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***The blogs posted by Ginn Law Office, LLC are not intended to be legal advice and should not be construed as such.***

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Adopting for FREE!

Posted on March 13, 2017 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)
Did you know that you can actually adopt for FREE? According to the https://davethomasfoundation.org/learn/get-informed/" target="_blank">Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: 
1. There are currently more than 110,000 children in the US foster care system that are legally free for adoption! 
2. The average age of these children is 7 1/2 years of age, and these children usually spend AT LEAST three years in care. 
3. Every year, 22,000 children AGE OUT of foster care. This means that EVERY SINGLE YEAR, 22,000 children 
turn 18 with NO family support system, NO ONE to tell them "I am proud of you" and "I love you," NO place to go 
for traditional holidays, NO family to celebrate milestones with (i.e. college acceptance, college graduation, engagement, 
marriage, the birth of their first child, etc.). Could you imagine living every single day feeling like NO ONE loves you 
and is proud of you? 

I am constantly approached by people looking to start a family but are scared of the risks of foster care. Guess what?!? 
There are over 100,000 children already LEGALLY FREE for adoption across this country. Thus, if you match with one 
or more of these children, they are already legally free to adoption and you are able to start the adoption process immediately!
Thus, your dream and their dreams can be answered beautifully!

I am also regularly contacted by people who say they wish they had been aware of this need years ago when they were 
raising their children. Well, guess what!?! I have more good news!!! You can adopt adults who aged out of foster care! 
Turning 18 doesn't mean that the desire to "fit" somewhere ends. If you feel like the day-to-day of adopting would be 
too much for your current life, consider this route! There are children of all ages without a family. Whether he/she is 
under 18 or older, a child deserve the opportunity to have a family who loves them, supports them and will advocate 
for them! Consider changing a life today ... you  may be amazed at the beautiful change in your own life!

The Importance of Filing an Adoption Petition Quickly

Posted on December 21, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Historically, adoptive families have been slow to file for adoption. A child is placed in their home and they are overwhelmed by the excitment and responsibility of having a new child. However, there are important legal reasons that a family should file for adoption as soon as possible.

Developments in case law over the past decade have made it imperative that adoptive families file their Petitions for Adoption as soon after palcement as possible. Several cases have been decided in which adoptions have been disrupted, litigated and overturned due to the failure of the Petitioners to expeditiously file a Petition for Adoption. This delay may open the adoptive parents up to jurisdictional contests and other related legal issues.

 

Ohio Revised Code section 3107.051 states, “a person seeking to adopt a minor, or the agency or attorney arranging the adoption, shall submit a petition for the minor’s adoption no later than ninety days after the date the minor is placed in the person’s home”. Despite Ohio Revised Code section 3107.051, courts rarely make an issue of adoptive families filing their Petitions for Adoption more than ninety days after placement. However, failing to file as quickly as possible can open the door to litigation in numerous venues at one time and create judicial chaos and confusion. Additionally, it can increase the risk associated with the adoption.

 

Please be aware that many local Ohio counties require a certified copy of a Birth Certificate to be filed with the Adoption Petition. Therefore, it is imperative that your agency make all efforts to obtain a birth certificate as quickly as possible following the child’s birth. The birth certificate is often not available until at least six weeks after the birth of the child. 

 

If you are a prospective adoptive family, seek legal counsel before the child's birth if possible. If you are matched after birth, seek legal counsel immediately. Also, be sure to notify your adoption agency and attorney that you wish to have the adoption filed as soon as possible after the birth of the baby so they understand your desire to expedite the process.

International Adoptions: How to Obtain A Certificate of Citizenship

Posted on December 14, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

You completed your adoption internationally, and now you are back in the US adjusting to life with a new kiddo around! What comes next? Generally you undergo some post-placement visits with your adoption agency, and you should either file for Registration Of A Foreign Birth Record or Readoption. However, have you considered obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship for your child?

