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How MAC provides service in the DCFS Closed File Information and Search program
Midwest Adoption Center is the agency that provides closed file information and search service on behalf of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

While the circumstances of each request and each client’s needs are unique, a system has been developed to ensure that the best possible service is given in each case. This summary may be help you understand what is happening in your case at various points in the process. However, if you are concerned about the progress of your request or have questions about the service you are receiving, please call your MAC caseworker.

If you do not yet have a MAC caseworker or do not have her name, please call 847-298-9096, ext 29.

What you will find in this section:
What happens after you send us your written Service Request form?
Finding the files we need to provide service
Evaluating the file for assignment
Case assignment
Service Provision
Closed File Information
Search Service
What happens when the person has been located?

What happens after I submit a Service Request to Midwest Adoption Center?

Within 5 – 7 business days, a letter acknowledging that a service request has been received is sent.  MAC then begins the process of determining whether you are eligible for service through this program and identifying and obtaining the DCFS files needed to provide serviceWe keep a record of all actions we take in our electronic client database.
In some situations, we will attempt to contact you by phone:

  • If information is missing from form or is unclear
  • If you have not properly signed the form
  • If you did not have your signature notarized
Sometimes it is clear that we cannot provide service to you through this program. In these instances, we contact you – usually by phone – and if possible refer you to another resource. Some of the most frequent situations in which we have to do that are:
  • The placement before about 1960 (DCFS was not formed until 1964)
  • It appears that adoption was through another agency, not DCFS, or was a non-agency placement
  • You include information that indicates placement was through a different agency
  • You are asking for a specific service or piece of information that we cannot provide

Finding the files we need to provide service
In order to provide service, we must be able to identify and obtain certain closed DCFS files. Which files are needed depends on the kind of service you are requesting.  For example:

  • If you are an adopted adult or adoptive parent of a minor child asking for the ‘non-identifying information’, we must attempt to find the adoptee’s file, the file established for the birth parents, any files concerning siblings, grandparents or other immediate family members. According to Illinois adoption law, you must be given all medical information about the birth family found in any file that is available.
  • If you are a birth parent or other relative asking for search service to locate a child who was adopted, we try to find the adopted child’s file and files containing information about the adoptive family.
  • If you were a ward of DCFS asking for your own file, we first try to find your closed file. Sometimes the information about you was never separated from the file established for your family. In that case, we try to find family or sibling files and see if they contain your information.
The file retrieval process begins with the DCFS electronic data system that shows basic information about most individuals and families who have been served by the Department. Using that information, along with the database of DCFS files in storage and an assortment of other file related resources, we work to identify all of the files that might contain information we need to serve you.

Because of the greatly improved file storage system now in place, we are often able to identify and order the needed files within several weeks. In other cases, files are more difficult to find as they may be at POS agencies or DCFS field offices. The most difficult cases for which to find files are those in which the client has little information to give us, such as an adult adopted person who does not know his birth name or birth mother’s name.

In some cases, all of these steps will be needed to find the files, in other cases only some of them. All actions are noted in your electronic case file.
  • All possible names that you gave us pertaining to yourself and your family are checked in CYCIS, the DCFS computer information system.
  • If nothing is found on CYCIS, old microfiche must be checked.
  • Check all available names on the list of closed files stored in Rantoul, the DCFS central file storage facility.
  • In some cases, information available to us will indicate that a private social service agency (a POS agency) will have provided service and will therefore have a case file we need to access. Therefore, after the above steps are completed, if a POS agency was involved, a written request will be made to that agency giving them some case related information to determine whether they have the file.
  • If none of the above result in identification of the location of the needed files, a wide variety of other resources and options are checked including contacting DCFS field offices.
Once we identify files that we need, we have to order them from the storage facility of other agency. Files arrive from DCFS sites, Rantoul storage facility or POS agency to the MAC Des Plaines office. When a file arrives, it must be checked-in and information entered into our database. It is very important to keep track of each file, including when it arrives and when we return it to storage. They are now ready to be evaluated to see whether the file includes the information we need.

Evaluating the file for assignment
The program supervisor examines the files we received to see if we have the information we need to provide the service you have asked for:

  • What service are you asking for?
  • What files do we have?
  • If the files do not have the information that we need, what are the chances that we will get more files from DCFS or another source?
  • Do we have enough to proceed?
  • Are there any other efforts we can make to find more files?

The results of the evaluation determine what happens next:
  • Ready to be assigned – a brief summary is prepared including what you are asking for, date of your service request, what files have been found, size of files and any other special considerations (expected to be a very difficult case, etc).
  • Not enough files to assign, but may be possible to find more files – staff will look for other files, or ask for POS file, or to re-CYCIS using new information found in files received.
  • Not enough files to assign, will not be able to find more files – write note explaining the situation so that we can notify you why we cannot provide service.
  • Very few files, no other possibilities for more files, but sufficient information to provide limited service –note the situation so that your caseworker can explain what we found and what we will be able to do.

Case assignment
Cases are assigned in order of the date we received the written service request from you. Every effort is made to begin service as soon as possible after the files have been received. However, sometimes there are more requests for service than caseworker time available. If there is a waiting list for assignment, you will receive a letter indicating that we will be able to provide service but that there will be a delay.

