If you’re considering adopting a child in Ohio, you most likely have a lot of questions concerning eligibility, requirements, and how on earth to get started. Thankfully, there is an enormous amount of information available to help you to better understand how to take your first step toward making your dream to grow your family through adoption a reality.

According to the Ohio Foster, Adoption and Kinship Care website, “On any given day, nearly 16,000 children are being cared for away from their parents in Ohio. About 4,000 of those children are placed with a relative or family friend. More than 9,200 of them are living with foster parents. The rest of them are in residential care or another placement setting.”

Do Your Research

Understanding the adoption process is half the battle while working your way through the mountains of paperwork can feel like the other half. But, before you do anything, it is important for anyone considering adopting a child in Ohio to decide whether or not adoption is the right choice for you. Adoption.com’s “How To Adopt A Child Guide” is a good place to start.

Do some soul-searching. While adoption can be a wonderful and rewarding experience for an adoptive family, it should be understood that adoption is a lifetime commitment; one that will not only affect you but the child whom you will be making a lifelong member of your family. It is important for all members of your family to be on board with building a family through adoption and realizing that adoption can come with unique challenges.

What type of adoption is right for you? Families considering adoption may choose different paths, including domestic, foster care adoption, and international adoption. There is no one choice that is better than another—adoption is unique by child and family; make sure that you are familiar with all types of adoption to ensure you are knowledgeable of the process and comfortable with what that form of adoption will mean for you.

Cost? In Ohio, the costs for adoption can vary depending on many factors. According to the Franklin County Law Library’s page concerning Ohio Adoption Laws and Costs, the cost for adopting a child in Ohio can range from $0 to $50,000 depending on what type of adoption you choose to pursue. Typically, it costs $0 to $1,000 to adopt a child from an Ohio county foster/adopt program. Although infants are sometimes placed, available children are often older. Foster parents receive a per diem to cover the cost of living expenses. Additionally, the state of Ohio covers health insurance for foster children through Medicaid.

Adopting an infant through a non-profit agency in Ohio typically costs between $10,000 and $25,000 and attorney adoptions tend to cost from $20,000 to $30,000.

You will want to keep track of the fees you pay throughout the process and make sure to speak up if something doesn’t make sense. Typically, for families adopting through foster care, many if not all fees are ultimately reimbursed. For information and advice on the cost of adoption as well as information on loans, fundraising, grants, and employee contributions click here. Some of these costs can also be offset by income tax credits.

Additionally, subsidies are available to families open to adopting Ohio’s waiting children with special needs, and many children are eligible for federal or state adoption subsidies.

How long does adopting a child in Ohio take? As with everything associated with adoption, how long it takes to adopt varies with the type of child being adopted. Once your home study is completed, the wait is typically between two and seven years for a healthy infant, while the process to adopt a child with special needs can often proceed quickly and be completed within a few months. State adoptions can range anywhere from immediate placement to five years, depending on the situation. Similarly, the time it takes to adopt internationally varies by the type of child as well as the country you choose.

Children Available for Adoption in Ohio

According to the AFCARS report, more than 3,500 children in Ohio are waiting to be adopted as of FY 2018. Many of the children waiting are teenagers and/or are part of a sibling group.

You can see who is available for adoption in Ohio by viewing the Ohio adoption photolisting website here.

Select an Adoption Agency

Prospective families may find it confusing to know which way to turn or who to trust when choosing an adoption agency. The Child Welfare Information Gateway says, “Locating an agency to assist you in building your family through adoption should take into account your family’s personal preferences regarding the adoption services provided by that agency. While there are overarching characteristics that should be true of any agency, there are different qualities that families might find important.”

There are over 150 foster care and adoption agencies in the State of Ohio, according to the Ohio Foster, Adoption and Kinship Care Service Provider Directory. Prospective parents simply need to click on the site’s map pin or name of the provider for contact information and to learn everything you’ll need to know about the agency.

Before selecting an agency, make sure to ask a lot of questions, ask for referrals from other adoptive families, and keep your eyes open for any red flags.

