Adoption Basics in Ohio
So you are ready to expand your family and have chosen the path of adoption. Congratulations! Before you get started on your journey, being educated about the process and the unique challenges ahead, along with setting realistic expectations, is essential. Adoptions vary based on the type of adoption (infant, domestic, foster care, foreign) and state. However, the main components of the adoption journey are the same:
Whether you choose a public adoption agency or a private adoption agency, orientation classes are usually the first step in learning about what to expect of the adoption process. Orientations are a great way for prospective adoptive parents to learn about agencies. Consider attending multiple orientations at different adoption agencies to find the agency that best fits your needs (physical, emotional, and financial) for your adoption journey.
Choosing an Agency
Choosing an adoption agency that fits your needs and the child’s needs while providing maximum support is essential to adoption success. You should be able to find supportive services you need from your adoption agency at any time –before, during, and years after the adoption takes place. Parenting is hard, and support helps. An adoption agency should counsel you in making decisions during the adoption journey and should treat you with respect.
What should an adoption agency offer? Education about adoption, post-placement services, quick response to questions, information about the process of adoption, facilitation of communication between adoption parties, long-term support for adoptive and birth parents, clear communication, a list of state laws they abide by as an agency, a list of your rights, and a transparent and honest perspective of the adoption process, its costs, and its requirements.
Every state and agency has the training required of pre-adoptive parents to ensure that you are adequately equipped to face the unique challenges of parenting an adopted child. Trainings for adoption typically include topics such as coaching children through emotions, children’s brain development, emotional regulation for children, sensory issues, helping your child understand his/her story, addressing attachment behaviors, how to empower your child, how to address physical and emotional needs, fetal alcohol syndrome, trauma, mental health, self-care strategies, and more! I highly recommend learning as much as you can before placement so that your adoptive parent toolbox is bursting at the seams before your adoption is complete.
The Home Study
Your home study is the most intensive part of the adoption process and will take the longest. The process is meant to help you and your social worker gain an understanding of what age, sex, and background of a child will best fit into your home and family’s lifestyle. An average home study takes three to six months to complete. It includes interviews, home visits, visits to the doctor for proof of physical fitness, proof of financial stability and employment, criminal record checks, fingerprinting, psychological evaluations, autobiographical statements, and family pictures. In sum, your home study is about compiling a storybook about your family.
The Placement Process
Search for Child(ren)
As soon as your home study is completed, you and your social worker can begin the search for a child or a sibling group that will best fit your home. Children selected by you or your social worker from various national or international resources will need to be evaluated for the goodness of fit in your family. When you find a child or sibling group, pre-placement efforts will begin.
The pre-placement period in adoption is a time when you will get to know your child, unborn baby’s birth parents, or will travel to meet a child in a different country. As you get to know your child or baby’s birth parents, you will begin to make arrangements to bring the child, baby, or sibling group home. This is often the most challenging part of waiting in the adoption process because not every child chosen for adoption will end up in your home. Usually, the adoption process has ups and downs, which can result in disappointment (i.e., birth parents decide to keep the baby, or a child has an issue not specified in his/her case file which prevents them from being a candidate for adoption in your home).
Your child is finally placed in your home. It’s the moment you have been waiting for! Keep your agency and social worker in the loop so that you can have maximum support during this period of acclimation. Your social worker will begin to write reports required by the court for adoption. Your social worker will visit often to ensure you are getting the support services you and the child need while checking on the child’s welfare. This is also the period in which you will petition the court for the right to adopt your child.
Typically, the adoption of a child is finalized after they have been a placement in your home for six months. This gives the family and the child time to adjust to their new life and ensure that the adoption will last.
Adoption is not just a 6 month to a 2-year process whereby a family receives a child. Adoption is a lifelong experience for both a child and a family. Adjustments, developmental stages, and adoption questions from your child will occur throughout their lifetime. When your adoption is finalized and the legal period is closed, it is then that both you and your child or sibling group may finally feel safe enough to be themselves. Ensure that you stay in close contact with your agency, social worker, and family support worker to continue to work through any issues you may need help with. Also, find an agency that specializes in post-adoption services.
There are some great resources at www.americanadoptions.com and you can find and read the Ohio Revised Code dealing with adoption in Chapter 3107. Inviting someone into your family and taking good care of them is one of the most amazing and heroic things any person can do!