For individuals wanting to adopt children in Ohio, a newly passed initiative may help them realize their dream of giving a child a forever home.
The Ohio House passed the Family Forward Initiative May 14, creating the Adoption Linked Deposit Program, to help remove financial barriers for families wanting to adopt.
The initial proposal came last November.
“A program that will be proposed in the state legislature would allow the Ohio treasurer to offer financial institutions deposits at below-market interest rates, with the savings passed on to Ohioans who need to take out loans to pay for adoption costs,” a report from the Columbus Dispatch said.
Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague and State Rep. Jon Cross proposed the program with interest rate reductions of one to three percent on loans of up to $50,000 to help pay for adoption expenses, with loan terms up to 10 years.
The adoption program is like deposit programs offered for farmers in Ohio.
With the many upfront costs of the adoption process, including legal fees, travel expenditures, medical costs for birthmother and child, home study agency fees, birthmother living expenses, the Adoption Linked Deposit Program’s loans would help adopting parents move forward in the process.
Cross and Ohio House members voted unanimously to pass the legislation.
“Adopting a child should be a celebration of life, love, and family, and this bill assists Ohioans in securing the funds needed to start the adoption process,” Cross told 95.3 WKTN radio.
While the language of the bill does acknowledge the substantial financial cost for families seeking to adopt in Ohio, the legislation does not propose a lowering of the costs. Banks will use standard procedures for determining the credit worthiness of eligible borrowers.
Local pro-life advocates praised the measure, believing the reduced rate loans will be enough to significantly expand adoptions.
“The Family Forward Initiative is a good bill.” Allie Frazier, Director of Communications for Ohio Right to Life (ORTL), said. “We stand behind this initiative. We are proud of the work Ohio Treasurer, Robert Sprague and Rep. Jon Cross, have done.”
ORTL has worked over the past decade with the state legislature on measures to expand Ohio tax credits for adoption and increased protections in the adoption process to benefit birth parents and adoptive families.
The pro-life group’s Director of Legislative Affairs Jessica Warner testified before the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee on the Family Forward Initiative. The full testimony can be found HERE.
“The cost of adoption can be one of the most challenging aspects of the process and sadly even a deterrent to many families.” Warner told the committee, adding that the costs arise early in the process, and as helpful as the state and federal tax credits have been in offsetting the costs, it takes years to redeem those benefits.
“By offering low interest loans through the Family Forward Initiative, we can alleviate financial stress for families that have started the adoption process,” Warner continued. “This vital program will open the doors to families who might otherwise struggle to adopt and ensure that adoption is an accessible option for all Ohioans.”
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Adoptive Ohio parents Paul and Kim Barker offered the perspective that the loan assistance was helpful, but the high costs remain a burden.
The Barkers adopted their four-year-old daughter Olivia as an infant.
The Columbus Dispatch featured the Barker adoption story in July 2019 as front-page news.
The Barker family was selected by the Olivia’s birthmother before Olivia was born. Olivia’s birth mother had been addicted and abusing numerous drugs, and knowing their daughter would be born drug dependent, the Barkers prepared for a difficult road ahead.
The Dispatch featured the family upon the recommendation of the Ohio Department of Health as their “poster family” for having followed crucial early intervention protocols for their daughter’s development.
Having done the work necessary to intervene early with recommended programs and helped an infant through withdrawal has not deterred them from seeking to adopt a second child, and they intend to make themselves available to adopt another at risk child. However, the financial burden of the adoption process is one barrier which remains daunting.
“These loans are helpful, but at the end of the day, you still owe an estimated $35,000,” Kim Barker stated. “Paying back the debt while paying for everything else your child needs, remains a difficult burden for our family.”
The Barkers are among many who hope individuals who wish to support adoption will join with families like theirs in current crowd-funding efforts.
Adopt Together is one such website offering crowd-funding for adopting families, and which the Barkers are using to help with the costs of their second prospective adoption.
While the Family Forward Initiative may not remove every barrier faced by a given family in affording an adoption, the program, in combination with other ongoing local efforts is another step toward helping Ohio children in need of a family receive a forever home.