Adoption in Ohio: A Comprehensive Guide
Adopting a child is rewarding. Unfortunately, it can also be time-consuming and confusing.
This guide will make it easier to understand the process.
People have a lot of questions about how to adopt a child. The adoption process differs not only from state to state but also from county to county.
Although many people prefer a newborn baby, many older children are waiting for homes. We'll explore a variety of options.
ADOPTIONS AVAILABLE IN OHIO
The state of Ohio allows both attorneys and agencies to handle adoptions. Ohio recognizes four types of adoptions: Public, Private Independent, Private Agency and International.
We’ll explore each one of those options below.
In a public adoption, the court has removed a child from his or her natural parent’s home. Ofen due to neglect, abAdopting a child is rewarding. Unfortunately, it can also be time-consuming and confusing.
People have a lot of questions about how to adopt a child. The adoption process differs not only from state to state but also from county to county.
Although many people prefer a newborn baby, many older children are waiting for homes. Usually, an older child up for adoptions is in custody of the state’s child protective services department.
In these cases, the county children's services agency may handle the adoption. Or the adoptive parents may enlist a private adoption agency.
Children eligible for public adoption often are older or have special needs. Ages range from infancy to teens. Siblings in need of a home are also common in public adoption cases.
The county or state subsidizes public adoptions. This lowers the cost as compared to other types of adoptions. These adoptions also tend to take less time than other types.
Private Independent Adoption
A lawyer usually coordinates private adoptions. This kind of adoption involves a child who isn't in the custody of the county or state.
Private adoption involves a direct arrangement between the adoptive and birth parents. In this type of adoption, the birth parents give consent to the adoptive parents.
Anyone may help with adoption. Sometimes clergy or doctors, for example, promote adoption or connect prospective parents. But only an agency or attorney can make the formal arrangements.
An adoption attorney in the state of Ohio is not allowed to represent both parties. Adoptive and birth parents each have to have their representation. The majority of adoptees in private independent adoptions are infants.
Private Agency Adoption
In most cases, the birth parent(s) surrender their parental rights to the adoption agency. Then the agency facilitates adoption.
Birth parents usually have a say in where the agency places their child(ren). But the agency can place a child with a family other than the one selected by the birth parents.
Adoption agencies try to honor the birth parents' wishes whenever possible.
The majority of private adoptions involve a child who's less than a year old.
One advantage of a private adoption agency is they will often come to the parent's home to collect the child. An attorney is less likely to do this. For this reason, some parents prefer private adoption agencies.
In an Ohio attorney-handled adoption, birth parents must consent in front of a judge. If both parents consent to the adoption, they can do so in the attorney's office.
If only the mother is surrendering the child, she has to go before a county judge or magistrate.
International adoption involves the adoption of a child from other countries. Adoption agencies handle these types of adoption.
International adoptions get much media coverage. Sometimes the rosy picture is misleading. Adoptions are usually the most complicated, expensive and of the longest duration.
To adopt a child who is a citizen of another country the adoptive parents must meet the laws of the state they live in. They must also the laws of the host country. This can be tricky.
The Hague Adoption Convention regulates international adoptions. The federal government oversees adoption agencies and international adoption policies. This oversight protects all the parties from unethical adoption practices. Unethical practices such as child abductions and adoption scams.
The US State Department certifies international adoption agencies. Make sure any agency you work with has this certification.
The State Department requires proof that the foreign adoption agency has:
- secured legal consent and provided counseling for the biological parents
- has attempted to place the child within their own country
- that the child has been cleared for a U.S. adoption.
Adoptive parents are also required to get an immigrant visa when adopting a child. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grants these visas. If approved, the US will grant citizenship to the adopted child as soon as he or she enters the country.
The majority of international adoptions involve toddlers or young children.
Ohio law requires that an adoption attorney or agency tells both the adoptive and birth parents about the availability of an open (non-binding) adoption agreement. Any open adoption agreement must be approved by the county handling the adoption. The agreement cannot:
- allow the birth parent(s) to exercise parental control or authority over the child placed for adoption;
- deny the adoptive parent or child access to social and medical history or anything else included in the adoption file;
- limit the adoptive parent’s full parental control and authority over the adopted child in any way.
The court cannot refuse to approve an adoption agreement unless it shows problems with the terms of the agreement or decides that the child’s best interests will be compromised in some other way. Even though the courts in Ohio have to approve an open adoption agreement, it is important to remember that these agreements are not enforceable in Ohio.
All terms of open adoption are voluntary. Anyone party to an open adoption agreement can discontinue communication with other parties at any time.
WHO CAN ADOPT & WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Stepparent adoptions take place when a spouse adopts the other spouse's children.
Laws about stepparent adoptions differ from county to county. Some counties allow stepparents to file adoption petitions without counsel. Others require counsel. Stepparent adoption is usually simple if you can get both party's consent.