Evidence of United States citizenship is important for your adopted child. For this reason, you should obtain a Certificate of Citizenship for your child following your international adoption or re-adoption process. Most international adoption agencies help their clients complete this process. However, It is possible to do yourself. The application is easily accessed online. Below you will find the link to give you additional information on how to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship through USCIS. http://www.uscis.gov/n-600.

The purpose of the Certificate of Citizenship is to establish citizenship. In the past, the federal government has not consistently viewed passports and/or social security cards as definitive evidence of citizenship. There are even rare situations when a birth certificate is insufficient to establish citizenship and a Certificate of Citizenship is necessary.

If an internationally adopted child’s family does not apply for his or her Certificate of Citizenship, that child’s USCIS file remains open. Therefore if, as an adult, an adopted child gets in legal trouble or stays outside of the United States for more than one year, USCIS may not be able to verify that the child is already a United States Citizen. By obtaining the Certificate of Citizenship, the child’s file is complete and USCIS has knowledge that the child is a United States citizen.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much evidence of citizenship. Thus, I strongly recommend that anyone completing an international adoption also obtain a Certificate of Citizenship.

Interested in Adopting QUICKLY?

Posted on December 7, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

You are interested in adoption and you want to adopt NOW? I get calls regularly from families who want to know how to expedite the match process because they have made the decision to adopt, and they are concerned it will take a year or two to meet their new family member. My response is always, "Have you considered adopting through the foster care system?" According to the Child's Bureau/Child Welfare Information Gateway (https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/foster.pdf), "of the estimated 238,280 children who exited foster care during FY 2013, twenty-one percent (21%) were adopted." That means more than 50,000 foster children were adopted during the year 2013! That is amazing!

 

Another interesting fact ... according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (https://davethomasfoundation.org/adopt/about-foster-care-and-adoption/), 81 1/2 million Americans have considered adoption. If only one in 500 of these Americans adopted, EVERY waiting child in foster care would have a permanent family!

 

In the United States, there are more than 100,000 children in the foster care system LEGALLY FREE FOR ADOPTION! Unfortunately, every single year more than 20,000 age out of foster care without ever finding their forever family. (https://davethomasfoundation.org/learn/research/)

 

I had the opportunity to listen to a young lady involved in the Florida Youth SHINE program speak in April at the annual American Academy of Adoption Attorneys conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. I sat there and cried as she told her story. She told of the trauma that she endured early in her life, how she was removed from her biological family (which family was supposed to love her, support her and build her up but yet had failed her miserably by abusing her for years!). She told about how her brother was placed in a home and was ultimately adopted out of foster care, but his forever family did not wish to adopt her because of the trauma that she was VICTIM to! This family chose to separate a sister from her brother because she was victimized more than her brother was. While she was pleased that the brother that she had nurtured and cared for over a very long period of time would have a "family," it broke her to be told that she was not wanted. The weekend of the conference, she was graduating from college. She made the statement, "I just want someone to love me and tell me that they are proud of me!" Her achievement was tremendous but she had absolutely no family to support her or cheer for her. She had no family to return home to over the holidays when her college was closed. She was deprived of the permanency and stability that should have been afforded to her, and it was so unfair. (You can learn more about Florida Youth SHINE here: http://www.floridayouthshine.org/.)

 

My husband and I are actively licensed as foster parents. We have been blessed with three placements over the past several years and we anticipate many more placements over the next several years. We love providing a family for kiddos who need a family, whether it is for a couple of days or weeks or forever! I speak with many individuals who are concerned that they will not bond with a child who is not biologically theirs. Guess what!?! You will!!! I also speak with many individuals who say that they could "never" do foster care because "it would be too hard." Guess what!?! THAT IS THE POINT! While it may sound harsh, you must realize that life isn't about what others can do for YOU but about what YOU can do for OTHERS. Once you embrace this reality, you will be amazed to see the strength that you have! You will learn JOY unlimited! Children in foster care deserve a family. They deserve "forever." They deserve to hear someone who loves them say, "I am so proud of you!" So, if you are considering adoption, consider adopting from social services. There are 100,000 plus children who are already LEGALLY FREE for adoption simply waiting for their forever family, and any one of them would love to hear "You have been chosen!" Become that forever family for a waiting child today!

