Public Policy/Advocacy

Along with support and education, advocacy has always been a core activity of Adoption Network Cleveland. By representing the perspectives of those touched by adoption, Adoption Network Cleveland uses grassroots and other lobbying efforts to ensure the voices of people touched by adoption are heard. From working for access to original birth certificates for all adult adoptees to ensuring that no qualified person is barred from adopting, Adoption Network Cleveland works to create adoption-friendly practices and policies on a local, state, and national level. With the recent changes in state government, the new county government structure, and funding challenges at both the state and county levels, Adoption Network Cleveland is working to educate elected officials about issues related to adoption and foster care.

Adoption Network Cleveland has always been a strong advocate for access to original birth certificates and the right of adult adoptees and birth families to search for each other while taking into consideration some people’s desire for privacy. For 25 years, Adoption Network Cleveland has been involved as the primary advocate for legislation in this area. Adoption Network Cleveland participated in launching Adoption Equity Ohio, a web-based effort to build grass-roots support and involvement and distribute information for an adoptee access to records bill. Volunteer regional directors are tracking and cultivating community support across the state. In 2013 we had a major success when Governor John Kasich signed Substitute Senate Bill 23 into law on December 19th. This new law gives 400,000 adult adoptees adopted between 1964 and 1996 access to their original birth certificates. This important legislation is the result of hard work by many people over the years and it has finally paid off. Adoption Network Cleveland Executive Director Betsie Norris began this advocacy work in 1988, when she founded the organization, and has followed it through to its success. Click here to learn more about the law's implementation.

The Board of Directors has created a Public Policy Committee, a group of volunteers who create the annual public policy agenda, draft policy statements, and host a legislative breakfast. The Board has also approved a series of public policy position statements. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Sarah Hastings at (216) 482-2312.

On a more individual level, Adoption Network Cleveland works with hundreds of adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents and foster youth each year to educate them about their rights and empower them to advocate for themselves.

For more information about Adoption Network's advocacy activities, contact Betsie Norris at (216) 325-1000.

Click on the links below to view more information about the different Public Policy topics we are currently focusing on:

Public Policy Position Statements

Access to Records

Access to family records provides adoption triad members (adoptive parents, adoptees and birthparents) with important social, genetic and medical histories. Research, knowledge and experience demonstrates that this access promotes the psychological, social and biological health of triad members. ANC works within the legislative and adoption communities to secure unqualified access to records for adult adoptees, for adoptive parents while the adoptee is a minor, and for birthparents of adoptees who are now adults.

Open Adoption

Personal growth and adjustment are enhanced where ongoing, cooperative and trusting relationships are developed among adoption triad members (adoptive parents, adoptees and birthparents). ANC advocates such relationships by promoting legislation and programming to educate the community about open adoption as a viable means of family building. Additionally, ANC provides support and educational programs to adoption agencies, families, and adoption professionals to include or expand open adoption practices.

Adoption Search

Triad members (adoptive parents, adoptees and birthparents) should be provided the knowledge and means to identify the persons and circumstances surrounding an adoptee's birth. ANC supports individuals seeking out family records and other triad members by conducting programs on how to perform an adoption search. ANC also plans and conducts community-based group meetings to offer social support and guidance on an "as needed basis" to those considering or actively engaged in the adoptive search process. ANC develops programs and marketing communications to educate the general public and adoption professionals on the merits of adoption searches and works directly with legislators to reduce or remove barriers to simplify the search process.

All three previous statements: Revised 04/16/02 Ratified by Board of Trustees 5/9/02

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Adoption Subsidies

Definition: Adoption Subsidies are financial assistance programs for adoptive parents who adopt children meeting the federal definition of special needs. Ohio has four adoption subsidy programs. Two programs, Title IV-E Adoption Assistance and State Adoption Maintenance Subsidy, are restricted to children in the custody of a public or private agency at the time of the adoption. The other two programs, Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses and Post Adoption Special Service Subsidy, may also cover children who were not in the custody of a public or private agency at the time of the adoption.

