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Advocacy | Public Policy Initiatives and Alerts

Current Initiatives

Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection is active on a range of legislative issues at the state level in Columbus. Sometimes we initiate legislation, other times we take a stand on existing initiatives or participate in coalitions. Our Public Policy Committee is composed of board and community members. In addition to our direct efforts, we release a Public Policy Agenda on a two-year cycle coinciding with Ohio’s biennial legislative sessions and organize an annual Lobby Day where our members deliver materials and have a discussion with every legislative office in the Ohio House and Senate.

To join the committee or get more information, contact Betsie Norris at betsie.norris@adoptionnetwork.org or (216) 482-2314.

 

2021-2022 Public Policy Agenda 

The Public Policy Committee of Adoption Network Cleveland seeks improvements in Ohio’s adoption, foster care and child welfare policies and to develop best practices for all parties involved in the process.

Adoption Network Cleveland (ANC) will mainly focus its efforts during the 134th General Assembly on the following (2021-2022 Public Policy Agenda):

Child Welfare Funding: As human services, budgets continue to be strained, ANC remains committed to identifying and supporting creative ways to protect and grow services and support for adoptive and foster families, kinship caregivers, and youth. We seek to encourage kinship care as this is often the best way to promote stability and the least disruption for children in need of out-of-home care.

Sibling Connections: 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 allowed 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. Therefore, Ohio law should allow siblings to petition for visitation and preserve their legal sibling relationships.

Foster Care Ombudsman: We support efforts to establish a statewide youth ombudsman to serve alongside an adult-serving children services ombudsman. A state-level ombudsman, as recommended in the Children Services Transformation Advisory Council Recommendations, “would act as an independent entity for the investigation and resolution of complaints made by or on the behalf of children and families involved with children services.”  (Children Services Transformation Advisory Council Recommendations report 11/2020) We support having a Youth Ombudsman that focuses specifically on complaints by children.

**UPDATED**
"On February 28, 2022, Governor DeWine signed Amended House Bill 4 into law, creating the Youth and Family Ombudsmen Office. The office shall investigate and resolve concerns made by or on behalf of children and families involved with public children services agencies, Title IV-E agencies, or private provider agencies that administer or oversee foster care or placement services for the children services system. The office shall ensure the independent and impartial review of youth, family, and community complaints or concerns." Ohio Youth and Family Ombudsmen Office

Ethical and Equitable Practices: Adoption Network Cleveland believes that personal growth and adjustment are enhanced where ongoing, cooperative, and trusting relationships are developed for all parties in adoption, kinship, assisted reproduction, and child welfare situations where each party’s rights and interests are safeguarded throughout the process. Adoption Network Cleveland will continue to seek ways to promote balanced and respectful practices, with a racial equity lens and attention to policy that balances the rights of birth and adoptive parents with a focus on the best interest of the child involved, into the adulthood of that child.

About Adoption Network Cleveland

Adoption Network Cleveland recognizes adoption as a complex, lifelong, and intergenerational journey for all those whose lives are touched by it. Founded in 1988, Adoption Network Cleveland provides programs and services to connect and empower all members of the adoption triad (adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents), youth in out-of-home care, foster parents, kinship caregivers, siblings, and adoption professionals.

Past Initiatives

Previous legislative initiatives of Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family connection, are detailed below in our biennial public policy agenda that is updated and published at the beginning of each Ohio Statehouse assembly.

Advocacy Alerts

ADVOCACY ALERT: Fraudulent Assisted Reproduction / Fertility Fraud
Provisions to Establish Fraudulent Assisted Reproduction as a Crime Added to Ohio Criminal Law Reform Bill

Press Release: November 28, 2022

Columbus, OH – Fertility fraud involves the misuse of genetic material to create a viable embryo. The classic example is a fertility doctor who uses his own sperm to fertilize the egg of one of his patients, despite the patient having only consented to use the sperm of another donor. Current Ohio law does not prohibit a doctor from using his own sperm to impregnate a patient, or other misrepresentations about the donor, and provides no legal recourse for women and their children who find out years later. 

While currently fertility fraud is not a crime, it is a profound ethical and moral issue and an unconscionable abuse of trust between doctors and patients. States including Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, and Colorado have recently passed legislation to address this gap in the law, and there are laws pending in additional states including Michigan and Iowa.

As direct-to-consumer DNA testing becomes more and more popular, more people will discover that they and their parents or siblings have been affected by fertility fraud. With the advent of 23 and Me and other similar companies, this phenomenon has only recently come to light, so corrective legislative action is both timely and appropriate.

House Bill 64 was introduced in early 2021 to address this issue. The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Committee unanimously in April 2022 and its provisions have now been added to Substitute Senate Bill 288, a criminal law reform bill.

Adoption Network Cleveland is taking a central role in organizing advocates in Ohio on this issue including working with the U.S. Donor Conceived Council. Although fertility fraud may seem unrelated to adoption, in reality, adoptees share many of the same issues as victims of fertility fraud and donor-conceived individuals. Those overlapping policy considerations converge where issues of genetic identity, medical history, and openness are central.

In addition to Ohio advocates anticipated to testify at the hearing we expect to be joined by advocates from Indiana, including some who are featured in the chilling documentary on Netflix Our Father which details the story of Dr. Cline in Indianapolis who is known to have at least 94 offspring through fraudulent assisted reproduction. Jacoba Ballard was the first offspring to discover the connection and took a primary role both in connecting with the other half siblings, and in taking action against Dr. Cline. Ms. Ballard is expected to testify at the Judiciary Committee hearing on these provisions in Sub. SB 288 on November 29.

Proponents expected to testify in person at Tuesday’s hearing include:

  • Jacoba Ballard, from Indiana, the first offspring to discover the actions of Dr. Cline who is now known to have at least 94 offspring, featured in the Netflix documentary Our Father.
  • Carrie Lauterbach from the Dayton, Ohio area who recently discovered she was conceived through fertility fraud.
  • Jody Lynee Madeira, Professor of Law and co-director of the Center for Law, Society, and Culture at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington Indiana.
  • Betsie Norris, Founder and Executive Director, Adoption Network Cleveland.

Select proponents expected to submit written testimony at Tuesday’s hearing include:

  • Eve Wiley of Texas, who after discovering that she was conceived by fertility fraud was the driving force behind establishing law on this topic in Texas and other states.
  • Michelle, an Ohioan who now lives in Indiana, who recently discovered she was conceived through fertility fraud.
  • Tyler Sniff, an Ohioan who now lives in Georgia who recently discovered that he was donor-conceived, VP Legal Affairs and Asst VP Government Affairs US Donor Conceived Council.
  •  Albert Frantz is an American donor conceived person based in Vienna, Austria. He was part of the very first delegation of donor and surrogacy conceived individuals to testify before the United States.