Child adoption in Maryland occurs when a domestic placement is arranged by a child placement agency, whether a private agency or a government one. The children that can be adopted through the Department of Social Services are usually in foster care.
If the Department of Social Services has removed a child from its home due to neglect, abuse, or otherwise, then the agency may hold the child temporarily. They may place the child with relatives, and if relatives are unable to care for the child, then a foster family will be enlisted. DSS will make every step possible to reunite the child with its biological family. However, in some cases- the court may determine that this is not in the child’s best interests, or the parents decide they cannot properly care for the child. In these cases, the court will terminate the birth parent’s rights.
When the plan changes from reunifying with the parents to adoption, then the foster family or relatives that have been caring for the child may have the opportunity to adopt. If neither are interested in adopting the child, then the child is placed with another relative or a different local foster family. If the agency is unable to find the child an adoptive family, then the public agency may choose to notify private agencies. This can open up the opportunity for people outside of the area to adopt.
Before you can begin the process of adopting, you must be home study approved.
Home Study Approved
This process can take several months and involves meeting with an adoption social worker. This social worker will conduct interviews with the family and references. It will include information with regards to the following:
- Your reasons for wanting to adopt a child.
- References, and family background.
- Employment, as well as education.
- Finances, including discretionary income and net worth.
- Interviews with every member of the household, including any adult children that you may have.
- Parenting experiences.
- Social life and relationships, including the strength of the marriage.
- Physical and mental health assessment.
- Results of child-protection and criminal clearances.
- Details regarding your neighborhood and home.
If you have already been home study approved, you are ready to take adopt a child. If you have found a child you want to adopt, you can contact the social worker who is assigned to handle the child’s case. The contact person will discuss the child’s status (whether the parent’s rights have been terminated or not), their medical, mental, and social background, as well as whether the adoption would be an open one or not.
Adoption Prior to TPR
When adopting a foster child in Maryland, before the parents’ rights have been terminated, the birth parents will have a chance to sit down with the potential adoptive parents to negotiate the post-adoption agreement. This will describe what contact the birth parents are allowed following the adoption. These contract agreements also include whether there will be written updates, photographs exchanges, or supervised visits.
Adoption Following TPR
Once there has been a termination of parental rights, the child will receive a court-appointed public agency guardian. Once that agency holds guardianship, they can proceed with an adoption. If the court determines that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, then the adoption will be finalized. Adoptive parents may be able to change the child’s name, and in these cases, a new birth certificate will be issued, and the original will be sealed.