Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection is active on a range of legislative issues at the state level in Columbus. Sometimes we initiate legislation, other times we take a stand on existing initiatives or participate in coalitions. Our Public Policy Committee is composed of board and community members. In addition to our direct efforts, we release a Public Policy Agenda on a two-year cycle coinciding with Ohio’s biennial legislative sessions, and organize an annual Lobby Day where our members deliver materials and have a discussion with every legislative office in the Ohio House and Senate.
To join the committee or get more information, contact Betsie Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or (216) 482-2314
Current Legislative Initiatives include:
HB 448: Sibling Visitation Rights and Adoption
Sponsors: Rep. LaTourette (R), Rep. Boyd (D)
Purpose: Currently, Ohio law allows the relationship between a parent and a child to control the relationship between siblings. Adopted children are legally severed from their siblings and it is unclear whether permanent custody ends a sibling relationship. Although federal and state law requires children in foster care be given the opportunity to visit with their siblings, this right does not extend into adoption and can be withheld by caseworkers without direct judicial consideration. Siblings should be a source of comfort and stability to children as their relationships to the adults in their lives change. Therefore, Ohio law should allow siblings to petition for visitation and preserve their legal sibling relationships.
Proposed Changes to Ohio Law in HB 448
- Define sibling to be those sharing at least one biological or adoptive parent or raised in the same household as siblings. This broad definition allows those who consider themselves siblings to get into court. The judge may then take the amount of time living in the same household, blood relationship, and other factors into account when granting visitation.
- Clarify that, in line with the federal Fostering Connections Act, a public children services agency “shall” make reasonable efforts to place siblings together and maintain frequent contact, unless it is not in their best interests, rather than “strongly encouraged to” or “should” make reasonable efforts.
- Explicitly state the sibling relationship extends beyond permanent custody order and adoption in order to allow for inheritance, notification for placement in substitute care, and the right to petition for visitation.
- Specifically allow for siblings (minors and adults) to petition for visitation where at least one of them is in the custody of juvenile court or has been adopted. Visitation would be granted only when it was in the child’s best interests.
Status: In the House Community and Family Advancement Committee. Sponsor testimony March 7, 2018. Interested parties meetings taking place.
HB 137: Make municipal and county peace officers child abuse reporters
Sponsor: Rep. Kennedy Kent (D)
Purpose and Proposed Changes to Ohio Law in HB 137: Police officers are mandated reporters of suspected child maltreatment in every state except Ohio. This bill brings Ohio in line with other state’s laws in an effort to protect children.
Status: Passed the House unanimously Nov. 1, 2017. Assigned to Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, sponsor testimony Jan. 17, 2018. Proponent testimony hearing April 11, 2018.
HB 139: Eliminate public records exemption if record is 100 years old
Sponsors: Rep. Perales (R), Rep. Keller (R)
Purpose: Historical Records provide valuable insight into our collective history as a state, as a society, and as families. Research of these records is requested by historians and genealogists, both professionals and family history practitioners, for a variety of reasons.
The National Genealogical Society recently initiated a Declaration of Rights advocating for access to federal, state, and local government records, indicating that thousands of professional genealogists do research every day on behalf of clients, government agencies, and attorneys.
In 2015 the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation opening confidential records of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services fifty years after the patient’s death. In 2008, the Ohio Senate passed legislation opening up Veterans’ Discharge Records 75 years after the date of the recording.
Proposed Changes to Ohio Law in HB 139: House Bill 139 would eliminate the public records exemption for permanently retained record 100 years after the date of its creation. Records included in this exemption would include:
- Lunacy Records
- County Home Registers
- Children’s Home Registers
- Inheritance Tax Records
- Veterans’ Relief Records
Status: Passed House State and Local Government Committee on March 20, 2018.
HB 515: Child Rehoming — Parental Rights
Sponsor: Rep. Pelanda (R)
Purpose: To combat illegal placement of adopted children known as re-homing, which is “a form of human trafficking in Ohio.” The bill is a reintroduction of 131-HB63 (Pelanda-Grossman) which was unanimously passed by the House.
Under the practice, children who often come from other countries are adopted by families that then decide they do not wish to keep them, so the children are essentially advertised on the Internet, going around the adoption process with no government or adoption agency involved.
Proposed Changes to Ohio Law in HB 515: The bill requires mandatory reporters notify the county public children services agency with the name and address of any child named in a temporary physical care power of attorney or other document presented for school registration, medical care or other services. The children services agency would then conduct an evaluation and take whatever actions were deemed necessary to investigate in accordance with state law.
If the agency determines that the temporary placement of a child is not safe, they would file a dependency complaint with the juvenile court. Agencies would not be required to investigate temporary placement situations where it is not warranted, including placement for a designated short-term period due to vacation, school activity or a parent’s incarceration, military service, medical treatment or incapacity.
The bill also requires more information be made available in regards to prospective adoptive child information disclosure.
Status: In the House Community and Family Advancement Committee. Sponsor testimony March 7, 2018.