Non-Contested Adoption Process in Ohio

Posted on November 30, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (1)

This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, and it is imperative to note that each situation is unique. The circumstances surrounding a particular adoption significantly contribute to the timeframe expected for finalization of that adoption. This blog is intended to provide general information regarding an "ordinary" non-contested adoption in Ohio.

1. When Should I Retain an Attorney?
As early as possible. If this is an independent (non-agency) adoption, paperwork will need to be drafted and possibly filed before the child is born/before placement may be made. Having an attorney who works exclusively for you throughout the process increases your clarity, confidence and comfort throughout the placement process. Some agencies notify adoptive parents from the very start that they will need to retain counsel; however, other agencies do not always provide this notice early into the process. It is important to understand that in Ohio, the attorneys who represents the agency and the birth mother do NOT represent the adoptive parents. It is likely that legal questions will arise throughout the placement process, so having access to your own attorney around the time that a match is made ensures that you have someone who represents you only that you can contact with any questions or concerns. Additionally, due to the promptness in which documentation needs to be requested, organized, drafted and filed, the process tends to run more smoothly if an attorney is involved early on.

2. How Do I Choose an Adoption Attorney?
This is a very important question. See the prior blog post for things to consider in hiring an attorney. You can do a search of experienced adoption attorneys by state here: http://www.adoptionattorneys.org/aaaa/home.

3. I Chose My Attorney, Now What?
Once you select your adoption attorney, you will need to go through the preliminary aspects (i.e. sign formal Agreement(s), complete Intake paperwork, etc.). This allows the attorney to get everything in place to request the necessary paperwork from other offices and draft the pleadings. If it is an independent Ohio adoption, the attorney may need to draft and file PrePlacement paperwork with the appropriate probate court. Sometimes, in an infant adoption, the probate court wishes to meet with the birth parent(s) before the baby's birth. At least 72 hours after undergoing an assessment and at least 72 hours after the birth of the baby, the birth/legal parent(s) will need to go to the Court for a Consent Hearing to consent to the adoption, if the adoption will be finalized in Ohio. If it is an agency adoption, however, a Permanent Surrender may be signed outside of Court and thus a Court appearance is not required. The process changes if it is an interstate adoption.

4. How Do I Know My "Placement" Date?
The Placement date varies by the circumstances surrounding your adoption. If you live out of the state from where the baby was born, the ICPC approval date is the date of your placement (the date you receive permission to travel home). If ICPC was not necessary in your situation, your Placement date is the date the Court or agency legally placed the child into your home, which may or may not be the same date the Consent/Surrender was signed by the birth parent(s). If you are a step-parent seeking to adopt a step-child, the Placement date is the date of your married the the legal parent of the child you wish to adopt. If you hold legal custody or guardianship of the child(ren) whom you are seeking to adopt, the date you were granted legal custody/guardianship is your placement date.

5. When Will the Attorney File the Petition for Adoption?
The Petition for Adoption should be filed as soon as possible, but that varies based upon your situation, as well as the county in which you will be finalizing the adoption. As a general answer for an "ordinary" non-contested adoption, the Ohio Revised Code Section 3107.051 requests that the Petition for Adoption be filed within ninety (90) days of placement. 

6. When Is My Hearing?
The attorney has obtained the necessary documentation, drafted the pleadings, which you signed, and is filing in the appropriate probate court. Some courts will schedule the hearing the day the Petition is filed and other courts take 1-2 weeks to schedule the hearing after the Petition is filed. The attorney will continue to file documentation up to the point of the hearing. If you have an independent adoption, your Interlocutory Hearing can be no sooner than thirty-one (31) days after placement. For a final hearing, the hearing can be no sooner than six (6) months after placement. The Court's docket will impact the timing, but the goal is to schedule these hearings for as soon as possible after these timeframes.