All parties need to remember that with adoption, it's as if the child were born to the stepparent. This includes all of the same rights and responsibilities.
After adoption, the other natural parent has no legal right to visit the child. He or she also is no longer obligated to support the child. The child will no longer inherit through the other parent or his or her family. Adoption terminates the legal relationship between the child and the other natural parent.
Following adoption by a stepparent, the county updates the birth certificate. The new birth certificate will list the stepparent as the child’s parent. Even in the event of a divorce, the adopting stepparent will be responsible for child support. He or she is also entitled to visitation or custody rights.
The adopted child is also eligible to inherit through the adopting stepparent.
The natural parent’s consent is not required if the natural parent has...
- failed without justification to communicate
- failed to provide for the child's maintenance and support for 6 months or more
Birth fathers have 15 days to register with the Ohio Putative Father Registry. In the past, it was 30 days but not the period is shorter.
Other exceptions may apply. For example, if the juvenile court has terminated a parent's rights.
The term "Kinship Care" refers to an arrangement in which a relative or another adult. The caregiver has a relationship or bond with the child. He or she takes over the full-time substitute care of a child whose parents are unable or unwilling to do so.
Kinship care includes relationships established through various means. These include legal custody, or guardianship or a relative foster care placement. The relationship may also be informal.
Most kinship care placements are interim placements. Parents often have an opportunity to retore custody. They may need to complete drug or alcohol rehabilitation or take parenting classes. Once they complete the requirements, they may resume custody.
Typical candidates for kinship adoptions are grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Sometimes relative adoptions involve the death or incapacitation of the birth parents. The birth mother and father must consent to the adoption of their child. Even if the adoptive parents are close relatives.
Parents may relinquish all parental rights through the Juvenile or the Probate Court. This will allow the kinship family to adopt the child(ren) if they are suitable.
Adoption can occur only after parental rights have been terminated.
If the parents do not agree to a kinship adoption, then the adoption will not take place. If the state determines the parents will not be able to resume custody, the judge may terminate their parental rights.
Children Services may get permanent custody from the Juvenile Court. This thereby ending a parent's rights and responsibilities toward their children. This frees the children for adoption.
Kinship adoption is a permanent arrangement. The adoption entitles a child to all of the benefits of a biological child. In the state of Ohio, Kinship Adoption may also entitle the children to certain adoption subsidies. Subsidies may include social security, insurance and/or pension benefits.
Although adult adoptions are rare, most states provide for them, including Ohio. These cases usually involve an adult with total and permanent physical disabilities or severe developmental disabilities. For whatever reason, the adult cannot take care of himself or herself and thus needs care.
Caregivers can adopt if they established a relationship with the child while he or she was still a minor. Or if the adult was in the permanent custody of the state at the time of his or her eighteenth birthday.
WHAT DOES AN ADOPTION ATTORNEY DO?
As a general rule, adoption lawyers have fewer restrictions than adoption agencies. Often about age, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
Your attorney will help you provide, prepare, and submit all required legal documents. An adoption lawyer will be knowledgeable on state- and country-specific adoption laws. A qualified attorney will make sure that you receive the best service possible.
In Ohio, attorney-arranged adoptions are usually less expensive than private agency adoptions.
According to the Ohio Bar Association, the average cost of a private agency adoption for a healthy infant without special needs ranges from $12,000 to $16,000. Attorney fees for a similar adoption range from $3,000 to $5,000.
Also, an agency home study often costs between $1,300 to $2,500. A home study that is done through the courts in Ohio usually averages between $200 and $600.
The state or county subsidizes a non-private or “public” agency adoption. So the cost to adoptive parents is very low, or sometimes, even free. In many public-agency adoptions involve child abuse or neglect. In such cases, the court may terminate parental rights.
In an adoption handled by a lawyer, the birth parents select the adoptive parents. The birth parents make all the decisions about their child and the adoption. Potential adoptive parents usually assemble information about their lives, values, and parenting philosophies. Birth parents use this information to choose an adoptive family.
Often, adoption attorneys will set up meetings between birthparents and adoptive parents. The attorney will often facilitate ongoing communication.
The new family must pass the home study, background checks, and other legal requirements. Then the court will place the child with the family chosen by the birth parents.
Unfortunately, in rare cases, birth mothers use their babies as ways to con potential adoptive parents. These mothers may take thousands of dollars, then leave the potential adoptive parents without a baby.
Having an attorney involved in the adoption process helps everyone involved stay on track. Your attorney will keep the adoption running smoothly through the proper legal channels.
OHIO ADOPTION LAWS
Anyone wanting to adopt a child in the state of Ohio, domestically or internationally, is required to complete a home study.
Ohio requires a home study for all types of adoptions, including stepparent adoptions.
Information requested for the home study requirement varies from agency to agency and county to county but most include personal interviews, submission of health records and financial statements, home visits, character references, educational training, adoption education, a personal statement, and criminal background checks.
