pregnancy Support Services (PSS)?

PSS counselors provide counseling services to women and men who are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy. These services are provided free of charge. PSS services are provided up to six months post-delivery. PSS counselors assist the birth parent(s) in developing a plan the birth parent(s) believe is best for the child.

How does ECFA promote itself to expectant mothers?

Some birth parents find ECFA through the internet while others hear about the agency through word of mouth. In addition, the Pregnancy Support Services staff networks with crisis pregnancy centers, schools, hospitals, and other organizations to identify individuals who might benefit from PSS.

How many waiting families do you have?

ECFA normally has about 10-14 waiting families who have profiles ready to be shown to expectant parents. Some of those families may also work with other agencies in other states, who also show their profiles to birth parents.