7. What Happens at the Hearing?
The Magistrate/Judge will need the Petitioner(s) and the Adoptee(s) to appear for a hearing. The Magistrate/Judge will have already had an opportunity to review the Court file in preparation for the hearing and will therefore ask questions to determine whether the adoption is appropriate. If all paperwork has been filed timely, the case is not litigated, all necessary consents have been filed or are not required and the court determines it is in the child(ren)’s best interest for the adoption to proceed, the adoption may be granted at the hearing! Some courts will take the matter under advisement and your ruling will be received by mail following the hearing, so be sure to ask your attorney what to expect at the hearing.

8. When Will I Get my Child's New Birth Certificate?
The Adoption Certificate for Parents, which you should receive along with the Final Decree of Adoption once the adoption is granted, acts as a temporary birth certificate. The new birth certificate should not be requested until at least 5-6 weeks after the hearing to provide the State with adequate time to update the records. 

9. How Do I Obtain a Social Security Card for the Child?
Once the new, certified birth certificate arrives, you need to take it to the Social Security Administration Office for a social security card to be issued. If your child(ren) had a social security number already assigned, you can request a new number be assigned due to the adoption. (Sometimes you have to be assertive to get a new number assigned.)

10. If I Wish to Adopt Again, Can I Use the Same Homestudy?
Yes, as long as you completed an update to reflect your adoption. Additionally, keep in mind that a homestudy only lasts for two years. Thus, an update will be required prior to the two year anniversary or you may have to start back at the beginning! Additionally, even if the homestudy is not expired, keep in mind that the court may require updated fingerprints and medical evaluations for your adoption.

11. Can I Use a JFS Homestudy for a Private Adoption?
If you have an active foster-to-adopt homestudy, it should have been prepared on the same State-required form that private agencies use. Therefore, regardless of whether a public or private agency completed your homestudy, it can be used. However, some agencies have policies that prevent them from releasing the homestudy for a private adoption. Most agencies that are willing to release a homestudy do charge a fee. Speaking with your social worker should help you to learn the policy of your agency. 

Please keep in mind that every adoption is unique and has its own set of facts that can alter the answer to any of these questions. This blog is not intended to provide legal advice but is merely intended to provide you with a general overview of the non-contested adoption process in Ohio. Please contact Ginn Law Office, LLC to discuss the specifics of your unique situation!

How to Choose Your Adoption Attorney

Posted on November 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (1)

Every day, adoptions go through probate court fluently; however, sometimes adoptions hit a glitch or result in full-blown litigation. So, before you hire the very first attorney with whom you speak to assist in your adoption journey, do a little research to ensure you are picking the right attorney for your case. There is a common misconception that because someone is an attorney, they know "all" the laws regarding every type of legal proceeding. This is not likely. Choosing an attorney experienced in adoption naturally lends confidence to your choice of counsel. When interviewing prospective adoption attorneys, ask questions so that you can make an INFORMED choice that leaves you feeling confident.

The earlier you retain an attorney in your adoption process, the more understanding of the (adoptive) legal process you will likely have. I speak with families in Ohio regularly who are pursing an agency adoption and say, "we don't need an attorney." Sometimes the families aren't notified until 3-4 months after placement that they need to hire an attorney to finalize the adoption. Unfortunately, this means that they missed out on several months of legal advice. I always recommend retaining an attorney before you take placement of the child to ensure you have access to someone who can answer your questions throughout the process.

Below are some questions to consider asking the attorneys you contact. This list is not intended to be exhaustive but is intended to give you an idea of conversation topics with adoption attorney candidates.

