"As an adoptive parent, I know personally how important it is to get adoption-specific legal guidance."
Shelley Ballard (formerly Shelley Bostick) has practiced adoption law since 1988, shortly after becoming a parent by adoption herself. She has handled hundreds of adoptions of every category as both a solo practitioner and as a partner in a small law firm.
In addition to representing clients in adoption matters, Shelley has been actively involved in legislative efforts to improve adoption since the early 1990s. She has helped draft and lobby for many pieces of legislation affecting adoption in Illinois over the years, including the "Baby Richard Law" enacted in 1994 that created the Illinois Putative Father Registry and added several safeguards to the Illinois Adoption Act to reduce contested adoptions. She was recognized by the Illinois House of Representatives in a formal House resolution for this effort. Shelley authored the Illinois Bar Journal's lead article in its December 1994 issue, entitled The Baby Richard Law: Changes to the Adoption Act, an article that was instrumental in upholding the constitutionality of the law when it was challenged in the courts. In addition, she contributed the chapter on adoption for the 2011 ISBA Family Law Handbook, published by the Illinois State Bar Association and wrote the chapters on Interstate and Adult Adoption for the 2016 Illinois Adoption Law Practice Handbook, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education. Shelley also regularly addresses adoptive parent groups and legal professional groups on various legal issues affecting adoption.
Shelley relocated to North Carolina in 1998 and operated a solo practice focused on adoption and reproductive technology law until 2002, when she returned to Chicago. While in North Carolina, Shelley was involved in the successful 2001 legislative effort to revise North Carolina adoption law to shorten the revocation period for adoption consents, allow openness in agency adoptions and permit advertising by approved adoptive families searching for a child to adopt. She also taught an introductory adoption seminar for Central Piedmont Community College and authored several adoption articles that appeared in the Charlotte Parent, Carolina Parent and Carolina Youth Alliance magazines.
Shelley graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University School of Engineering in 1979, and cum laude from Northwestern University School of Law in 1987, where she was elected to the Order of the Coif (top 10% of her class). Since 1990, she has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, a national organization of attorneys devoted to the ethical and competent representation of parties in adoption and collaborative reproduction matters. From 2004 to 2015, Shelley was a member of the Board of Directors of the On Your Feet Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to birth parents who have placed children for adoption, serving as President of the Board from 2009 to 2011. She is an active member of the Chicago Bar Association Adoption Law Committee, and served as its Chair during 1993-94 and 2005-06. In 2012, the Presiding Judge of the Cook County Adoption Court appointed Shelley to serve as one of the regular Guardians ad Litem for the children being adopted in that Court. In 2014, she became an Adjunct Professor at the Loyola University Law School teaching an annual seminar on adoption law. In 2015, Shelley joined the Board of Directors of the Midwest Adoption Center, a nonprofit organization that provides services to persons touched by foster care and adoption, including search and confidential intermediary services. Finally, Shelley has been consistently recognized as a top lawyer in adoption and reproductive technology by the Leading Lawyers Network.