Submit an Application

Once you select an agency to use during the adoption process, your agency will ask you to fill out an adoption application. The adoption application will ask about your family background and for a description of the child you are seeking to adopt.

Complete Pre-Service Training

Prospective parents must complete pre-service training before becoming eligible to adopt a child in Ohio. This mandatory training is meant to provide a realistic overview of what adoption is from both the parental and child’s point of view. Although each agency will have its own training process, some general topics will include:

 - Adoption process overview

- Legal rights and responsibilities of adoptive parents

- Effects of placement, separation, and attachment

- Child development and the impacts of abuse, neglect, and dependency

- Cultural diversity

- Behavior management techniques

- Available community services

Home Study

While home studies can put prospective parents on edge, they are not meant to make you feel uncomfortable. A home study is done to show the type of home you offer to the child you’re looking to adopt. For a home study, you gather the required information so you can connect to a child you wish to adopt. Plus, a home study helps you understand and ensure you’re prepared to parent and adopt the child you’re hoping to adopt.

According to an Adoption.com article, “Your home study will consist of a home visit, an interview, and a series of documents that you will be required to complete, including an autobiographical statement, health evaluation, financial statements, background checks, references, and copies of important legal documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses.” All of the information gathered will then be compiled and sent to Ohio’s Department of Family Services by your social worker. However, for an international adoption, the compiled report will be sent to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Click here to find a home study professional in your area, links to home study requirements by state, and information on home studies specific to international adoption.

Coming Home

Whether you are adopting an infant or an older child, you should prepare for your child’s homecoming in advance. For infants and older kids alike, make sure that you have your support system in place—everything from family and friends to medical practitioners to educational professionals. Depending on the circumstances, you will want to have researched therapists, counselors, and other support services for children with special needs—in order to help make their transition as easy as possible on them.

For all children, keep in mind that coming into a new home is a huge adjustment. Be ready to be flexible. Be open to change. Some things will go well, other things will not. Take a deep breath and know that parenting is unpredictable at best—and parenting an adopted child adds an extra layer to the mix. Open your home to feel safe and welcoming to a child of a different race or ethnic group. Consider placing toys and items around your home that they will find appealing and familiar.

Most importantly, make time to be present with your family to allow everyone to adjust and facilitate bonding. Although the urge is to invite family and friends over, many adoption and medical professionals suggest holding off to allow your child time to adapt and feel safe in their new environment. Put your electronic devices down! Provide structure and routine as you spend time eating together, playing together, and working together as you become used to your new family unit.

The article “10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Do When Bringing Their Child Home For The First Time” suggests things adoptive parents can do when bringing their child home for the first time.

Post-Adoption Support Services to Families Adopting a Child in Ohio

Ohio offers adoptive families a program called Post Adoption Special Services Subsidy, which is designed to assist eligible families, after adoption finalization, to receive allowable services. You can learn more about this here, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services adoption guide.

Finalization

The Ohio adoption photolisting website describes the finalization/legalization process of adopting a child in Ohio as:

Petition for Adoption. Families need to go and file their petition to adopt 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.  A written report by the assessor will be given to the judge, it will contain the assessor’s assessment, which will include elements such as, “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.”

The Ohio adoption photolisting website continues as it details the adoption hearing where the judge ensures that the proper consents to the adoption are completed with notices given. They will also check the placement of the child in your home was done correctly and they will decide whether this adoption is in the best interest of the child or not.  If approved, the adoption decree will immediately be entered or made an “Interlocutory Order of Adoption,” which, on a future date, automatically becomes a final decree of adoption. “In an interlocutory order of adoption, the court will provide for observation, investigation, and a further report on the adoptive home during the interlocutory period.

“…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.

“[Lastly,] 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.”

Ready to Get Started?

Visit the Ohio Foster, Adoption and Kinship Care portal for more information on adoption, choosing a foster care or adoption agency, and how to submit your application to be on your way to adopting a child in Ohio.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.