1. What percentage of your practice is devoted to adoption law?
2. What other area(s) of law do you practice?
3. What times of day are you available to receive telephone calls?
4. Do you provide your cell phone number to your clients?
5. What is your fee for this type of adoption (i.e. independent, private agency, interstate, step-parent, re-adoption, etc.)?
6. Are you experienced in the county where my adoption will be filed? 

Adoption is not an area of law for a practitioner to "dabble" in. The law can change swiftly, and there are many federal laws that must be taken into consideration with every adoptive placement, in addition to State laws. Before hiring your attorney, it is important to know how often your attorney practices in this particular area of law. Someone who handles only a couple of adoptions per year may not be as "up" on the current law as someone who works primarily in the area of adoption. Also, someone who has handled only uncontested step-parent adoptions may not be familiar with the significantly different requirements and expectations of an independent adoption or a contested adoption.

While finances are certainly an area of consideration, rushing to hire the attorney who quoted the lowest fee may result in additional expenses to you in the long run. Although it is important to hire an attorney that you can afford, you should not sacrifice experience to save a few dollars. Choosing an attorney who is right for your situation is a very important decision, so speak with more than one attorney. Ask the questions that allow you to determine with confidence whether this is the right attorney to help with your unique situation. You can search for experienced adoption attorneys by state here: http://www.adoptionattorneys.org/aaaa/home.

 

Resources to Assist in the Cost of Adoption

Posted on November 15, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

While I am very pleased that the adoption tax credit is permanent, I realize that without the credit being refundable, the cost to adopt remains challenging for many. On a very regular basis, I speak with families who have been contacted by an expectant mother who wants the family to love and rear her unborn baby through an adoption plan, but the financial barriers create obstacles to see this dream come to fruition. It breaks my heart to see someone who desires to adopt walk away from a match because s/he simply does not have the finances needed to cover the cost of a private adoption. I believe that the financial aspect of adoption is one of the biggest scares associated with the adoption process, regardless of whether you are contemplating adoption or whether you are already well on your journey toward adoption.

 

The reality is that adoption can be quite expensive and often takes months (or even years) of planning for an individual or a couple to begin the journey of expanding their forever family through adoption. The price range for adoptions is astounding … adoptions can range from as little as $250 to in excess of $40,000, depending on the type of adoption pursued.

 

In an effort to asisst families going through this financial struggle while desiring to privately adopt (note: a public agency adoption through the foster care system has a cost of approximately $250 and thus is substantially more affordable than a private adoption), I wanted to post a list of possible resources available to adoptive families, which I hope adoptive families will find useful in their journey toward adoption. I highly recommend researching the various resources to determine what possibilities exist for your family.

 

•A Federal Tax Credit is available for ALL adoptions (i.e. special needs and non-special needs adoptions), which means that you receive a credit on your tax return for monies spent on Qualified Adoption Expenses. For 2015, the maximum amount of the credit is $13,400 per child. The credit may be reduced based upon your annual gross income, so it is important to speak with tax professional to verify your eligibility if you are relying on this credit. According to the IRS, Qualified Adoption Expenses include “[R]easonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses (including meals and lodging) and other expenses that are directly related to and for the principal purpose of the legal adoption of an eligible child.” This includes re-adoption expenses to adopt a foreign child. There are some stipulations and expenses that are not included, so again, it is best to speak with a CPA/tax preparer to verify what may and may not be included as Qualified Adoption Expenses. (http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html)

 

•Show Hope (previously called Shaohannah’s Hope) is “[A] a ministry that enables individuals and communities to change the world for orphans by not only addressing a child’s need for food, shelter, care, and spiritual nourishment, but by also addressing the root issue for an orphan: the lack of a family." Show Hope provides grants to adoptive parents who complete the application process and ultimately are approved. If you are interested in applying for a grant through Show Hope, please click here: http://showhope.org/restore-hope/adoption-aid/.

