Being an orphan is tough, especially in a crime-ridden city like Gotham. However, getting adopted is surprisingly, dare I say, “super” easy. (Sorry, Batman.)
In “The LEGO Batman Movie” (2017), young Dick Grayson casually approaches “greatest orphan of all time” billionaire Bruce Wayne at Commissioner James Gordon’s retirement party, asks for a quick photo, and innocently guides the conversation toward the topic of adoption. Bruce, Gotham’s most eligible bachelor for like, 90 years in a row, is greatly distracted by the presence of soon-to-be-Commissioner Barbara Gordon and positively answers all of Dick’s pointed questions without paying attention.
Of course, Dick thinks this is fantastic, and asks Bruce if he would be interested in adopting him as his son. Bruce answers, “definitely,” and, a couple of quick scenes later, Dick is living in Batman’s attic and Bruce Wayne’s basement.
If you’re thinking Dick’s path to adoption happened a little too quickly, then you’d be right. Here are some of the necessary steps that need to happen before a legal Ohio adoption can take place.
1. A home study process must be started and completed.
In some Ohio counties, the probate court is staffed to conduct a home study to investigate and pre-approve prospective adoptive parent(s). (This may be handled by the probate court in your residential county or that of the birth parent, or the county of the licensed adoption agency in the case of an agency adoption.) In other counties, the probate court may authorize an agency or independent social worker/assessor to handle the investigative home study.
The first step in the home study process is to identify five references that are not the prospective parent(s) relatives and can express opinions about prospective parent(s) ability to be adoptive parents. The references will complete a letter or Form Questionnaire, get it notarized and send it to the prospective parent(s) attorney or adoption agency. Finding references might be tough if you only hang out lady activewear models, psychotic criminals and an elderly butler.
Next, a social worker/assessor will conduct a personal interview with prospective adoptive parent(s) and/or spouse and/or other household members and review their pre-placement application and all other documentation to determine whether they meet the minimum standards established under Ohio law to provide a suitable home for a child. After the child is placed in the home, the court social worker/assessor will periodically return (usually monthly) to interview the family to determine whether finalizing the adoption is in the child’s best interests, and report its findings to the court.
2. A medical exam is required.
Every adult in the prospective parent’s household must obtain either a letter or completed medical form from a physician regarding his or her health and/or undergo a physical exam. (Huge pecs and a nine-pack are not required.)
3. A criminal background check is also required.
The Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation requires all requests for Ohio civilian background checks to be submitted electronically using WebCheck or other approved methods. It is also wise to get a national FBI criminal background check. Convictions for felonies, drug offenses, OVI, assault or sex-related charges may keep you from adopting a child, even if these convictions have been expunged. Vigilantes that operate outside the law need not apply.
Thankfully, there’s an established procedure in place for adoption in Ohio. Using teeth whitener or eyeliner or learning a foreign language doesn’t help your chances of getting adopted. Nor do talents like cooking, carving driftwood art, having gymnastic abilities or performing close-up street magic a la David Blaine get you any closer to joining a new family. However, it will take someone who’s willing to talk about their feelings and learn a few life lessons along the way.
Ohio State Bar Association member and probate, estate planning and adoption attorney Thomas Taneff contributed to this article. For more information about Ohio adoption law, check out the OSBA Law You Can Use column “Probate court screens prospective parents in adoptions.”