Frequently Asked Questions

What is Confidential Intermediary service?
Who qualifies for Confidential Intermediary service?
What can Confidential Intermediary service do for me?
What is the process?
How long will the search take?
Who will be appointed as my Confidential Intermediary?
Why is there a fee for CI service?
How can the CI Program help after I get my original birth certificate?

What is Confidential Intermediary service?
Illinois law (750 ILCS 50/18.3a) now provides a way for adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents and other birth relatives to connect. A Confidential Intermediary (CI), trained and certified to provide this service, is appointed by the Court to locate your birth relative(s). When the relative is located, the CI explains the reason for the outreach, describes the options available and helps facilitate a mutually agreeable outcome. Each person’s privacy and confidentiality is protected during the process.

Who qualifies for Confidential Intermediary service?
The following individuals may petition the Court for appointment of a CI to locate birth relatives. The petition may be filed for any reason. There is no need to prove that medical information is needed or to state any reason at all for requesting the search.

  1. a surrendered person 21 years of age or over
  2. an adopted person 21 years of age or over Note: A “surrendered person” is a person who was never adopted but whose birth parents’ rights were surrendered or terminated)
  3. an adoptive parent of an adopted person under the age of 21
  4. a legal guardian of an adopted or surrendered person under the age of 21
  5. a birth parent of an adopted or surrendered person 21 years of age or over

In addition, other birth relatives may file a petition for the appointment of a CI, but must explain to the Court the reason for requesting the search for a birth relative who is 21 years or older. The judge will determine if granting the petition “is of greater benefit.”

  1. an adult child of a deceased adopted or surrendered person
  2. an adoptive parent of a deceased adopted or surrendered person
  3. a legal guardian of a deceased adopted or surrendered person
  4. a surviving spouse of a deceased adopted or surrendered person
  5. an adult birth sibling of an adopted or surrendered person whose common birth parent is deceased and whose adopted or surrendered birth sibling is 21 years of age or over
  6. an adult sibling of a deceased birth parent whose surrendered child is 21 years of age or over

A recent Court ruling also provides that CI service shall be available to persons who were born in Illinois but adopted in another state. However, the success of CI service in such cases depends on the cooperation of authorities in those other states.

What can Confidential Intermediary service do for me?
By law, your CI cannot release name and address of your relative to you without his consent, but will attempt to locate the relative on your behalf. If your CI is able to locate your birth relative, your CI will explain what you are hoping for and attempt to facilitate a mutually agreeable outcome. For example, you might only want to receive medical information from your relative or you may be hoping for a face-to-face meeting. If you are unsure whether the program can meet your needs, we invite you to call CISI to discuss your situation.

What is the process?
File with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange
Before you can file a petition for the appointment of a Confidential Intermediary, you must file with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange (Registry). The person you are hoping to locate may have already filed, making a CI search unnecessary. If however, the person you are seeking has filed a denial – meaning that he does not want to have direct contact with you – then the CI would not be able to search for that relative. You must attach to your petition a copy of the verification letter you will receive from the Registry.

Submit the petition to the Court
A step-by-step guide for filing a petition with and without the assistance of an attorney and fill-in-the-blank forms are available on this web site. The petition may be filed in any county in Illinois. Most Petitioners successfully file their Petition without an attorney. However, for some, using an attorney may be easier since the attorney will handle all the paperwork and guide the petition through the judicial system.

Court Hearing is scheduled
After you file the Petition with the Court, a hearing is scheduled. In most courts, you will be required to appear in person. At the hearing, the Judge will review your Petition and confirm that it is completed correctly, then verify that you are the person filing the Petition. You may request that the Court excuse you from appearing in person if you live some distance from the Court or if it would be a hardship for you in some way. Contact the Court in which you will file the petition to determine whether you may be excused and the proper procedure to follow.

Petition granted by the Court and a CI is appointed for you
After the petition is granted, the Judge will enter an order appointing a Confidential Intermediary from the list of persons who have been certified. The Court will send the Order of Appointment to CISI. Some Judges also send a copy to you, the Petitioner.

Completion of service contract
When CISI receives your case from the Court (usually within 4 – 6 weeks after the hearing), we will send you an explanation of the process along with a contract and fee information.

CI obtains records and completes assessment of search potential
After you have signed the service contract and returned it, your CI can begin working on your case. First, the CI will request the sealed Court file, information from adoption agency files if applicable, and various vital records including birth, death and marriage documents. It often takes 8-12 weeks for these documents to arrive. After examining the available information, the CI will prepare a Search Assessment form that indicates how likely it is that a search for various birth relatives would be successful. If little or no information is found, making a successful search unlikely, you may choose to end the process.

Search process
CIs use a wide variety of search resources including commercial databases and records held by various governmental agencies. The court order allows access to information and documents that are not available to the public. Search efforts will continue until the person you want to locate is found and is contacted by the CI or until all reasonable attempts to locate the birth relative have been made without success. You will receive a progress report from your CI every two months until the search is completed. Detailed progress reports must also be submitted by the CI to the Court on a regular basis. While it is not possible to guarantee a successful search outcome, program statistics indicate that in more than 90% of cases, the CI is able to find the person being sought or an adult relative of that person.

If the relative is located
Your CI will talk with you about what kind of connection you would like to have with the person for whom you are searching. When the relative is located, the CI will make an outreach to that person to explain why you want contact, reassure the relative that confidentiality will be respected, and to help him understand his options. In many cases, with the consent of both parties, at least one letter and sometimes pictures are exchanged anonymously through the CI. Both you and your found relative then have an opportunity to consider how to proceed. In most cases, the found relative chooses to have some kind of communication; however, whether to respond or not is entirely up to your relative. As in every outreach, the CI will use extreme caution to ensure each person’s privacy and confidentiality. If both you and your found relative choose to have direct contact, the CI will facilitate the exchange of identifying information.

