What is adoption?
Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family. People who choose to adopt are very special. They have a strong belief that all children deserve a loving family to call their own. There are many children in Maryland that want nothing more than to become part of a loving stable family.
The children available for adoption through the departments of social services are often the victims of unfortunate circumstances that led to their need for new homes. Although many of the children have special needs, their greatest need is for a permanent family where they can be loved and nurtured by dedicated individuals. Adoption Services develops permanent families for children who cannot live with or safely reunite with their birth parents or extended birth families. Adoption is the legal and emotional acceptance into your family of a child not born to you. The child will have your name and the same legal rights as a child by birth.
State of Maryland’s Public Child Welfare Adoption Program
Our program is a foster to adopt program. In Maryland, we dually approve our resource families as foster/adoptive homes. Children are removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect and placed temporarily into foster/adoptive homes that have been approved by a local department of social services. The local departments are mandated by law to work towards reunifying children with their families. In some cases, children are unable to be returned home to their parents or relatives for many different reasons. The local department may recommend to the Court that the child’s “permanency plan” be changed to adoption. At that time, the local department would look to you as the foster/adoptive family, and discuss your interest in adopting the child, and making the child a permanent part of your family. In most cases, the child has been in your home for 12 months or longer.
Some children who are in the custody of a local department are placed “at risk” which means the child is not yet legally free to be adopted but steps are being taken to achieve termination of parental rights. Therefore, the foster parents (prospective adoptive parents) take the risk of having the child removed from their home, but the child does not face the risk of living in many foster homes before the court makes a decision. If the child becomes legally free, the foster parents (prospective adoptive parents) may adopt the child.
There are also cases, where the local department may be searching for an adoptive home for a child. These children are already legally free for adoption, and are in need of a permanent family. In some cases, a child may be in an approved foster/adoptive home; however the family is not interested in adopting the child. In these cases, the local department would begin the process of locating an adoptive home for the child. Once a child’s permanency plan is changed to adoption by the Court, the local department would move forward with the plan. There are many steps involved in making a child legally free for adoption. Once the child is deemed legally free for adoption, the local department would move forward with finalizing the child’s adoption.
Financial Assistance: Financial and medical help to support a child’s adoptive placement is called Adoption Assistance. Regardless of your income, if you adopt a child with special needs, you may receive monthly adoption assistance payments and/or medical assistance for the child. These arrangements are made when the child is placed with you and will continue after the adoption is finalized. Your local department of social services will educate you about the Maryland Adoption Assistance Program.
What about the future? The legal responsibility of the local department ends when the adoption is finalized in a court of law. However, both public and private agencies will provide direct assistance or referral services when asked, even after the adoption is finalized.
If you are interested in becoming an approved foster/adoptive family the following steps should be taken:
- Contact the Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) in the county where you reside. The main number for each LDSS can be found on the DHR website under Local Offices. Ask to speak to someone about becoming an approved foster/adoptive family.
- Attend a Foster/Adoptive Parent Information Meeting held by the local department. Once you make contact with the LDSS, they can inform you of when the next information meeting will be held. This meeting will help you learn all about becoming an approved foster/adoptive family.
- Attend a mandatory 27 pre-service training. The LDSS will provide you with the necessary information in order to sign up for the pre-service.
Adopt US Kids
Adopt US Kids, is an initiative of the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau that was developed and operated by a collaboration of nationally recognized organizations that include the University of Texas, Austin School of Social Work, Northwest Adoption Exchange, North American Council on Adoptable Children, The Adoption Exchange, and spearheaded by the Adoption Exchange Association. Adopt US Kids brings waiting children “online” through photographs and biographies. A wealth of information is also available to help you learn more about adoption. This organization also provides technical assistance to local departments of social services throughout the United States.
Once you become an approved foster/adoptive family in Maryland, local department of social services staff will be available to help prospective foster/adoptive parents search for children that are legally free for adoption, using the AdoptUSKids database service. For example, you may request a specific age range, gender, and special needs of a child. You may also indicate if you are interested in a sibling placement. The State of Maryland Adoption Program also utilizes the AdoptUSKids photolisting service to feature some of the available children who are legally free for adoption in Maryland. These children are photo listed locally on the DHR website and nationally on www.adoptuskids.org.