LGBT prospective parents looking for an adoption agency with a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) seal of approval will not find one in Illinois.
Currently, the state does not have a single agency that has qualified for HRC's All Children-All Families Seal of Recognition.
That is about to change, however. In the coming months, four or five Illinois agencies could earn the seal.
That change will coincide with another important arrival in Chicago: an adoption/foster care marketing campaign aimed at LGBT people.
HRC has announced a new partnership with RaiseAChild.US, a non-profit that encourages LGBT people to foster and adopt children. The two organizations are teaming to market LGBT-friendly adoption and foster-care agencies to LGBT people.
The relationship will allow HRC to focus more on creating culturally competent agencies, said Ellen Kahn, director of HRC's Family Project.
"There are so many agencies that really are inclusive in their policies," said Kahn, adding that Illinois has several.
Often, she said, agencies already doing the work of creating LGBT-inclusive agencies are not doing outreach to the LGBT community itself. Agencies that are advertising to LGBT people often have yet to create truly LGBT-friendly spaces internally.
"This could be a misstep if you call the community to you, but you're not really ready for the community," Kahn said.
The result is often confusion for potential parents. Agencies believe they are inclusive, while families may report uncomfortable experiences at the agency.
Such has been the case for some Illinois agencies, said Kahn, but a number are also moving towards obtaining an HRC seal.
Among them is Little City Foundation, an organization that works specifically with children with special needs. Little City is close to earning its HRC seal, and it could become the first this year.
According to Little City Community Services Manager Emily Rawsky, approximately 10 percent of Little City's families are LGBTQ.
LGBT adoption has been a hot-button topic in Illinois in recent months, after a group of Catholic charities lost their foster care contracts because they refused to place children with same-sex civil-union couples. The charities sued the state over the contracts and lost.
Kahn said the lawsuit may have had the opposite intended effect, making agencies more LGBT-inclusive.
"I think it actually inspired a bit of motivation for agencies to say that [exclusion of LGBT parents] is just not where child welfare is," she said.
Earning an HRC seal is not an easy task. The process can take as long as four years for larger agencies. Agencies that do get seal will also now earn the benefit of marketing from RaiseAChild.Us.
"It's a way to thank them," said Kahn.
In the coming months, HRC will be marketing such agencies in major cities, Chicago included. Advertising will take the form of print ads, social networking, community events, banners and billboards.
Chicago, however, will not likely see the campaign for 18-24 months. Before it comes to Illinois, Kahn said, Illinois agencies need to secure seals so that prospective parents have LGBT-affirming places to look out for.