 

•Adoption assistance may also be available through an Adoption Fund at your church or in your community. Ask around to see if any of your contacts are aware of a fund to which you can apply. Furthermore, consider being proactive and actually starting an Adoption Fund at your church or in your community to assist other adoptive parents who are interested in adoption but struggling to meet the financial requirements associated with the particular type of adoption in which they are interested. A grant from an Adoption Fund could make all the difference! (http://showhope.org/be-hope/get-involved/#advocate) Other Private Grants do exist for adoptions as well. Asking around or searching online for private grants may be worth your while, so give it a try!

 

•Adoption Reimbursement Programs, including "Match" grants may be available to adoptive parents through their employer. Check with your HR Department to determine whether some type of reimbursement as related expenses is available, or whether you are entitled to some type of paid leave upon placement of your adopted child into your home. Keep in mind that if you qualify to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, this does not mean you will be financially compensated for your leave (only that your position will be held for you and not filled while you are on FMLA leave). It is important to know in advance of your leave what to expect monetarily so that you can adequately plan your leave. The Dave Thomas Foundation offers some amazing resources for you to provide to your employer to increase your employer’s awareness in this area and to aid your employer in implementing employee benefits pertaining to adoption. (http://davethomasfoundation.org/what-we-do/adoption-friendly-workplace/) The Foundation even recognizes organization that are adoption-friendly. You can click here to recommend your organization be listed as an adoption-friendly workplace (http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/what-we-do/adoption-friendly-workplace/). The top adoption-friendly workplaces for 2014 are listed here: https://dciw4f53l7k9i.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/DTFA-AFW-BLOOMBERG-ADVERT-FINAL.pdf.

 

•Some states offer a State Tax Credit in addition to (and separate from) the Federal Adoption Credit. Specifically, as of March 2015, the State of Ohio allows Ohio residents a $10,000 Ohio income tax credit for a family that legally adopts a child. Contact your tax professional to verify what may and may not be included in the State credit.

 

•Service Members Adoption Reimbursements are often available for active duty personnel adopting from within the U.S. or internationally. In this situation, the U.S. military reimburses up to $2,000 per child and $5,000 per year for related one-time adoption costs. (http://www.dfas.mil/militarymembers/payentitlements/adoptionreimbursement.html) In order to qualify, "the adoption must be arranged by qualified adoption agencies or a source authorized under state or local law. Private and stepchild adoptions must be finalized in a U.S. court." As with the other governmental credits, grants and/or reimbursements, the reimbursement will be made once the adoption is finalized. The qualified expenses vary a bit from the other credits, so be sure to check with your tax professional to verify what exactly is covered under this reimbursement.

 

•Tax Dependency Exemptions are available for adoptive children and biological children alike, provided the adoptive family provides more than half of the adoptive child(ren)’s support. According to http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96452,00.html#QA5, “To know whether you qualify to claim the child's exemption or child care credit for the child, see "Exemptions and Credit for Child" and "Dependent Care Expenses" in the Form 1040 Instructions. For further information, see Publication 501 (Exemptions, Standard Deductions and Filing Information) and Publication 503 (Child and Dependent Care Expenses). You may order copies of these publications by calling 1-800-829-3676 (or 1-800-TAX-FORM).”

 

•Personal Loans are often available to adoptive parents through life insurance policies, banks, and credit unions. It is common for families to obtain a short-term loan, which is then paid off upon receipt of your tax return monies or with employer reimbursement monies once the adoption is finalized. Keep in mind, however, that it could take months, or even well over a year, to receive your tax credit monies (i.e. you could receive placement of your adopted child on July 1, 2015 which means you cannot finalize your adoption in Ohio until at least January 2016. You then would likely include the Qualified Adoption Expenses on your 2016 tax filing, which you may file in March or April of 2017, and receive reimbursement of your federal tax credit 2-6 months after you file your 2016 taxes). I always caution families not to over-extend themselves borrowing money but to ensure that the monthly payment for any adoption loan fits easily into their budget in the event it takes quite a while to receive the anticipated funds to pay off the loan.

 

If you have any questions or would like any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Ginn Law Office, LLC!


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