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March 27, 2009

Butler commissioners head off ‘married-only’ adoption rule

Hamilton, Ohio--Butler County commissioners may have thwarted an attempt by the children services director to give adoption preferences to married heterosexual couples.

The commissioners, alarmed by press accounts that retiring Children Services director Michael Fox proffered a rule giving married couples preference in adoption, ordered an investigation and had the policy stopped.

The rule, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, was changed in December but only became public earlier this month. But it was never used, said Nancy Lisec, an executive assistant with Butler County Children Services.

Lisec said the agency has only about 15 adoptions a year, and none since December.

Lisec said that the agency’s intake director Darlene Campbell reviews their policies to make sure they comport with Ohio law.

“But she has a boss,” said Lisec, “I’m sure Mr. Fox came up with the policy.”

Fox, a former state representative and former county commissioner, served as the agency’s head for 20 months.

A Republican, Fox once chaired the House Education Committee. His career was often controversial, with ethical violations over undeclared gifts. There is a current FBI investigation over his role in a county fiber optic contract that led to the county auditor pleading guilty to bank fraud. Fox is retiring in poor health, with his house in foreclosure.

His official retirement is March 31, but he began a medical leave that made March 20 his last day of work.

At the same time Fox proffered the adoption policy, he issued a second one that is also disputed.

Known as the “common sense” policy, it allows Children Services workers to ignore rules that don’t make sense to them, or that they think are merely bureaucratic.

The commissioners are reviewing that one, too.

The adoption policy was highlighted in an Equality Ohio e‑mail alert suggesting that other Ohio counties may follow Fox’s lead.

A check found no evidence that any other counties are looking at similar rules.

A 2006 proposal to ban LGBT adoptions and foster parenting went nowhere in the Ohio legislature and is not likely to return.

Current Ohio law and court interpretations require adoptions and foster care placements to be in the best interest of the child, regardless of the marital status or sexual orientation of the perspective parents.

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