The 134th Ohio State General Assembly is underway and we continue to make our voice heard. As we do each year, Adoption Network Cleveland is scheduling a Lobby Day to visit representatives and senators, both freshman and veterans alike. On this day, volunteers will be advocating for our public policy agenda, delivering materials, and giving gifts of branded candy jars. This requires a great deal of effort and that’s why we need capable and willing volunteers like you!
This year’s Lobby Day is all the more important as we were forced to skip our Lobby Day in 2020.
Lobby Day is a critical part of delivering on our advocacy mission as it provides a unique and effective way to have a discussion about issues that impact the populations we serve with the people who have the power to fix them. It’s not just important for us, it’s needed by our representatives in government as well. Many Ohioans believe that lawmakers are unwilling or unable to change policies for political reasons, but that may not be true. Politicians on both sides of the aisle want to see better outcomes, and they rely on the communities’ voices for information, feedback, and support on what works and what does not. In fact, it was our 2012 Lobby Day meeting with State Senator Bill Beagle’s staff that got him interested in sponsoring Ohio Senate Bill 23, which passed in 2013 and created access to their birth records for 400,000 Ohio adoptees with previously closed records. We always have our ear to the ground to discover who in our state legislature has a personal connection with and/or passion for our mission. This year’s Lobby Day will be on Wednesday October 20th, and we will be focusing on elements of our Public Policy Agenda during our visits. Three issues of importance include promoting sibling connections, addressing fertility fraud and supporting the creation of a youth ombudsman’s office.
Sibling connections: Did you know Ohio law allows the relationship between a parent and a child to determine the relationship between siblings? Adopted children are legally severed from their siblings and it is unclear whether permanent custody ends a sibling relationship. Although federal and state law requires children in foster care be given the opportunity to visit with their siblings, this right does not extend into adoption and can be withheld by caseworkers without direct judicial consideration. We believe siblings should be a source of comfort and stability to children as their relationships to the adults in their lives change.
Fertility Fraud: With the advent of DNA testing, some donor-conceived individuals are finding out that their parents’ fertility doctor is in fact their genetic parent rather than the donor they had chosen, and that there is no legal recourse. States are just starting to catch up and address this issue of genetic identity in statute, and we would like Ohio to be next. To this end we are actively working to promote HB 64.
Youth Ombudsman: We support the efforts of Action Ohio, the Ohio Youth Advisory Board and the Children’s Defense Fund to shape an independent, dedicated, youth-centered ombudsman’s office to be responsive to, protect and empower youth in the child welfare system who have concerns or feel unsafe in their placement.
In 2019 our Lobby Day was extremely successful with our volunteer teams meeting in person with legislators and staff in almost 75% of the 132 House and Senate offices. This year we have a plan to be even closer to 100%. To do this, we need YOU!
Do you want your voice to be heard on these issues? Do you have an interest in learning how government operates? How about putting political advocate on your resume? If you answered yes to any of these, then we want you to volunteer! Volunteers will be needed in Columbus for a full day of advocacy and outreach. Worried about not knowing what to say? Never fear! Adoption Network Cleveland will give training on talking points and you will work in groups of two or three while meeting the legislators. Can’t make it to Columbus? We have a job for you too! There will be preparations needed leading up to October 20th as well. If you are interested in volunteering in either capacity, contact Betsie Norris at email@example.com or call at (216) 482-2314.