Wednesday, Nov. 24

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Illinois' first lady advocates adoption

Illinois Department of Public Health reminds adoptees and biological parents to exchange health information through the Illinois Adoption Registry

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[NOV. 24, 2004]  CHICAGO -- First lady Patti Blagojevich and the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services teamed up Nov. 19 to honor Illinois adoptive families and newly adopted children at the third annual Illinois Celebrates Adoption event. Illinois Celebrates Adoption was the statewide kickoff to National Adoption Day, when courts around the country finalized more than 1,000 adoptions. Illinois is a national leader in locating adoptive homes for waiting children, finding adoptive homes for nearly 36,000 children over the past decade.

The first lady joined DCFS Director Bryan Samuels, state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, adoption advocates and local adoptive families to encourage adoption as a positive way to build a family. Children at the celebration were treated to face painting, clown shows, storytelling and a performance by Ulich Voices, a rap group composed of current and former foster children.

"For children in foster care, adoption offers children a chance for a loving family and a bright future," said Mrs. Blagojevich. "As a mother of two daughters, I know how important it is to have every child experience family life and to achieve stability and permanency."

As first lady, Patti Blagojevich has worked tirelessly to promote initiatives that help Illinois families bring up happy, healthy and successful children. In addition to her work with Adoption Awareness Month, the first lady also served on the DCFS Task Force, where she helped create a blueprint to reform the agency. Mrs. Blagojevich also worked to promote the Prevention Development Resource Project -- a partnership between DCFS and Prevent Child Abuse Illinois -- that links parents with agencies that offer services to those affected by substance abuse and domestic violence or who need other family support services. Most recently, the first lady was honored by ORBIS International for spearheading the Illinois Pediatric Vision Awareness Initiative, the first state-sponsored campaign in the United States to specifically target amblyopia, or lazy eye, in children.

In addition to the first lady's efforts, the Illinois Department of Public Health is using the observance of National Adoption Day to remind adopted adults and their biological families to record their medical histories with the state's adoption registry.

"Knowing your family's health history can save your life," said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, director of the Department of Public Health. "By having the information readily available, doctors can more closely monitor a person's health for common diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, or even rare disorders like sickle cell anemia or hemophilia, that can run in families."

The Illinois Adoption Registry was established in 1985 and amended in 1999 to include the Medical Information Exchange, which allows mutually consenting adopted and surrendered persons and members of their birth and adoptive families to voluntarily exchange medical information while maintaining confidentiality.

"More and more chronic illnesses have been linked to heredity and can be detected and treated early if doctors know what to look for," said Rep. Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, an adoptee herself. "That's why knowing your family medical history is so important. The adoption registry is a voluntary program that makes exchanging information easy. I'm encouraging every birth parent and adoptee to take the first step."

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Illinois Adoption Awareness Month is part of National Adoption Month, a nationwide adoption awareness and outreach campaign. The culmination of this effort is National Adoption Day, when courts across the country complete the adoptions of hundreds of children. This year, more than 1,000 adoptions of children from foster care were scheduled to be finalized on National Adoption Day, which was observed Nov. 20. In addition, over 100 local communities around the United States brought together public and private organizations, children and families to celebrate newly adoptive families.

Illinois has posted impressive adoption results over the last 10 years, moving a record number of waiting children into permanent homes. In 1997, 52,000 children were enrolled in substitute care; today, that population is down to only 18,254 children. In 2002, DCFS received the national Adoption 2002 Excellence Award for doubling the number of permanent placements in just one year.

To ensure successful adoption transitions, DCFS provides both financial and emotional support to adoptive families. DCFS financial subsidies include ongoing monthly payments equal to the child's foster care payments, Medicaid support for medical expenses not covered by the family's insurance, attorney fees and court costs. DCFS also provides counseling services to the family and child, therapeutic day care, and educational services for newly adoptive families.

At the Nov. 19 event, the first lady was also joined by Judge Michael J. Murphy of the Cook County Circuit Court, WGN-TV's Merri Dee and Illinois State Bar Association representative Gregg Garofalo.

Illinois Celebrates Adoption is sponsored by the Illinois Celebrates Adoption Coalition, a network of child welfare agencies, adoption attorneys, vendors and other individuals committed to finding homes for adoptable children.

Those interested in the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange can get the necessary forms a number of ways:

  • Download the forms from the Illinois Department of Public Health's site at www.idph.state.il.us.
  • E-mail a request for forms to vitalrecords@idph.state.il.us.
  • Fax a request for forms to (217) 557-5279.
  • Call the registry at (217) 557-5160 or toll-free for Illinois residents only at (877) 323-5299. The TTY toll-free number, for hearing-impaired use only, is (800) 547-0466.
  • Mail a request for forms to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange, Division of Vital Records, 605 W. Jefferson St., Springfield, IL 62702-5097.

[News release from the governor's office]

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