Adoption agency slapped by state

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Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has penalized a Copley Township adoption agency for violating numerous state regulations, including placing a child in an uncertified foster home and not documenting background checks.

A Child's Waiting cannot take custody of any new children, state officials announced today. The agency is permitted to complete the 24 adoptions involving children in its care now and can continue operating as a private noncustodial agency assisting with adoptions and doing administrative work.

It is not allowed to take custody, though, from birth mothers.

Agency Directors Jennifer Marando and Crissy Kolarik also were banned from daily activities at the agency for four years, according to a six-page agreement provided to the Beacon Journal. They were permitted to keep their financial interest in the agency and can make business decisions about the financial operation.

The governing board also must be replaced within 90 days.

''The agreement allows the agency to be able to operate under new leadership with restrictions on the types of services they can provide,'' said Dennis Evans, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. ''It also puts them on notice that if they do violate the terms of the agreement, it gives us the right to revoke their license without any appeal.''

A Child's Waiting plans to apply for a full noncustodial agency license, agency attorney Gary Himmel said. It also can apply to serve as a child-placing agency again after four years.

''They are going to continue to go forward,'' Himmel said. ''They are a good agency and they are proud of their record and they are going to build on it. They intend to comply with the law and grow the business. ...

''Their work will speak for itself. There are a lot of very, very happy families that they have served and they hope to serve many more.''

State officials announced in March that they planned to close the agency because of a history of violations, which ranged from putting a child in an uncertified foster home to placing several children without having permanent custody of them. At the time, the state said the violations included a pattern of sloppy paperwork in the adoption process.

Kolarik and Marando were asked to step aside because of a ''pattern of administrative issues and noncompliance that happened repeatedly, and those are the things that collectively led to the move to revoke the license,'' Evans said.

The agency waived an appeal hearing in June and reached the settlement instead. It was signed this week.

Penny Wyman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies in Columbus, said she hopes the sanctions lead to improvements at the agency, which, according to the violations, had not focused on the children or their safety.

''Adoption work is perhaps one of the most important professions, almost calling, that a person can have,'' she said. ''Because what you're doing is creating families. And any agency that does not approach this almost sacred work with that as their primary motivating force, which is to find a healthy, caring family for kids who need them, they should not be in the adoption business. . . .

''I think that and hope that the [state] will keep a close eye on whoever it is becomes responsible for these children's lives and makes sure that they have the needs and well-being of the children as their first priority rather than the bottom line.''

In December 2006, the Beacon Journal chronicled the story of a Canton teenager who claimed the agency urged her to run away from home so it would be easier for her to put up her child for adoption. State investigators concluded that there was no evidence that she was asked to run away, but the agency was cited for several procedural and paperwork violations related to the adoption.

The girl's mother, Judy Bennett, was unhappy with the state sanctions, saying they weren't harsh enough.

''I would have preferred that their doors were closed permanently and they were never allowed to open again and they were never allowed to deal with children again,'' she said.

The family is still trying to regain custody of the child, she said.

Working Mother magazine last year named A Child's Waiting as one of the nation's best 25 small companies because of its family-friendly culture. The agency, which has handled about 1,400 adoptions since it was founded in 2000, also was featured on ABC News' 20/20 a few years ago.

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