Saturday, September 28, 2002

More Ohio adoptions since changes in law


Reforms gave cash incentives, faster process

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS - Adoptions have increased 45 percent in Ohio in the years since the state and federal governments started making changes to pair children and parents more quickly.

        Ohio finalized 2,032 adoptions in 2001, compared with 1,777 the previous year, 1,605 in 1999 and 1,400 in 1998.

        “That's called a good success in public policy,” said Crystal Allen, executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, which represents county children services agencies. “We've had a lot of progress placing children because of the reforms.”

        Federal law enacted in 1997 encouraged the adoption of children who had been in foster care the longest, required states to develop plans that would make adopting children across state and county lines easier, and provided states with cash incentives to find permanent homes for children in foster care.

        Also that year, the state began implementing its own changes. Legislation, signed into law in 1996 by then-Gov. George Voinovich, decreased the time a child waits for an adoptive home, developed statewide standards for adoption procedures and improved access to adoption information.

        Since then, the state has approved other measures, including giving tax credits to Ohioans who adopt children.

        The federal legislation challenged states to move children into homes more quickly, said Wendy Spoerl, vice president of development for the Adopt America Network. The private, Toledo-based national adoption agency focuses on finding permanent homes for children in foster care.

        “It's working. The states obviously are working hard,” she said.

        This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave a total of $17.5 million to 23 states that from 2000 to 2001 increased the number of adoptions. Ohio received $1.5 million.

        Rhonda Abban, chief of the adoption section of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, credited intensive efforts to recruit adoptive families and to match children and families.

        For example, the state created a Web site, AdoptOhio, that shows pictures of available children.

        “We felt that we had a number of kids who were in the system and some families waiting to adopt, but we needed to bring the two groups together,” Ms. Abban said.

        Still, more can be done to place the 3,600 children currently without permanent homes in Ohio, she said. The state will use part of the $1.5 million to recruit families and to give them more support services after they adopt a child.

        Crissy Kolarik, co-director of A Child's Waiting, an adoption agency in Copley, said a lack of public awareness is the main reason more children aren't being adopted.

        “There's still more work to be done because people have no clue that there's that many children waiting,” Ms. Kolarik said.

       



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