COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans seeking to adopt a child could get a low-interest loan to help them cover the ten of thousands of dollars of associated costs, if a newly proposed bill were to become law.
Loans through the proposed “Family Forward” initiative would cover up to $50,000 of qualifying expenses. That would include things like adoption agency expenses, legal fees and birth mother expenses. The average adoption in Ohio can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars due to complicated legal, ethical and medical requirements involved in the process.
State Treasurer Robert Sprague, a Republican, said existing adoption loans carry a 4.5% interest rate for prime borrowers. The state program could save families thousands of dollars by lowering the rate anywhere from 1-3%, he said.
The program is meant to help families bridge the gap between paying for up-front adoption-related costs and the existing state and federal tax credits they can apply for once their adoption is complete, he said.
“We feel this is our way of using financial tools in a creative manner to help those families meet and manage the immediate costs of adoption,” Sprague said.
Sprague announced the proposal Wednesday at a Statehouse news conference along with state Rep. Jon Cross, a Kenton Republican who’s sponsoring the bill. House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, told reporters the bill could help reduce the number of children in foster care.
“Any way we can encourage people to adopt kids, I think we need to do that,” he said.
The bill has 17 co-sponsors, all Republican.
The proposal has backing from adoption groups like Adoption Network Cleveland and Choosing Hope Adoptions in Springfield, as well as Ohio Right to Life, which is most visible for its work opposing abortion but which also does pro-adoption advocacy.
Mike Gonidakis, the executive director of Ohio Right to Life, is the adoptive father of two children. He said he and his wife would have used the program had it been available to them.
He said the high costs of adoption make it a burden even for more well-off families, and block lower-income families from being able to consider it as an option.
“At the end of the day, your income shouldn’t determine whether you can adopt and grow your family,” he said.
Participating banks and credit unions would agree to make the lower interest adoption loans through a concept called a state linked-deposit program. Through these programs, the state agrees to make a matching deposit with the lender. The bank makes money by investing the state deposit, and in return, agrees to offer a lower rate to the borrower.
Sprague said the state would face no risk on the loans other than that associated with the strength of the bank, whose deposits are federally insured.