DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is required
Initial Filing Fee: $0
In Ohio, adoption is a two-step process. First, the legal obligations and rights of the biological parents towards a child are terminated. Second, the rights and obligations of the adoptive parents are established and formalized. There are three forms of adoption according to Ohio state law: adoption through public agencies, adoption through private agencies, and private adoption by relative caregivers (such as stepparents or grandparents). While the first of these options provides state guidance, as the public agencies work with adoptive parents to complete the process, the private adoption options require that the adoptive parent(s) petition in probate court. However, most private agencies will also oversee the process in a manner similar to the public agencies. It is important to keep in mind, too, that because the welfare of a child is at stake, the entire process of adoption in Ohio is highly overseen and requires legal assistance through an agency or a specially trained attorney.
Step 1: Determine Whether You are Allowed to Adopt
There are restrictions on the type of people who are allowed to adopt children. In order to adopt a child in Ohio you must meet at least one of the following conditions:
• Husband and wife together, at least one of whom is an adult
• An unmarried adult
• Unmarried minor parent of the person to be adopted
• Married adult without the other spouse joining under the following circumstances:
o The other spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and supports the adoption
o The petitioner and the other spouse are legally separated
o The other spouse fails to join the petition due to prolonged unexplained absence,
unavailability, incapacity, or circumstances that make it impossible or unreasonably
difficult to obtain either the support or refusal of the other spouse
Step 2: Choosing a Public or Private Adoption Agency
Public and private agencies require many of the same restrictions and regulations for adopting a child in Ohio. They will also share the same basic procedures for adopting a child. Public agencies help find homes for children the state has assumed responsibility for while private agencies represent children from many different areas, including children from international adoption programs.
Step 3: Terminate Biological Parents’ Rights and Obligations
If you are adopting a child through a public or private agency, then the biological parents of the children have already terminated their legal tie to the child. If you are planning to adopt a child you already know through relatives or friends, then you need to first terminate the rights and obligations of the biological parents. To do so, the biological parents need to meet with a social worker, assessor, or adoption agent either in court or at an adoption agency to sign the papers that terminate their legal right to a child. Upon birth, as in other states, only the mother is guaranteed rights to a child, so in some cases the father may make a claim against the attempt to put the child up for adoption. In such cases, it is up to the mother, father, and court to determine whether the child can be adopted.
Step 4: Fill Out an Adoption Application
Once you have decided on an agency and attorney to work with you need to fill out and submit an application for adoption. In each case, this form is provided to you by the attorney or by the adoption agency. These applications ask for some basic information about your family background, the type of child you’d like to adopt, your financial capabilities, and other relevant information to help determine whether you are fit to be an adoptive parent.
Step 5: Attend Training
Before an adoption agency can proceed with a in-home study, prospective parents must attend an adoption education class. This training is intended to prepare potential adoptive parents for adoption and to ensure the child’s welfare. The training covers a variety of topics, including the adoption process, child development, and dealing with behavioral challenges to ensure that prospective parents are fully prepared for all the possibilities. It is possible to waive this requirement if the prospective parents have already completed similar training or exhibit the skills necessary for raising a child, but such decisions are at the discretion of the adoption agency’s assessor. The link below contains information about adoption education classes.
Step 6: Complete the Home Study
To adopt a child, a home study must be completed to determine whether the petitioning party is suitable to care for a child. In general, a home study will consist of personal interviews, visits to the petitioning party’s home, education and preparation for adoption, submission and analysis of financial statements, personal statements, character references, and a comprehensive criminal background check. A public agency must begin a home study within thirty days from when the application for adoption is submitted and must complete the home study within six months. A private agency has more flexibility, though they will generally proceed along a similar timeframe. The cost of a home study ranges from free to up to $3,000, varying by case and agency.
Step 7: Find a Child and Bring Them Into the Home
After prospective parents are approved they will work with a social worker or agency to find a child who is a good fit for them. Parents will then visit with the child in a supervised place before welcoming the child into their home. During the first few months, agencies or assessors will visit the home from time to time to see if everyone is getting along well and to verify that the child is progressing well in their new home.
Step 8: Finalize the Adoption
Once the child has been in their adoptive home for at least six months the adoptive parents can petition for the adoption to be finalized. To do so, you need to file a petition for adoption in a probate court. Once the petition is filed the judge will set a date for a hearing and order an assessment. The assessor will provide the court with a report concerning the petitioners’ abilities and the child’s acceptance of the new home. Assuming everything goes well and that everyone consents, the judge will issue a final decree of adoption and a new birth certificate will be issued for the child with the names of their adoptive parents.