The state of the adoption and foster care systems in Ohio directly impacts on reproductive choice. A well-functioning adoption system that honors birth parents, and supports all three parties in the adoption process is critical to ensuring that women really do have the option of creating an adoption plan when they choose not to parent their biological child. Birth parents deserve the reassurance that if they decide adoption is the right path for them, or if placing the infant as a ward of the state is the only option, that there are safe and nurturing homes awaiting that child. A well-funded and well-functioning child welfare system also allows for families to become stronger when facing challenges. Parent education and support is critical to keeping families together and helping parents to be more effective.
A total of $1,006,793,629 in public expenditures was spent on child welfare in Ohio in fiscal year 2013. That year Ohio provided the lowest investment in child welfare of any state in the country, at 9 cents of every dollar spent, as opposed to the national state average of 43 cents of each dollar (PCSAO, 2015-2016). In 2013, local funding sources in Ohio increased to 52 cents of every dollar for investment in child welfare, while nationally the average is 11 cents from local spending (PCSAO, 2015-2016).
The foster care system in Ohio serves children of varied backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. In 2013 there were 12,212 children from newborn to age 20 in foster care, representing a rate of 5 children per 1,000 in that age range; of that number, 2,005 individuals age 16 to 20 were in foster care (National Kids Count, 2015). Male children constitute 54% of the children in Ohio’s foster care system (National Kids Count, 2015). Although white children make up the majority of the individuals in foster care, the percentage of Black children in care relative to the overall Black population is consistently higher than for white children.
There are many different types of foster care situations in Ohio. The majority of children are placed in foster family homes of non-relatives, however group homes, pre-adoptive homes, runaway facilities, supervised independent living, trial home visits and foster family homes with relatives are all care placement options in the state (National Kids Count, 2015). The amount of time individuals spend in the foster system waiting to be adopted varies (National Kids Count, 2015). In 2013 the largest group of children, making up 28% overall, waited 34 to 35 months to be adopted, followed by 26% waiting 12 to 23 months, 22% waiting three to four years, 15% waiting five or more years and 9% waiting less than 12 months (National Kids Count, 2015). The percentage of children in foster care waiting five or more years to be adopted has decreased from 20% in 2009 to the 15% reported above in 2013 (National Kids Count, 2015).
It is not possible to evaluate the state of private adoption in Ohio. There are limited statistics and data on the private adoption system about who is involved, what the cost looks like and how many children are placed in homes through this mechanism.