1. Educate yourself and your family
Talk openly about the process and the time required to adopt a child. Discuss how family dynamics will change when adding a family member. Everyone should understand that adoption will bring rewards and challenges, and that those challenges will require patience, understanding and perseverance.
2. Decide to adopt as a family
Adoption is a decision for the entire family. After completing your research and talking openly about adoption, the family must decide together whether to move forward.
3. Research agencies and choose your best fit
Review the list of all Ohio agencies and find those that serve your area. Learn more about their values, mission and homestudy process. Reach out to those that interest you and ask questions. Then choose the one that best fits your needs. Once you’ve chosen an agency, whether it’s public or private, you can fill out a Foster And Adoptive Parent Inquiry Form to get the process started.
4. Meet with your agency
Typically, agencies offer informational meetings or orientations for prospective adoptive parents. At these meetings, they provide information about the process and steps. Someone will explain the required training, the homestudy, the matching process, finalization and perhaps other supportive services available during and after an adoption.
5. Complete pre-service training
Prospective adoptive parents are required to complete pre-service training. This training explores adoption from every point of view, including the child’s. It helps parents form realistic expectations of adoption and provides parenting strategies, as well. Each agency has its own training process. Most likely, you will be scheduled as soon as you express an interest.
6. Complete the application
Each agency manages the application process differently. Some will want you to apply prior to training, some during training, and some after training. The application requests basic demographic information as well as historical data.
7. Provide information for the homestudy
After you submit your application, the agency will complete a homestudy. The basic elements include home visits, medical statements, financial statements, background checks, references, safety audits and fire inspections. You’ll have to gather a lot of information, and it could take several months. Please be patient and flexible during the process.
Families are notified when their homestudy is completed and approved. If the agency doesn’t approve the homestudy, you can meet with them to understand why and learn about possible alternatives.
8. Prepare for a match
During the homestudy, an adoption assessor will work with your family to determine the characteristics of children that you could best parent. After you are approved, you and your assessor can contact county agencies to inquire about children waiting for adoptive homes. If a child or sibling group is identified as a potential match, your assessor will forward your homestudy to the county agency with custody.
The county agency may share information with you about the children, such as their social and medical family history, behavioral or developmental concerns, interests, educational background, and placement history. If you’re still interested in adopting the child or sibling group, adoption professionals at the county agency will hold a matching conference to evaluate all the families interested in adopting that child or sibling group. The strengths, characteristics and needs of the child(ren) will be compared to the strengths and characteristics of the families. The agency will choose the family best able to meet the child(ren)’s needs.
If the agency chooses your family, you will have additional time to consider the information presented. Your assessor can help, if needed. If you decide to proceed with the match, the agency will arrange a time for your family and the child(ren) to meet.
9. Meet with the child
Every adoption situation is unique. Some children need to be moved into another home quickly, and some need a slower transition. Ideally, there are a series of pre-placement visits to ensure a smooth transition. These visits help everyone get acquainted and become more comfortable around one another.
10. Welcome the child into your home
Once the child is placed with your family, you are responsible for their care. Adoption professionals from the county agency that placed the child will visit with your family to help connect you with services and discuss any potential issues that may arise. The child must be placed in your home for at least six months before you can finalize the adoption in court.
11. Finalize the adoption
Legalizing the adoption requires a short hearing in a probate court. After the hearing, you will receive the child’s new birth certificate and final adoption decree. This establishes a legal parent-child relationship, with all the same rights and responsibilities of a biological parent-child relationship.
12. Take advantage of post-finalization services
A variety of formal and informal services are available to adoptive families before and after finalization. These include support groups, counseling, respite care, medical services, educational resources and a variety of community resources. Adoption professionals from your agency or the county agency that placed the child can help you access these.