Bill aims to limit those who can adopt



The bill's author is formerly from Mahoning County.
By MARY ELLEN PELLEGRINI
VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT
At any given moment, about 6,000 children in Ohio are waiting to be adopted, with many more in need of temporary foster care.
A bill placed before the Ohio Legislature earlier this month aims to restrict adoption and foster-care placements for those children.
House Bill 515 introduced Feb. 9 by state Rep. Ron Hood of Ashville, R-91st, a former legislator from Mahoning County, would prohibit foster and adoptive children from being placed in the home of any gay, bisexual or transgender person. House Speaker Jon Husted said he doesn't plan to refer the bill to a committee for consideration anytime soon.
In a press release, Christine Link, executive director of ACLU of Ohio, said, "This bill [if passed] would severely limit caseworkers, local agencies and family court judges from acting on behalf of the best interests of children."
Cindy Deal, Northeast Ohio Adoption Services director, said passage of the bill will decrease the agency's options for children. With industry officials considering about half of those waiting children to be in the Northeast quadrant of the state, which includes Youngstown, Warren and Cleveland, Deal said, "I think it's a sad day."
NOAS, a Warren agency that specializes in finding families for school-age children and sibling groups, has placed a small number of adoptees with gay and lesbian individuals.
Denise Stewart, executive director of Mahoning County Children Services, said her agency is not familiar with HB 515 and preferred not to comment. In 2005, her agency placed 136 children in 96 foster homes and an additional 10 children in adoptive homes.
No issue at agency
Bob Kubiak, director of Trumbull County Children Services, said sexual orientation is not an issue that has come up with his agency.
Trumbull Children Services has averaged 35 adoptions each of the last three years. This year the agency already has 20 children in homes expected to be finalized as adoptive placements. Between 35 and 50 additional children are in need of permanent homes.
Because current state law does not require prospective foster or adoptive parents to identify their sexual orientation, Kubiak is not aware of his agency's making placements with any gay or lesbian individuals.
Nationwide, adoptions by members of the gay community are increasing, Deal said. However, it is unclear "whether more gays are adopting or more are just being honest," she said.
"If individuals would want to disclose their sexual orientation, they would still go through the training just like anyone else. That's not an exclusionary factor, nor do we treat it that way," Kubiak said.
Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court said, "Any time you can place a child in a safe, loving environment, it's much better for their upbringing and stability."
Judge Dellick said the lack of that structure and support has devastating effects.
Deal believes research by medical authorities, psychologists and child development experts support placements with gay and lesbian individuals.
Dr. Douglas Darnall, director of PsyCare in Liberty Township, said a parent's sexual orientation is not considered an influencing factor in a child's development.
"It's really more of a social and political issue," he said. "I've read no evidence to say that children cannot make an adequate adjustment with a gay parent."
Deal said all prospective adoptive parents undergo the same evaluation, background checks, training and home study process. "We look at what prospective parents have to offer children, what strengths they have and match that with the particular needs of the children being considered."
On average, 50 children are adopted through NOAS each year.

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