COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio hit an adoption milestone with the help of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, where more than 1,500 children have been placed into permanent homes.

Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the foundation, said most of those placements happened between 2012 and now — with many more underway.

“These are the children who were most at risk of leaving foster care without a permanent family,” Soronen said.

In June 2022, Aaryn McGregor adopted her daughter Samantha, who has medical needs.

“It was a lot of special bonding time, a lot of special moments, welcoming a new child into our family,” McGregor said. “It was a very emotional process. Samantha really had not been in a long-term situation and didn’t really fully know what a family meant.”

She said over the course of around one year, her family got to know Samantha both in person and over Zoom because of the pandemic.

“She just slowly started spending more and more time with us,” McGregor said. “We got our foster care license and then we adopted her.”

Nearly 15,000 minors are in foster care throughout the state, 3,300 of whom are currently available for adoption, according to the Department of Job and Family Services

“It is a complex system, but so is getting your driver’s license renewed,” Soronen said. “If there is an end goal — and the end goal is a permanent placement for a child — then how we help people navigate those complexities as a state, as an organization as a community is critical.”

Part of Governor Mike DeWine’s budget proposal extends health care coverage to all children who are adopted in the state. In his annual State of The State address, he said he knows families across Ohio may want to foster children but cannot afford to do so.

“All the of the changes that he’s looking at, all of the enhancements he’s looking at, I think ultimately will benefit the families and children of Ohio,” Soronen said.

On Friday, DeWine signed an executive order to launch the Ohio Adoption Grant Program, which provides up to $20,000 to parents adopting a child.

“Every child deserves a safe, permanent, loving home,” DeWine said in a statement. “Whether you’re adopting from the foster care system, or through private adoption, the Ohio Adoption Grant will help offset the cost of growing your family.”