In the past when an adoptive family could no longer provide the necessary medical treatment required for their adopted child in the state of Illinois, the family would be forced to relinquish custody to the state in order to receive the help their child needed. This is called “planned abandonment,” also known as “trading custody for care.” An article by the Illinois Times states, “In the past decade, more than 600 Illinois families have relinquished custody of their adopted children to obtain treatment for their children’s violent behavior. At least eight families have filed lawsuits against the state, claiming adopted children are entitled to such care through Medicaid under federal law.”

Illinois lawmakers voted to end planned abandonment, but due to the state’s poor financial condition, the state will likely be limited in its ability to enact the change. In the Illinois General Assembly a bill was approved in the spring legislative session that banned the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services from requiring foster parents or adoptive parents to relinquish custody of their adopted children in order for the child to receive state funding for necessary mental health treatments.

Toni Hoy, an adoptive parent, has experienced planned abandonment firsthand and had this to say: “Children heal sooner with full support of their families and communities … Our hope is that these brain disorders, even when they cause acts of aggression, can be viewed from a medical perspective without blaming children with brain disorders or their parents.” The Hoy family adopted their son Daniel when he was two but had to give up custody in 2008 because they could not afford the long-term treatment from the state. Daniel became violent around age 10 and had attempted to harm the Hoys and their other children. The Hoy family has now regained custody after a three year battle in court.

“Hopefully, those who lost custody of their children in exchange for mental health services will be allowed the opportunity to enter the intergovernmental agreement with the goal of appropriate service planning,” Hoy said. “Advocates will be monitoring cases that fail to be served by the new intergovernmental agreement.” The Illinois government is working hard to make planned abandonment a thing of the past.