adopting a child in Ohio

3 Things to Consider When Adopting a Child in Ohio

1. Adoption History in Ohio

There is a long history of adoption in Ohio. When adopting a child in Ohio, this history may prove to be useful to you. Ohio was at the forefront of the adoption movement in the United States when they legalized adoption in 1859. Before this time, orphaned children were unable to be legally adopted and often resided with legal guardians or adults. A unique part of this change enabled it so children older than 14 had to provide consent so long as they were not insane or under duress before the adoption process would be completed. The legal changes which allowed for adopting a child in Ohio would be sorely needed as there were many children orphaned by the deaths of soldiers in the U.S. Civil War. 

Ohio has continued to be at the forefront of adoption law changes in the United States. In 1985, state legislators in Ohio passed a statute that allowed persons that were adopted before 1964 and their descendants to access vital statistic records. Before this time all adoption records were open to any of the public, which led to the unintended consequence of adoptive parents and birth parents requesting complete anonymity out of fear for their safety and privacy. In addition, the law changes in 1985 and subsequent years, also established open adoption records for only those persons born in Ohio who were adopted from 1964 to 1996. To better assist people in their search for genealogy records, they established the Ohio Adoption Registry.  This was a groundbreaking piece of legislation, as there were an estimated 400,000 children that were adopted in Ohio between 1964 and 1996. One of the benefits of open genealogical records for many of the children adopted in Ohio, now adults, is that they are able to learn of genetic conditions that may have negatively impacted their life.

Foster care in Ohio has a rich history as well. Before 1975, the state of Ohio required foster parents to commit to not adopting one of the children in their care. There were minimal education requirements for people desiring to be foster parents and public agencies were the only ones allowed to find foster parents. Due to the work of dedicated foster parents lobbying the state of Ohio, they established a training network, increased court involvement, and offered state subsidies for adoptions. After the Federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act was passed in the 1980s, the Ohio foster care system shifted their attention to international adoptions and juvenile justice foster care. Currently, there are over 2,600 children in foster care that are eligible for adoption. For those adopting a child in Ohio out of foster care, the state offers a Post Adoption Special Services Subsidy for those that are deemed eligible.

2. Foster Care in Ohio

Foster care in Ohio is overseen by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Children in foster care are most often placed in the care of the state because their original living conditions are seen as unsafe. For a child’s living conditions or if guardian care is seen as unfit, the state will find alternative placement for the child. The first option for child placement is that of kinship care. Kinship caregivers are often family or close friends of the child’s parent or guardian. If kinship care isn’t an option, the child or children are placed in a foster home.

Foster care is a temporary living situation for children who have been found to be living in unsafe conditions. While children are in care of the state, their guardians/parents have the opportunity to work on improving their living situation, working through addictions, and finding other support they might need. The state requires the parent to agree to certain services found reasonable and appropriate by a judge. As the services are completed, the chances of reunification are increased. 

Safety for the child is the ultimate goal of foster care with reunification being a close second. The states work closely with foster care agencies to help children return to their homes. With the help of a judge and caseworkers, parents are given a plan to work through. There are often many extensions and time given to parents. The process of a child being in foster care can be lengthy. It takes a lot for a parent to lose their parental rights. 

For this reason, adopting an infant from foster care is very rare and difficult. If you are interested in adopting a child in Ohio from foster care, it is important to keep this in mind. When working with a foster care agency or the state agency, it is beneficial to be very clear and direct with them in letting them know what you are looking for. Oftentimes, families want to be foster parents without the plan of adopting and then find themselves adopting their foster kids. Likewise, there are times that families are placed with legal-risk placements (children that are likely to have parental rights terminated), but their cases end up in reunification. 

When signing on as a foster parent, there are a lot of unknowns, but the gift of loving children can be worth it. As a foster parent, our family was able to love, nurture, and support many children that have gone on to be reunified with their parents. While the goodbyes were hard, it was very rewarding to see their progress and watch the progress of their parents.  

To become a foster parent in Ohio, there are requirements similar to most other states in the US. General requirements to become a foster parent in the state of Ohio include the following.

  • You must be at least 21 years old.
  • At least one person in your home must be able to read, write, and speak English, or be able to communicate effectively with both the child and the agency that placed the child in your home.
  • You may be single or married.
  • Your household must have enough income to meet the basic needs of the child and to make timely payment of shelter costs.
  • You must be free of any physical, emotional, or mental conditions that could endanger the child or seriously impair your ability to care for the child.
  • A licensed physician, physician’s assistant, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse practitioner or certified nurse-midwife must complete and sign a medical statement for you and each member of your household.
  • Everyone over the age of 18 living in your house must never have been convicted of (or entered guilty pleas for) any offenses defined in Ohio Revised Code section 5103.0319.
  • A certified state fire safety inspector or the state fire marshal’s office must inspect your home and certify that it is free of hazardous conditions.
  • You must complete all required pre-placement and continuing training.

Depending on the foster-agency that you work with, you can become a licensed foster parent in about three months. If you are interested in more information about becoming a foster parent in Ohio and adopting through foster care, visit the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services website.

Waiting Children

When a child is in foster care and parental rights are terminated, they are legally adoptable. Oftentimes, children are adopted by their current foster family, kinship placements, or by a family they are familiar with. However, if a child who is in foster care has had parental rights terminated and have not been adopted, they are placed on a list of waiting children. These are children that are legally able to be adopted and are waiting for their forever homes. 

