Child Placement in Illinois
Illinois law provides guidelines that the Department of Children and Family Services must follow when placing children in either temporary or permanent homes. The most important qualification is that the placement be in the best interests of each child. However, a new law ensures that family members retain certain rights concerning foster care arrangements.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is given discretion in determining what type of environment is in each child’s best interest and making a placement based on that information; however, DCFS is still required to place a child, when appropriate, in the custody of certain individuals, including:
- A relative, if he or she is able to and will continue to be able to provide for the child’s welfare;
- The child’s siblings, unless such a placement is not in the child’s best interest, in which case the Department should still consider a placement that is likely to develop sibling relationships; and
- Someone who holds the same religious belief as the parents of the child or with a child care facility which is operated by people of a similar religious faith.
While these rules are well-established, a recent amendment changes the notice procedures required by DCFS when making a placement. For instance, the new law requires that when first placing a child, DCFS makes reasonable efforts to identify and locate relatives who are willing and able to care for the child before officially designating a non-relative as a guardian. Furthermore, such efforts will need to be renewed each time the child’s placement is changed. Even if the Department finds that a living arrangement with a relative is inappropriate, the Department must still make reasonable efforts to locate relatives that can serve as visitation resources or potential future placement options.
A relative is someone other than the parent who is at least 21 years old and who is:
- Currently related to the child by blood or adoption, which includes grandparents, siblings, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, first and second cousins, godparents, great-uncles and great-aunts;
- The spouse of a relative; or
- The child’s step-father, step-mother, or adult step-brother or step-sister; or
- A fictive kin.
A fictive kin is any person who is unrelated by birth or marriage to a child, but has a close personal or emotional tie with the family. A relative can also include someone related by blood or adoption to a sibling of the child. This is the case even when the person is not actually related to the child, as long as the child and his or her sibling are placed together with that person.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s placement in a foster home or other child care facility, please contact skilled Palatine collaborative law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson for a free initial consultation.