Service Provision
When your case is assigned to a MAC caseworker, you will receive a letter to introduce your caseworker and explain the first steps. During the time that service is being provided, many different staff may be involved. Not only the worker will have contact with you; you might also have contact with the supervisor or other MAC staff who may take some action on your case.

Closed File Information
MAC caseworkers receive extensive, on-going training regarding the provision of information from closed DCFS files to the various client types served. Great care must be taken to ensure that information you are legally entitled to receive is included, but that information that cannot be released is not given. These rules have been developed based on Illinois law, general privacy and confidentiality laws and DCFS policy and procedure. More detailed information about service given to various kinds of clients can be found in the FAQ section.

Individuals who were wards of the Department but never adopted: Caseworkers make a copy of your file and redact all information which cannot be provided from the file material. All identifying information about other people and other types of information that pertain to other people must be removed. A copy of the redacted material is then sent to you. The original set of redacted pages is kept in the MAC file to serve as a record of what was sent to you.

Adult adopted persons: Illinois law specifies the information that must be provided, upon request, to adopted persons who are 18 and over. Caseworkers carefully examine all files received and extract the information which by law and by established protocol can be provided. Information is provided using forms developed for this purpose. In addition, MAC also provides copies of medical and psychological reports and evaluations if the information is medically complex. You will also be given any photos and other keepsake items found in the file that were clearly intended for you.

Adoptive and Guardianship parents of minors: Basic information about the birth family is specified by the Illinois Adoption Act – such as physical description, nationality, education and medical and mental health information that impacts your adopted child. In addition, DCFS policy is that you receive information about why the child came into care and a summary of placements prior to permanency. Federal regulations require that Guardianship parents be given the same service as adoptive parents. Caseworkers carefully examine all files received and extract the information which by law and by established protocol can be provided. Information is provided using forms developed for this purpose. In addition, MAC also provides copies of medical and psychological reports and evaluations if the information is medically complex. Photos and other keepsake items found in the file that are clearly intended to be given to your adopted child are also provided.

Birth parents: Birth parents are entitled to certain kinds of information from their own closed DCFS file pertaining to service provided by the Department. No information about the child or any other person can be given.

When the packet of closed file information is completed, the worker carefully reviews it and then sends a draft to the supervisor for review. Corrections and changes are made as indicated and then the draft reviewed again. In complex cases, this review process may occur several times.

While extracting information to be provided to you, the worker also identifies information that would be useful in a search if you decide to request a search for a relative. Such information is placed on the Data Collection Form for use in the 'search' process.

Search Service
If you are a birth parent, adopted person over 21 years of age or the adoptive parent of a minor and are requesting search service, you must file with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange. By law, we cannot begin the search until you have given us a copy of the letter verifying that you have filed. We will send you the Registry forms and provide any assistance you need to file.  If you are an adopted person over 18 but not yet 21 years of age, you are eligible for service through this program but do not have to file with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange.

Along with the file information packet, a ‘search confirmation form’ is sent to you. This is your opportunity to request a search for a particular birth relative and to indicate that you are ready to proceed with the search process. No search is begun until you have returned that form to your worker.

If you are a birth parent or other client who has not requested or is not entitled to information from closed files, the search confirmation form is sent to you when the assigned worker opens the case.

Your caseworker uses a wide variety of information resources including commercial databases, other internet resources, obituaries, vital records, etc. in order to attempt to identify and locate the person you are hoping to find. A basic search protocol has been developed to serve as a guide to the worker in difficult searches. All caseworkers receive on-going training in search techniques and meet regularly with the supervisor and other staff to collaborate on search efforts. In addition, a genealogist/search specialist is on staff to assist caseworkers in searches. All search efforts and results are noted in the database.

You will be informed as to the progress of the search at least every two months, either by phone or letter. While some sought after relatives are located in a few weeks, other difficult searches may take many months and in some cases the person is never located.

What happens when the person has been located?
Once the sought after relative has been located, the worker must contact him, either by letter or phone to:

  • Explain the reason for the outreach
  • Explain his options
  • Arrange for exchange of information, letters or names and addresses
  • Provide support
  • Assure him of his confidentiality and privacy
The worker will, by phone and/or letter, inform the found relative of the reason for the outreach and explain his options through the program. At all times, the privacy and confidentiality of both you and the person we located will be protected.

Your caseworker will notify you as soon as she has located the person with whom you want a connection. During this process, your worker will provide support and information to both you and your relative as you come to a decision about how to proceed. Both you and your relative can utilize supportive counseling via phone calls with the MAC caseworker. It is not the function of this program, however, to provide in-depth counseling during this process.

Once a decision has been made, various consent forms are provided to both of you as necessary. If you both want to have direct contact, your caseworker will send both of you forms to complete confirming that you want your information given to each other. Your worker cannot release identifying information until the forms have been signed. If you do not wish to reveal your identities to each other, but want to stay in contact, search service will be considered to have been completed and the case will be transferred to another worker for on-going anonymous contact facilitation service. Letters will be sent to both of your to confirm the ending agreements or arrangements. If no agreement has been reached, closing letters will explain the options for future agreements.