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New, lower court fees for adoptions are making it easier for children in Cook County to find “forever” homes

Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Special to suffredin.org

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New, lower court fees for adoptions are making it easier for children in Cook County to find “forever” homes

Released On 11/15/2022

New, lower court fees for adoption cases in Cook County will make it easier for families to adopt children and give them permanent homes, announced Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans on Tuesday. The new fees were implemented in time for National Adoption Day, Saturday, November 19.

Approved last month by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the change lowers the filing fee for adoptions to $89 from $265. The $89 fee is now consistent with DuPage, McHenry and Will Counties, the most populous counties outside of Cook County. Indigent parties and adoptions originating with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services do not pay court filing fees.

Judge Evans, President Preckwinkle, and County Division Acting Presiding Judge Rena Marie Van Tine will participate on Friday in a 10:30 a.m. program to mark National Adoption Day in Courtroom 1706 at the Richard J. Daley Center. In a special ceremony, The Hon. Maureen Hannon and the Hon. Patrick Stanton will preside over the adoptions of children by families who have agreed to share their adoption story with the public to help bring public awareness to the thousands of children in Illinois waiting for their permanent homes.

Former County Division Presiding Judge Sanjay Tailor, now a justice with the Illinois Appellate Court, worked with the Office of the Chief Judge in cooperation with the County Board President’s office on the legislation to lower Cook County’s fees. Commissioner Larry Suffredin introduced the legislation to the board, which unanimously approved it in late October.

Justice Tailor said that, in recent years, Cook County has seen a steep drop in adoption filings, which decreased by 42% from 1,085 cases in 2014 to 628 in 2021, while adoption filings in the collar counties increased by 9.2% during the same period. Some adoption attorneys reported that they filed in the collar counties because the filing fees were lower.

“Our Cook County bench has a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience in adoption cases, but the high filing fees act as a disincentive to file here,” said Justice Tailor. “This legislation, which had strong support from the adoption bar, removes that obstacle, which we anticipate will drive cases back to Cook County. Making adoption less expensive benefits everyone.”

Judge Evans praised the legislation for creating more opportunities for adoption, which ends uncertainty for families.

“Adoption is a blessing which gives children ‘forever homes’ where they can feel safe and secure,” said Judge Evans. “We want all of our county’s children to be blessed with this bond of family.”

“This is a significant milestone in our adoption system here in Cook County and represents another meaningful step toward our goal of budgeting for equity outlined in our Racial Equity Policy,” said President Preckwinkle. “Adoption is a complex, costly and at-times inaccessible option for some families wishing to love children who need homes – this is especially true for our residents of color. We should instead be removing barriers and this policy shift does exactly that.”

“The judges of the County Division work hard to give our children the loving homes and permanency that they deserve,” said Judge Van Tine. “We are always thrilled when we can achieve what is best for the children and families we serve. We feel fortunate to be able to celebrate National Adoption Day with these amazing families.”

Dan Hunter, director of Family Supportive Services, Office of the Chief Judge, said that he hopes what Chief Judge Evans, Justice Tailor and the Cook County Board have done to bring down fees will help more children to find “the safety of family.”

"This is great for prospective adoptive parents in Cook County, especially for those who may be low-income, yet are willing to provide a loving home for the most vulnerable of our society,” said Hunter.

Attorneys who handle adoption cases also expressed appreciation for the fee reduction.

“We are excited to have the filing fee reduced,” said Tiffany A. Horstein, principal attorney for Family Forward Law. “We are hopeful that this reduction, closer to where it used to be and back in-line with other counties, will encourage families to file in Cook and provide a small bit of relief as they move forward in securing adoptions. We appreciate the hard work of the Court and the County Board in making this happen.”

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