This page is intended to serve a few purposes. It is to provide a little bit of information on adoption history. It is also meant to be a place where people touched by adoption can learn about the adoption search process in Illinois. Finally, any adoption tidbits found in places such as newspapers, etc. will be mentioned here.
Adoption laws in the U.S. did not exist until the mid-1800s. Before then cases were heard individually by legislatures. Before then, other means saw to the care of children in need. Many genealogists are familiar with guardianships and apprenticeships, which gave children in need some support.
Different eras have produced different attitudes toward adoption and the parties touched by adoption. Birth mothers in times past were often treated poorly and carried much guilt. Many wanted to raise their children but were told by society and social workers that it was not in the best interest of the child if they did that. Families who did not have children were happy to have the chance to form a family through adoption.
Illinois closed its adoption records in 1945. Parties to the adoption could no longer see the records produced.
In 1990 an amendment was made to Illinois adoption law. A Confidential Intermediary Service was established. Access to adoption records was allowed through a court order when an adopted person with a medical reason needed them opened. Only the intermediary had access to the file.
In January 2000, the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange expanded and became a place for members of the adoption triad (birth parent, adopted person, adoptive parents) to exchange medical and vital information.
In January of 2004, the laws broadened. More people are able to search for family members using the Confidential Intermediary program. A medical reason is no longer needed for an adopted person age 21 or older to search. Others that can petition with no reason listed include a birth parent of a child 21 and over, and adoptive parents of a child under the age of 21. The following people may petition the court for an intermediary providing they give a reason for the search: adult child of a deceased adopted or surrendered person; adult birth sibling of the adopted person, if birth parent is deceased; adult birth sibling of the deceased birth parent. It is up to the judge to determine if the reason is valid. More information on the Confidential Intermediary Program is available on the Midwest Adoption Center website.
Adopted people, adoptive parents, siblings, and birth parents may register with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange (providing the adoption was finalized in Illinois). There is currently a $40 registration fee, but the fee is waived if a medical questionnaire is filled out and submitted to the registry. If a match is made the registry will facilitate the exchange of agreed upon information. Registration forms are available online at the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
The Lake Bluff Orphanage was once home to many children in Lake County. See the orphanage page on this site for more information. Not all children at the orphanage were adopted, and not all were "orphans."