This information is requested to determine if the person(s) petitioning to adopt are suitable to do so.
￼Ohio law also states that if the adopted child is 12 years of age or older he or she must consent to the adoption.
Consent to adoption can be granted in as little as 72 hours after birth as long as an assessment has been completed before birth. If not, then consent can be given 72 hours after the completion of the assessment.
Consent becomes irrevocable after birth parents surrender rights to an agency or--in the case of attorney-led adoptions--after the court has issued an interlocutory order or final decree.
If there is evidence of fraud, duress or misrepresentation, consent can be withdrawn at any time, although a return to the birth parents is not necessarily automatic. The state of Ohio requires a six-month home residency before the finalization of the adoption.
In June 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, that state-level bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
This ruling opens the door for same-sex couples to have both their names on a birth certificate of an adopted child--something that was not allowed before--but Ohio’s adoption laws still need to be re-written to allow equal parenting recognition. Many same-sex families wanting changes on their children’s birth certificates are still in limbo.
What are the rights of birth fathers in the state of Ohio? Recently changed adoption laws created a pre-birth notice option that can be sent to a putative father regarding a possible adoption, giving the father a notification so he can consider all of the options available to him.
A birth father that fails to register within 15 days after the child's birth essentially gives up the right to consent to an adoption.
The ability for either the birth father or mother to contest an adoption must take place within six months after the date of the finalization of the adoption.
The recent law also defines what qualifies as living expenses of the birth mother that are allowed to be paid.
Rent or mortgage, utilities, products or services like food, household goods, personal care items and the cost of transportation to work or school are included. The new law also requires that every effort be made to give payments directly to the organization or entity providing the service or item (such as the rental company, grocery store or utility company). Previously the payments could only be made directly to the birth mother.
One of the biggest changes in Ohio’s adoption laws?
Those wanting to adopt are now legally able to advertise--in print, online or over the airwaves--that they are looking to adopt a baby. This means we might soon be seeing classified advertisements, commercials or even billboards!
WHAT HAPPENS IN COURT DURING THE ADOPTION PROCESS?
The laws relating to adoption are found in section 3107 of the Ohio Revised Code. Adoptions take place in the court of common pleas in the county where:
- the child resides;
- the person seeking the adoption resides; or
- where the natural parent resides.
It is mandatory, whether adopting through an agency or independently, that the person adopting as well as the child being adopted appear before the Probate Court for the final hearing.
In some circumstances, there may be other appearances required. Legal steps for completing adoptions are:
- The name by which the adoptee will be known if the petition is granted;
- Information on the adoptee, petitioner, and on persons whose consent is required;
- A certified copy of the adoptee's birth certificate, if available;
- Copies of required consents and relinquishments of consents;
- Information on everyone living in the adoptive household.
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 to the judge, which will include:
- adjustment of the child to the placement;
- present and anticipated needs of both the child and petitioner;
- the child’s, mental, physical and developmental conditions;
- the adoptee's biological family background
- reasons for the child's placement with the petitioner;
- the adoptee's psychological background.
If the child is old enough, the assessment report will also include the adoptee’s opinions and thoughts on the proposed adoption.
Hearing on Adoption
At the adoption hearing, a county judge will confirm everything is in place. All persons required to consent to the adoption must have done so. All notices must have been given to the parties and the child must have been placed in the adoptive home.
The judge will also decide on whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. If the adoption is approved, he or she will either enter the adoption decree immediately or make what’s known as an Interlocutory
The Order of Adoption will become a final decree of adoption on a specific date in the future. In an interlocutory order of adoption, the court will provide observation, investigation and a further report on the adoptive home during the interlocutory period.
Decree of Adoption
The final decree of adoption creates the relationship of parent and child between you and the adopted child, the same as if the adoptee were your biological child.
The court will seal the child's original birth certificate and issue a new one. The new birth certificate will list the adoptive parent(s) as if they were the natural parents.
Adopted children born in either Ohio or a foreign country, receive their new birth certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics located in Columbus, Ohio. Children born outside in another state but adopted in Ohio receive their new birth certificates from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where they were born.
QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL ADOPTION LAWYER
Finding the right adoption lawyer in Ohio is an important step, no matter what type of adoption you may be interested in. Sample questions are below:
- What services do you provide?
- Will you actively assist me in finding an adoption situation as well as handle the necessary legal work?
- What is your general philosophy about adoption?
- Why did you get involved in adoption?
- Do you handle open adoptions, confidential adoptions or both? Do you have strong feelings about openness?
- Will you keep me up-to-date and involved?
- What are the financial and emotional risks involved?
Most importantly, you want to make sure that the lawyer--and his or her support staff--are people that will help you feel at ease and who will be respectful of everyone’s needs throughout the adoption process.
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