Families considering adopting through the foster-care system now may peruse a state website with online profiles of some of the more than 3,000 Ohio children in need of permanent homes.
“All children need and deserve forever families, and we hope this addition to our website will help achieve that for more of them,” said Kimberly Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The new resource is the third such version of an adoptable-kids listing in the past 20 years, replacing one administered by Capital University for about a decade until the state pulled it last year.
The state had run its own site prior to that, but funding dried up in 2008.
Unlike past efforts, the latest version does not include photos of the children. The decision not to feature identifying images sets Ohio’s listing apart from those in other states, officials said.
Department spokesman Bret Crow said in an email that officials discussed the development of the listing with former foster youths and opted for caution, choosing generic pictures “that illustrate the youth’s strengths, interests and talents,” such as a favorite food, animal or activity.
Some advocates of adoption have long been uncomfortable with public listings and displays of children available for adoption, saying the value isn’t proven and the risk to emotionally fragile kids is too high.
“If they know they’re on public display, and no one steps up, what further harm does it do?” said Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “Are they thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not even good enough for people to inquire on a website.’”
Soronen said she understands that child-welfare agencies are struggling to find homes for growing numbers of children who have been permanently removed from their families.
A website with adoptable kids is “a step in; it gets the conversation going,” she said. “That might be the right tool to get someone in the door, but is it the right tool for the child?”
Nationwide, Soronen said, more than 125,000 children are in need of permanent homes, a jump of about 17% in a year. Much of the increase, in Ohio and elsewhere, is due to an epidemic of drug addiction among parents.
“The numbers keep growing,” said Tammy Osborne-Smith, director of the Jackson County Department of Job and Family Services in southeastern Ohio.
As a small agency, her children services division would find it difficult to maintain its own site, so Osborne-Smith is looking forward to tapping into the new state listing service.
State officials say that Ohio’s county children services agencies may upload children’s profiles into a portal for state employees to review and post to the website. Interested families may then forward their information to the child’s caseworker through the website.
“It allows families to relate, just by reading the profiles,” Osborne-Smith said. “Hopefully, it’s a great place for families to start.”
To learn more about fostering and adoption in Ohio, go to www.FosterAndAdopt.jfs.ohio.gov