Why are subsidies important? Adoption subsidies are critical to the adoption of children who are legally available for adoption in the public child welfare system. Subsidies enhance the opportunities for adoption for children by expanding the pool of prospective parents to those of all incomes. Subsidies also ensure that resources will be available to meet the ongoing needs of these children.

What do we believe? As a result, adoption subsidies increase the chances for a child to be adopted, provide resources for the child to receive needed services and decrease the possible financial apprehensions of the adoptive parents. It has also been documented that adoption subsidies are more cost effective for agencies than supporting a child in long-term foster care.

Action: Adoption Network Cleveland advocates for adoption subsidies on all governmental levels, educates prospective adoptive parents about subsidies, and creates avenues for our members to advocate and promote for the continued availability and quality of adoption subsidies.

Approved by the Board of Trustees on March 10, 2005

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Child-Centered Recruitment

Definition: Child-centered recruitment emphasizes the importance of current and past relationships in a waiting child's life to identify people with whom the child can form life-long, permanent and meaningful relationships

Why is Child Centered Recruitment important? Child-centered recruitment is the best way to increase the opportunity for successful permanency within a family for those children and youth who have been waiting the longest for adoption.

What do we believe? Every child deserves a permanent family. Working toward adoption is the highest priority. Every effort should be made to keep siblings together, identify relatives first and keep children in their own communities.

Action: Through its Adopt Cuyahoga's Kids program, Adoption Network Cleveland promotes child-centered recruitment in working with children waiting for permanency.

Approved by the Board of Trustees March 10, 2005

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Waiting Children & Youth

Definition: Children and youth who are either legally free for adoption or are in a long-term foster care situation with no permanent plan involving placement by age 18 with a specific family.

Why important? There are children and youth who are in the foster care system, unable to be reunited with their birth parents, and who have no identified 'second' family. They are typically in a legal status of either "permanent custody" (i.e., free for adoption) or "planned permanent living arrangement" (i.e., long term foster care.) Many of these children age out of the system every year without a permanent family, and the outcomes for such youth are very poor.

What do we believe? Regardless of age, adoption is the best option for children and youth who have no other permanent family. Long term foster care ("planned permanent living arrangement" under Ohio law) is not a positive option for those who are not returning home to their birth families. Independent Living services, while absolutely critical to older foster youth, do not represent a "permanent plan" for children or youth.

Action: Adoption Network Cleveland advocates on behalf of waiting children and youth, educates the community about their situation, positive qualities and needs, advocates for laws that support permanency within a family for all waiting children and youth and for those laws that remove barriers for such permanency to occur.

Approved by the Board of Trustees, March 10, 2005

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Statement on Inclusiveness for Adoptive Families

Adoption Network Cleveland believes that every child deserves a safe, nurturing and permanent family.

Adoption Network Cleveland supports the belief that the permanency needs of Ohio's children are best met through effective recruitment, assessment, selection and support of adoptive parents.

Adoption Network Cleveland supports the belief that no person should be excluded from adopting or fostering a child solely because of race, color, creed, age, marital status, gender or sexual orientation.

Adoption Network Cleveland is working to remove barriers to adoption through legislative advocacy, systemic change and strategic program development.

Approved by the Board of Trustees on September 29, 2005.

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Sibling Placement Policy

Policy:  Adoption Network Cleveland’s sibling policy is to support and promote healthy, bonded sibling relationships for children in out-of-home care and in adoptive homes. Adoption Network Cleveland believes every effort should be made to place siblings together unless living with siblings is not in the child’s best interest, to reunite siblings who have been separated, and to facilitate visitation between siblings both in foster care and adoptive homes.

We also believe that every child has the right to remain with members of his or her sibling family unit.
Siblings are children and youth who have at least one biological parent in common, or who have been adopted by the same parent. Siblings can have connections through blood or adoption.

