If you are considering adopting a child in Ohio, you likely have a list of questions about where and how to begin. This blog aims to give you a foundation on which to build. If you are interested in adopting a child in Ohio, consider connecting with an experienced family law attorney who can help you take steps toward adding to your family through adoption.
There are several ways by which potential adoptive parents, also known as petitioners, might come to grow or change their families by adoption. Let’s begin by exploring the types of adoption.
Birth parents consent to the child being adopted, and it may involve an adoption agency or can be direct between adoptive parents and birth parents. Often, birth parents do get a say in where the child is placed, but a private adoption agency may choose to place the child elsewhere.
Adoptive parents and birth parents can arrange for:
- Open Adoption- The birth family and adoptive family are aware of important personal information (names, location, etc) and have a high level of communication and the option for post placement contact. Note that open adoption agreements (aka “Post Adoption Contact Agreements”) are not enforceable in Ohio. This means that any party to the voluntary agreement can decide to stop communication at any time and for any reason.
- Semi-Open Adoption- The birth family and adopting parents have contact during pregnancy and they usually meet in person before or right after the birth. They may also exchange calls during this time.
- Closed Adoption- No information or contact is shared between adoptive and birth parents.
- The child is either voluntarily surrendered or the local Department of Child and Family Services will file for custody of children who are being neglected or abused. In these cases, Children’s Services may handle the adoption, or the petitioners might use an agency to facilitate.
- One seeking adoption of their spouse’s child must be married to the parent of the minor for at least one year prior to the petition for adoption being filed.
- It is easier if both birth parents consent to the adoption as the other birth parent will have their rights of the child terminated. However, consent of the other biological parent is not needed if can be shown that the other parent has had only minimal with the child or financially provided for the child for one year prior to the petition for adoption being filed.
- Typically involves adoption by grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other close relative after the adoptive child has been placed in their temporary care. Once the biological parents’ rights to the child have been terminated through the court, this allows the family members to pursue adoption.
- Regulated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
- Ohio will recognize a foreign adoption decree if it’s verified and approved by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. (ORC 3107.18(B))
WHO CAN ADOPT A CHILD IN OHIO?
Becoming familiar with the adoption requirements in Ohio is an important part of this journey. Generally, to adopt in Ohio, the petitioner must be:
- A married couple, at least one of whom is an adult
- An unmarried adult
- The unmarried minor parent of the person to be adopted (such as the known father who is a minor)
- A married adult without the other spouse joining as a petitioner, if any of the following apply:
- The other spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and supports the adoption; (in the case of a stepparent adoption)
- The petitioner and other spouse are separated
- The other spouse fails to join or support the adoption due to prolonged unexplained absence, unavailability, incapacity, or circumstances that make is impossible or unreasonably difficult to obtain either the support or refusal of the other spouse
Unless the birth parents’ rights have previously been terminated, consent of the following is required:
- biological mother and father, unless the mother was unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, or the father’s paternity was not acknowledged under Ohio law.
- Putative (known to be) father.
- If the minor is 12 years or older, the minor must also consent unless the court finds his or her consent is not required
Does Ohio law allow same sex couples to adopt? Yes, both married and unmarried same sex couples can adopt.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE ADOPTION PROCESS?
In order to feel more prepared and even empowered in this process, it is important to know what the adoption process in Ohio looks like, procedurally. A series of events take place during when adopting a child in Ohio:
- Background Check
- Home Study to determine if the person seeking adoption is suitable to adopt
- Search of the National Sex Offender website
- Filing petition for adoption in the applicable county
- Prefinalization Assessment conducted by a qualified Assessor
- Hearing on the Petition, with both the petitioner and child present
- Issuance of the Final Adoption Decree
- The Court or the Bureau of Vital Statistics will grant a new birth certificate for the child that lists the adoptive parents as if they were the biological parents.
If this is a contested adoption, during the hearing, the court will use the following to determine if the adoption is in the best interest of the child:
- Least long-term negative impact on the child’s growth and development
- Age and health of the child
- Wishes of the child, if feasible
- Duration of separation from the biological parent(s)
- Whether the child will be able to enter a more stable environment, considering the current placement, future placement, and the results of prior placements of the child
- Likelihood of safe reunification with a biological parent in a reasonable time
- Importance of providing stability, permanence, and continuity of relationships for the child
- Child’s relationships and interactions with their parents, siblings and other persons significantly affecting their best interests
- Child’s adjustment to school, home, and community
- Mental and physical health of all persons in the case
- Whether any person in the case has been convicted of or plead guilty to a child being neglected or abused
Consider your overall “why” in your plan for adopting a child in Ohio. Look at the process from the perspective of providing a family for a child over finding a child for your family. Ensure that you have a strong support system in place to foster the relationship with your family and the child. Also consider how this impacts any existing children in the home. You and your family may consider reaching out for guidance and support from adoption professionals, as well as any support needed to ensure cultural adaptation within your home.
A family law attorney can assist in the process to finalize the legal process of the adoption, but both the adoptive parents and the biological parents will need to be represented by separate counsel.