We are interested in adopting a child, and understand the court must approve us first. What requirements must we meet?
In many Ohio counties, the probate court will conduct a home study in order to investigate and approve prospective adoptive parents. (This may be handled by the probate court in your residential county or that of the birth parent, or the county of the licensed adoption agency in the case of an agency adoption.) In some counties, the probate court may authorize an agency to handle the investigative home study.
What’s the first step in the home study process?
You must complete a Pre-placement Application and list five references. These individuals should be unrelated and capable of expressing opinions about your ability to be adoptive parents. The completed application should be signed only in the presence of a notary public. You should also collect five letters of recommendation, preferably from individuals not listed on the Pre-placement Application. These letters should provide information such as how long the references have known you, why you would make good parents, and how you relate to children.
Must we have a medical exam?
Yes. The probate court requires you, your spouse, and any other household members to have had physical exams within the past year (from the time the pre-placement application is filed). Every adult and child in your household must obtain either a letter or completed medical form from a physician regarding his or her health or undergo a physical exam.
Does Ohio law require us to have a criminal background check?
Yes, for you, your spouse and any other adult household member. The Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII) requires that all requests for Ohio civilian background checks be submitted electronically through the use of WebCheck or other approved methods. It will take approximately 30 days to get results. You may go to the location nearest you to have your fingerprints scanned. These locations are listed by county on the Ohio Attorney General’s Web site at: http://www.webcheck.ag.state.oh.us/webcheckcommunity.htm.
Does the court require any other documentation?
Yes. You also must complete a Residency Certification form, stating the length of time you have lived in Ohio. Your attorney or agency representative must file this form, as well as the other documentation mentioned above, with the probate court. The court social worker will review the documents and then contact you to arrange a home study.
My spouse and I have lived in Ohio for only a year. Will we need more than an Ohio criminal background check?
Yes. If you or any of your adult household members have lived in Ohio for less than five years, you must also undergo a national criminal background search by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Contact the BCII to obtain FBI fingerprint cards, have your local police station fingerprint you, then send a check for $24 per search and the fingerprint cards to the BCII. The BCII will, in turn, send the cards to the FBI, and will send the results to your attorney or agency when they are returned from the FBI. The BCII will then return all your reports to your attorney or agency representative in approximately six to eight weeks.
What kinds of criminal convictions might keep us from adopting a child?
Convictions for felonies, drug offenses, or sex-related charges may keep you from adopting a child, even if these convictions have been expunged.
What happens during the home study?
The court social worker will conduct a personal interview with you and your spouse and/or other household members and review your pre-placement application to determine whether you meet the minimum standards established under Ohio law to provide a suitable home for a child.
Is there a follow-up home visit?
Yes. The court social worker will return to interview the family after the child is placed in the home in order to determine whether finalizing the adoption is in the child’s best interests.