Additional searches
After the first search has been completed, you may request another search if the CI has sufficient information to make additional searches possible. If you choose to do so, service will be provided for an additional fee in the same manner as during the first search.

How long will the search take?
It is impossible to accurately estimate how long it may take to locate your birth relative and then to receive a response to your request for connection. Some cases are completed within several weeks after the actual search begins. Some very difficult searches require many months of work. At each step of the way, the CI will proceed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Of course, you will be notified immediately when the CI has located your relative.

Who will be appointed as my Confidential Intermediary?
Each CI is an employee of Midwest Adoption Center and has completed in-depth training and passed an examination before being certified to serve as a Confidential Intermediary through this program. The CIs receive on-going training and supervision and all share a commitment to providing effective service in this most important program.

Why is there a fee for CI service?
The CI service fee is not a fee to obtain information such as medical information or the name and address of your relative. By law, the CI is not permitted to give you names and addresses of your birth relatives without their consent, and the files and documents obtained by the CI do not usually contain medical information. The CI service fee covers all the costs of locating and establishing contact with the person(s) you hope to find, including the time spent by the CI obtaining documents and information, search efforts and related expenses such as document retrieval, access to databases, and telephone charges.

Your CI will work closely with you and the relative who is located to facilitate the connection that is desired by both. Although this program is not intended to provide in-depth counseling, your CI will be available to talk with you and your relative at any point in the process.

How can the CI Program help after I get my original birth certificate?
If you are an adopted person and receive a copy of your original birth certificate, you will probably have the name of your birth parent and maybe some other information about him or her at the time you were born. Using that information, you may be able to “search” on your own and locate your birth mother or birth father.

However, if you have not been successful or if you don’t want to do it on your own, the Confidential Intermediary (CI) program is a good option. Illinois law gives a CI access to a lot of non-public information that can result in search success. The cost of service is subsidized by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in order to make the program available to as many people as possible. Some of the ways that a CI can help you are:

Information about what birth relatives you have and how easy or difficult it may be to locate them
The first thing your Intermediary would do is complete a “Search Assessment” that lists family members for whom you could search. The Search Assessment would list those relatives about whom information was obtained and an evaluation of the likelihood of search success for each of those relatives. To prepare the Search Assessment, the CI uses many privately held and sealed sources of information to which you would not have access on your own, including:

  • Your CI is given the original, impounded Court adoption file. These documents may contain valuable information that is not on your OBC.
  • If an adoption agency was involved, your CI is given the name of the agency and access to identifying information about your birth family from the adoption agency file
  • Your CI is given vital records about your birth family from the Department of Public Health in Illinois and from other states across the county. For example, the CI often receives your birth parents’ birth certificate and marriage and/or divorce information.
  • Your CI may also have access to vital records giving names and dates of birth for other children born to your birth mother and/or birth father, your aunts, uncles and/or grandparents.
  • The Search Assessment will indicate whether your birth parent is known to be deceased, based on the vital records already received and a check of the Social Security Death Index.
Search for the birth relatives you want to find
Your CI can search for the relative you select and make an outreach on your behalf. There are many situations in which you might decide to use a Confidential Intermediary rather than searching on your own, including:
  • The information on your birth certificate may be such that a search will be very difficult. For example, your birth mother’s name may be very common and little other information is on the certificate.
  • You may not have the time or resources to complete a search yourself. While some searches are quick and easy, others are complicated, time consuming and can be costly. Because of the Court Order, the CI has access to birth, death, marriage and divorce documents and levels of electronic database information to which the public does not have access. That means that the CI would have dates of birth, social security numbers, and other identifying information that can significantly improve the chances of search success.
  • Some people who search are unsure what kind of connection they will want to have. And some “found” birth relatives may be more willing to respond to an outreach if s/he has the option to write to you a few times without exchanging identifying information. You could decide to exchange letters anonymously with your relative through the program while you both decide whether you want to have direct contact. Even if this ‘anonymous correspondence’ does not result in a decision to exchange current contact information, important medical or family history information can be shared.
  • You might be concerned that making contact with your birth relative could come as a shock and do not know the best way to do so. For adoptees who feel that way, having an adoption professional make the outreach can be a good option. You would talk with your CI about your hopes for the outreach, questions you would want to ask and information you want shared with your birth relative. Of course, you would have the option of sending a letter to your relative if s/he agrees to receive it.
If you have located one relative but you would like to try to connect with others, your CI may be able to help.
  • You may have located one birth parent but not the other. The CI might have access to information about the other birth parent that you were not able to obtain.
  • You may have located a birth parent who declines to have a connection with you. The CI may have information about other birth relatives for whom a search could be requested.
  • While your Original Birth Certificate may show the name(s) of your birth parent, you usually will not know whether there are other birth relatives for whom a search would be possible. The Search Assessment would give you that information.
All CIs are adoption professionals who can provide support for you and your birth relatives during the whole process.
  • Many adoptees find the emotional support provided by a CI to be helpful and comforting throughout the process of locating a birth relative.
  • Many found relatives indicate that the decision to have a connection was made easier because they had a professional to answer their questions and provide support.
  • The CI can help by giving suggestions about reading material which focuses on the issues of search and reunion. Adoptees and found relatives tell us that having more information about the process and the typical feelings experienced during the search is extremely helpful.

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