QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RELINQUISHED NEWBORN
DCFS is notified of the relinquishment and, if not already at a medical facility, the infant is taken to the nearest hospital to receive medical care. DCFS then appoints a licensed adoption agency to arrange for placement of the infant with an adoptive family.
The relinquishing parent may anonymously and voluntarily provide medical information at any time. At the time of relinquishment, the parent will be given a brochure that includes an optional section asking for basic background information about the child, including medical history. If the parent chooses to complete this form, it may be given to the authorities at the time of relinquishment or it may be anonymously mailed to DCFS at a later date.
The law defines a newborn infant is “a child who a licensed physician reasonably believes is 30 days old or less” at the time of relinquishment (325 ILCS 2/10). All existing laws and procedures related to child abandonment remain in effect for children over 30 days old.
If child abuse or neglect is suspected, the Act’s protections do not apply. All existing laws and procedures related to cases of child abuse and neglect remain in effect.
Relinquished newborns are entitled to Medicaid, and hospitals will be reimbursed for any care provided to the child by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services
QUESTIONS ABOUT RELINQUISHING PARENTS
Yes, parents have 60 days from the date of relinquishment to reclaim the infant by filing a petition in the circuit court. If a petition to return custody is filed, the court will order maternity/paternity testing and DCFS will conduct a child protective investigation and home study. If a petition is not filed within 60 days, DCFS or the adoption agency will initiate proceedings to terminate parental rights and to obtain an adoption order. Once the adoption order is entered, all rights of the relinquishing parent are terminated.
The Act makes no changes to existing Illinois laws governing fathers’ rights. DCFS or the adoption agency must search Illinois’ Putative Father Registry prior to filing a petition to terminate parental rights. At least one search must be conducted no later than 30 days after the relinquished newborn’s estimated date of birth. Nothing in the Act prohibits DCFS or the adoption agency from conducting earlier searches. If a potential putative father is identified, he will be provided with notice of the relinquishment.
DCFS will notify the police of the relinquishment within 24 hours. The police will then search the National Crime Information Center to ensure that the newborn is not a missing or kidnapped child before placement with an adoption agency.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LEGISLATION
No. The law is designed not to encourage but to prevent abandonment, and possible death, by providing parents with a safe alternative. The Act recognizes that establishing an adoption plan is preferable to relinquishment, and requires relinquishing parents be given information on adoption options, as well as grief and pregnancy counseling.
DCFS is required to maintain a list of licensed adoption agencies that have agreed to take legal custody of a relinquished newborn and place the child in an adoptive home. DCFS is required to contact these agencies on a rotating basis to ensure that no one agency places a disproportionate share of relinquished infants.
Under Illinois law, DCFS is responsible for issues involving child welfare and possible criminal conduct. DCFS may contract with private groups, but these organizations are subject to and must act in accordance with all state laws and regulations.
Yes, all 50 states have enacted safe haven laws to protect newborn infants; however, the specific provisions of the laws vary by state.
DCFS must submit an annual report to the Illinois General Assembly on the prevention of injury or death of newborn infants and placement of relinquished infants under the Act. The Save Abandoned Babies Foundation also works with DCFS to maintain this information.