Why is this important?: There are children in the foster care system or who are adopted who currently do not live with their siblings, and do not have frequent contact and face to face visits with siblings. Children in foster care or who have been adopted might not be aware when younger siblings enter the foster care system, or have been adopted. The National Study of Child and Adolescent Well Being (2007) states that sibling and visitation placement results in a significantly lower level of internalized problems (e.g. depression, self-blame, anger and aggression). The Hegar and Rosenthal study (2009) states that siblings are significantly more likely than others to feel emotionally supported, to feel close to a primary caregiver, and to like living with the people in the home than siblings who have been separated. Premature disruption of foster home placement (an indicator of serious problems with placement adaptation) has been found to occur less often among children placed with siblings than among siblings who have been separated (Leather, 2005).

What do we believe? Every child deserves the opportunity to know and be connected to his or her siblings throughout their childhood. Adult siblings deserve full access to information about one another.

Every child has the right to be placed with his or her siblings.
If living with siblings is not in the child’s best interest, that child has the right to visit and have frequent contact with his or her siblings.

Action: Adoption Network Cleveland advocates on behalf of children and youth touched by foster care and adoption to protect their rights to know and be connected to their siblings. In instances where this has not taken place, we advocate for full information disclosure to adult siblings about one another.

For more information see:

  • National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) Research Brief No. 16: Summary of Findings (2007)
  • Hegar, R. L. & Rosenthal, J. A. (2009) Kinship care and sibling placement: Child behavior, family relationships, and school outcomes. Child and Youth Services Review 31 (2009) 670-679
  • Leather, S. J. (2005) Separation from siblings: Associations with placement adaption and outcomes among adolescents in long-term foster care. Children and Youth Services Review 27 (2005) 793-819

Approved by the Board of Directors on May 26, 2011

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Policy: Adoption Network Cleveland’s psychotropic medication policy is that all children in foster care deserve appropriate medical care that, where necessary, includes a comprehensive, individualized mental health treatment plan. Adoption Network Cleveland believes that such plans should consider a variety of appropriate treatments beyond just medicating children.

Adoption Network Cleveland also believes that no child deserves to be over-medicated on psychotropic drugs.

Why is this important?: Children in foster care typically do not have a parent available to make informed decisions about their medical care, but such children are also more likely to need mental health care than children not in foster care. Often, these children end up being overmedicated with psychotropic drugs and, in many instances, multiple psychotropic drugs.

The Tufts Multi-State Study on Psychotropic Medication Oversight in Foster Care (2010) found an increasing trend in the use of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and ADHD medications among youth in foster care; the use of multiple such medications at the same time; the use of these medications among particularly young children; and an increasing reliance on blanket authorizations to administer medications as needed. In some instances, the use of these medications is not consistent with currently accepted medical practice, has not been FDA-approved, and the benefits and risks to the child have not been documented.

What do we believe? Every child deserves appropriate medical care for mental health issues.

Action: Adoption Network Cleveland advocates for a coordinated approach to the use of psychotropic or mood-altering medications in children and youth touched by foster care and adoption. In instances where this has not taken place, we advocate for a comprehensive oversight system that screens for mental health issues using a standardized evaluation within a reasonable period of time following a child’s entry into foster care. We also advocate for the development of medication guidelines that describe acceptable practices for prescribing psychotropic medications as well as ongoing monitoring of a child’s response to psychotropic medications. Where appropriate, biological parents and/or the child should be involved in the decision-making process.

For more information see:
  • Bellonici, M.D., Christopher, Prescription Psychotropic Drug Use Among Children in Foster Care, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support of the House Committee on Ways and Means, 110th Congress (May 8, 2008)
  • Multi-State Study on Psychotropic Medication Oversight in Foster Care, Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (2010)
  • Policy Statement on Mental Health and Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs, Screening and Assessment of Children in Foster Care, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry/Child Welfare League of America (2003)
  • Psychotropic Medication Utilization Parameters for Foster Children, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy (Dec. 2010)
  • Psychotropic Meds for Georgia Youth in Foster Care: Who Decides?, Georgia Supreme Court Committee on Justice for children (Jan. 5, 2011)
  • Steele, Julie s. and Buchi, Karen F., Medical and Mental Health of Children Entering the Utah Foster Care System, Pediatrics, Vol. 122, No. 3, e703 (September 2008)

Approved by the Board of Directors on August 31, 2012

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“It's good to know that there is an organization that care for what is going on in adoption.”
Jenna Hatfield
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