COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Thousands of Ohio children are awaiting adoption as lawmakers are working to modernize the state’s adoption laws.

“Modernizing the adoption process is a step in the right direction for our state,” said Rep. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth). “Ohio families and children need this legislation.”

Rep. Ray and Rep. Rachel Baker (D-Cincinnati) are sponsoring House Bill 5, the “Adoption Modernization Act,” and are working with probate judges across the state to update the law.

“Improving and streamline the adoption process is important to Ohio families. If you look at Supreme Court reporting statistics, the data shows there has been a slight decrease in the number of finalized adoptions,” said Chief Magistrate Kelly Green at the Franklin County Probate Court. “With the increasing number of children in need of foster and adopting families, this is a trend we need to reverse.”

“We as a society must do the work to help facilitate children’s opportunities to land in permanent, safe homes,” Baker said.

The bill would increase adoption law consistency from county to county by clarifying the Ohio revised code and would expedite the adoption process for family members of the child.

“The kids in our system have not been able to receive the resources they should have been receiving,” said Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland). “This bill puts our kids first.”

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, there are 8,500 children living with foster parents. Baker said 35% percent of those kids in foster care are there as a result of abuse or neglect; she said those are two examples of adverse childhood experiences or “aces.”

“Aces often result in long term health consequences including higher risk for chronic disease, mental illness, learning disorders, substance abuse,” Baker said.

There are 3,500 Ohio children awaiting adoption. One third are thirteen or older and both Ray and Baker said improving the adoption system will help set those children up for success.

“By helping children find safe, permanent and nurturing homes we can decrease the likelihood and long-term impact of ACES,” Baker said. “Ultimately improving the health and wellbeing of Ohio’s children.”

“Every child deserves a home and love, period,” Ray said. “I will continue to work to make this a reality in our state.”

Ray and Baker said HB 5 will likely have its first committee hearing within the next few weeks.