STEPS TO ADOPTING A CHILD IN OHIO
1. Educate yourself about foster children and adoption
Each and every child deserves a "forever" family to be there for them every day providing love and guidance. Adoption brings amazing joys and rewards, but it is a long-term commitment. Earning a child's trust may take time and energy. In addition, many children waiting in Ohio require regular medical care and/or counseling. Parenting a child with these needs can be hard work, but the rewards are tremendous for the right family.
2. Choose an Adoption Agency
Each county in Ohio has a Department of Child and Family Services that provides adoption/foster care services. In addition to the public agencies, there are private agencies that are licensed by the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (ODJFS).
You may choose to work with a public or private agency. Public agencies provide no-cost adoption services to applicants who are interested in children in the foster care system. Fees may be charged for adoption services related to children who are not in the foster care system.
Private agencies may be either nonprofit or for profit and typically operate on a fee for service basis. The fee is paid by the adoptive parents, unless the agency is contracting with the ODJFS to provide services at no cost to families interested in children in the foster care system. Private agencies should provide a written statement of the services they provide and the fee for each service. Always request this information from the agency.
Ask the agency about the types of adoptive parents needed, the time-frame involved to complete a home study (pre-placement assessment), and the fees involved if the child is not in the legal custody of a public agency.
3. Learn about the waiting children
Adoption brings amazing joys and rewards, but it is a long-term commitment to a child that should be entered into thoughtfully and with preparation. Every child deserves a "forever" family that will be there for them every day, and provide of love and discipline. Earning a child's trust may take time. In addition, many children waiting in Ohio may require regular medical care and/or counseling. Parenting a child with these needs can be hard work, but the rewards are tremendous for the right family.
4. Submit an application
Once you select an agency to use during the adoption process, the agency will ask you to fill out an adoption application. The application will ask about your family background and for a description of the child you seek to adopt.
5. Attend Pre-Service Training
Adoption education must be completed before a homestudy can be approved. The purpose of the education is to help prepare potential adoptive parents for adoption and to ensure the child's welfare is the paramount concern. Topics covered in the training may include: the adoption process, child development, separation and loss, dealing with behavioral challenges, cultural issues, and adoption related issues. This requirement may be waived if the assessor determines that the family has already received training or already has the skills necessary to care for the child. For a list of available trainings, please visit the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program Website which can be found at: www.ocwtp.net.
6. Complete the home study.
In order to adopt any child, whether through a domestic process or international, a homestudy is required. The purpose of the homestudy is to determine if the person petitioning to adopt is in fact suitable to adopt. The length of the process varies depending on whether you are going through a public or private agency. A public agency should commence a homestudy assessment within thirty days of the date of the application for child placement and should be completed within one hundred eighty days. This timeframe may vary depending on your ability to timely reply to the assessor's requests. The expenses of a homestudy also vary by agency and by the homestudy assessor. Public entities (such as county Children Services agencies) tend to be less expensive than private entities. Also, international adoption homestudies may be more expensive than domestic ones. Generally a homestudy can range in cost from $0 to $3,000.
The information requested for the homestudy will vary from agency to agency. However, the basic elements that make up a homestudy are personal interviews, home visits, adoption education and preparation, submission of health records and financial statements, a personal statement, character references, educational training, a search of the statewide automated child welfare information system and criminal background checks. The assessor may have you provide or complete any number of documents. Those documents usually include: medical statements, a child characteristics checklist, a fire inspection, a safety audit, a financial statement, a local and federal criminal background check, and a water test.
7. Work with your social worker to find the right child.
When considering placement matches for your family, the caseworker and agency will look into the characteristics of the child(ren) you can best parent. They will look to see what your homestudy approves for you and compare that to the strengths, characteristics, and needs of a waiting child. The length of time it takes to get matched with a child will vary depending on the characteristics of the children you are able to parent.
Once the caseworker and agency have identified a child for your family, they will contact you and share detailed information about the child. This information will include information on: the child's biological family, the child's medical, emotional and psychological history, developmental issues, school history and placement history. You will be given time to review and discuss this information with the appropriate professionals before making your decision.
8. Visit with your child
Once your family decides that it would like to proceed with the adoption of a child identified by the agency, the caseworker will arrange a time for your family and the child to meet. Before this first meeting, the caseworker will help to prepare your family by giving suggestions as to who should be involved with the first meeting and what activities may or may not be appropriate. After the first meeting, the caseworker will arrange for a serious of additional visits to allow your family to get to know the child further.
9. Bring your child home
After the pre-placement visits, the child will be placed in your home and you will become responsible for the child's care. The caseworker will continue to visit the home periodically to ensure that the placement is going well and discuss any issues. After the child has been in your home for at least 6 months, your family will become eligible to finalize the adoption.
10. Legalize the adoption in court
The laws relating to adoption are found section 3107 of the Ohio Revised Code. Legal steps for completing adoptions are:
a. Petition for Adoption
You must file a petition to adopt the child with the Probate Court. The adoption petition must include the following:
- The name by which the adoptee will be known if the petition is granted.
- Information on the adoptee, the petitioner, and on persons whose consent is required but has not been obtained.
- Information on all persons living in the household.
- A certified copy of the adoptee's birth certificate, if available, and copies of required consents and relinquishments of consents.
Once a petition is filed with all of the proper documents, the judge will set a hearing on the adoption and order an assessment. The assessor will provide a written report on his or her assessment to the judge, which will include: the adjustment of the child to the placement; the present and anticipated needs of the minor and the petitioner; the physical, mental, and developmental condition of the minor; the minor's biological family background reasons for the minor's placement with the petitioner; the attitude of the minor toward the proposed adoption; and, the minor's psychological background.
b. Hearing on Adoption
At the adoption hearing, the judge will ensure that all persons required to consent to the adoption have done so, all notices have been given to the parties, the child was properly placed in your home and will make a judgment as to whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. If the judge approves the adoption, he will either enter the adoption decree immediately or make an "Interlocutory Order of Adoption" which will automatically become a final decree of adoption on a certain date in the future. In an interlocutory order of adoption, the court shall provide for observation, investigation, and a further report on the adoptive home during the interlocutory period
c. Decree of Adoption
The final decree of adoption creates the relationship of parent and child between you and the child, as if the child were your biological child, for all purposes.
d. Birth certificate
The child's original birth certificate will be sealed, and a new birth certificate issued. You will be reflected on the new birth certificate, just as though you had been the child's birth parents.
Adopted children born in Ohio or a foreign country, receive their new birth certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics, Columbus, Ohio. Children adopted in Ohio, but born outside of Ohio, obtain their new birth certificates from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where they were born.