Most of the children on the waiting children list are older and likely have a physical, emotional, or medical challenge. They are, however, excited and hopeful to find their forever family. It is also common to see sibling groups on waiting children lists. When adopting a child from state custody, there are different adoption assistance resources available. The most common support is that the child is provided with Medicaid until they turn 18. There are often other supports available to provide needed therapies and interventions. 

You can view lists of children in Ohio that are waiting for their forever families at HC Kids and NOAS (Northeast Ohio Adoption Services)

3. Private Adoption in Ohio

As in every state, there are specific adoption laws that must be followed. Some are similar to other states and some are different. Someone who is interested in adopting a child in Ohio mustgo through an agency or an attorney. An attorney can only represent one party in the adoption: either the person seeking to adopt or the parent placing a child for adoption. It is legal to informally assist or promote adoption to make a connection between a birth family and a hopeful adoptive family. 

In Ohio, any minor may be adopted, along with adults that are totally or permanently disabled. To be able to adopt in Ohio, you can be married or single. There isn’t a set age that you are able to adopt in Ohio, but each agency is able to set those guidelines for their respective hopeful adoptive families. If you are hoping to adopt a child in Ohio, here are a few other things that you will need to think about.

Adoption Professionals

Decide which kind of adoption you would like to pursue – private adoption or adoption from foster care.

Find an agency or attorney to work with throughout the adoption process. Adoption can go through the state agency, an adoption agency, or through an attorney. When choosing which agency or attorney to use, it is wise to ask friends who have adopted previously. A great resource for getting reviews on agencies are Facebook groups focused on domestic adoption. 

Once you’ve chosen an agency, you will be required to complete an application. Most agencies require an application fee, though not all do. When considering adoption through an agency, be aware of costs. It is important to ask the agency for an itemized list of expenses, so you can know where your money is going. Some agencies charge a fee upfront while others do not require payment until a match is completed. 

Your agency will guide you through the adoption process. Your first step will often be to complete the required training. In Ohio, adoption training includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Agency policy and procedures
  • Child development
  • Attachment and separation
  • Dealing with behavioral challenges
  • Cultural issues
  • Caring for children who have been sexually abused
  • Adoption-related issues

It is possible for the agency to waive some of these trainings if the family has already received these them in another capacity.

Home Studies

The next big requirement is to complete a home study. A caseworker will work with you to complete your home study. Oftentimes, you will be given a document of questions to answer and prepare before your home study visit. Home studies involve an all-inclusive overview of your family and each individual in your home. The elements of a home study include:

  • documentation of current marital status, if applicable.
  • a financial statement that shows the household has an income sufficient to meet the basic needs of the household and to make timely payment of shelter costs, utility bills, and other debts.
  • the report of any criminal records check.
  • the result of a central registry of abuse and neglect for each adoptive applicant and each adult household member in every State in which the person has resided in the past five years.
  • face-to-face interviews with all members of the household older than age four.
  • A medical statement that documents that the applicant and all members of the household are free from any physical, emotional, or mental condition that would endanger children or seriously impair the ability of the household members to care for the adopted child.
  • the names of three people unrelated to the applicant who do not reside with the applicant to serve as references.
  • a favorable local or state fire safety inspection.
  • documentation the residence meets all safety standards.
  • a completed water test by an approved Ohio water testing laboratory, if deemed necessary by the agency.

After the home study is complete, you begin your wait to match. The length of time can depend on a lot of factors. One of the biggest influencers of how long you will wait for a match is the type of child or children you are open to adopting. The more specific you are, the longer you will likely wait. 

Once matched, and the child is born, the birth mother must wait 72 hours after the child’s birth to consent to the adoption. Lita Jordan gives some helpful information on Ohio adoption saying:

“This consent remains revocable until a finalization of adoption is filed with the courts. After post-placements have been completed, the assessor with submit his or her final assessment to the court, and a court date will be set for finalization. Once this finalization takes place, the child legally becomes the child of the adoptive parents, just as if the adoptive parents had given birth to him or her. A new birth certificate is then issued with the child’s name and the names of her adoptive parents. In most cases, the original birth certificate is sealed.”

For more information about adoption laws specific to Ohio, you can visit this informative article on our website.

For Expectant Mothers

Making the decision to place your child for adoption is a difficult and overwhelming process. As your child’s parent, you ultimately will decide what is best for your child. If you feel that adoption is the best option for you and your child, you will want to find an agency that will support you in your process. A strong agency will provide counseling services before and after your child is born. They will guide you to financial assistance, medical, and legal resources. They will also help you to decide on the type of family that you want to place your child with. Do you want your child to be raised in a home with two parents? One? Are you open to same-sex parents? Do you want your child to be raised with siblings? Do their careers influence your decision? These questions and many others are things you might want to think about.

You will get to decide how open the adoption is. If you want a closed adoption, you can state that clearly to your agency so they can find a family that also wants a closed adoption. If you want an open or semi-open adoption, you will be able to stay in contact with your child and receive regular updates on how your child is doing. Some mothers feel very strongly towards one or the other types of adoption. Think carefully about your future and whether or not you’d like an open adoption. 

You are the most important person in the life of your child. You have a big decision to make, but you don’t need to make it alone. Finding a great agency to support you will make the process easier and more manageable. 

Michelle Donner