Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Maryland

Date: September 2023

What specific factors or conditions does your State consider to determine that a child cannot be placed with an adoptive family without providing financial assistance? ("What is your State definition of special needs?")

A child with special needs is defined as a child that has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance:

  • Six to 17 years old
  • Race or ethnicity if combined with any of these factors
  • Membership in a sibling group
  • Physical, mental, or emotional disability or disease
  • Recognized high risk of physical or mental disability or disease
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Physical or mental disease or disability


What is the maximum amount a family may receive in non-recurring adoption expenses from your State? (Adoptive parents can receive reimbursement of certain approved, "one-time" adoption expenses incurred in the process of finalizing a special needs adoption.)

Up to $2,000 per child


Does your State enter into deferred adoption assistance agreements? (In some States, adoptive parents can enter into an agreement in which they choose to defer the receipt of a Medicaid card, the monthly monetary payment, or both and can elect to receive the Medicaid card and/or monetary payment at another time.)

Maryland offers deferred adoption assistance. Deferred adoption assistance is for 'at risk' special needs designations and requires documentation that a potential special needs condition existed at the time of adoption finalization. The request must be related to the condition that would have made the child eligible for adoption assistance but was unknown at the time of adoption.


When can adoption assistance payments and benefits begin in your State?

Adoption assistance payments and benefits begin in Maryland after adoption finalization. Pre-adoptive placements receive the foster care board rate payment during the pre-adoptive placement period.


How are changes made to the adoption assistance agreement in your State?

  • When can a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • How does a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • What if a parent does not receive the change they request in the adoption assistance agreement?

All adoption assistance cases must be reviewed on an annual basis. A re-negotiation of the amount of the assistance payment can be requested by the local department of social services (LDSS) or family at any time during the year. The amount of a Title IV-E payment cannot be changed without the consent of the family. Social Services Administration (SSA) approval is required for all increases.

The adoptive family must provide a letter to the LDSS indicating the specific changes that would justify a payment adjustment, the amount of the adjustment, and the type of benefit they believe is needed. The parent’s must provide documentation to support their request including current school reports, psychological evaluations, medical reports, costs and descriptions of services and any other documentation that support the requested adjustment.

The negotiated amount may not exceed the foster care board rate that they child might have received in foster care.

If the LDSS reviews the documentation and believes an increase may be appropriate, a memo will be submitted to SSA by the LDSS stating the current assistance amount and the requested increase. The memo must also justify the need for the increase and be accompanied by documentation to support the request.

Upon receipt of the memo and supporting documentation, SSA will review the request to determine whether an increase is appropriate. Once SSA has determined the request to have validity, the packet will be reviewed by the Adoption Assistance Committee which meets bi-monthly to review all requests and to determine if the request will be approved.

Each individual who applies for or is receiving an adoption assistance payments, has the right to appeal the denial, reduction, or termination of the adoption assistance payment. Additionally, any individual is entitled to an appeal of any decision made by a local department or social services concerning adoption assistance with which he/she disagrees. A request for a fair hearing must be made within 10 days from the receipt of the decision.


What types of postadoption services are available in your State, and how do you find out more about them?

Postadoption services in Maryland are administered by the Department of Human Resources, Social Services Administration, through its local offices.

The purpose of the Post Adoption Permanency Program is to provide postadoption assistance in the form of services to children adopted through a public agency or a licensed private agency and their adoptive families. A local department shall notify families of the availability of postadoption support services during the adoption orientation process. Upon the request of an adoptive parent for available postadoption support services, the local department of social services shall conduct a clinical assessment of the needs of the child and the adoptive family and determine whether the adopted child is in need of postadoption support services not available from other resources, develop a plan, and recommend services.

Upon submission of the proposed support services plan, the executive director or designee shall determine whether to approve the service plan and the funding necessary to implement the plan. The administration shall notify the local department of the status of the proposed service plan within 15 days of receipt of the service plan request. Funds available for the provision of postadoption support services shall be limited to the maximum amount established by the Maryland General Assembly and provided during a fixed year until allocated funds are expended.

Post-adoption services are detailed in the Code of Maryland Regulations.

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate: Maryland's respite programs.


What mental health services are provided by your State?

The Children’s Services Division of the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) is charged with developing a system of care for young people and their families ranging from early childhood all the way through to the time when young people reach the age of majority and legally become adults. The system of care is designed to meet the needs of individuals within this age range who have mental health conditions, substance-related disorders, and those who have both. The Division evaluates the network of services that the BHA funds for this age group and has the responsibility for statewide planning, development, administration and monitoring of provider performance to assure the highest possible level of quality in the delivery of services. The Division also manages a number of special projects and is responsible to work with all other child serving agencies at both the State and local levels to assure a highly coordinated and individualized approach to care.

The Center for Children is dedicated to the promotion of positive mental health for children, youth and families and the prevention and treatment of child abuse in Southern Maryland. Through therapy, education and advocacy, they provide hope and healing. More information regarding the services offered can be found at Behavioral Health Administration’s Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Services (CAYAS) division.

Core Services Agencies (CSAs) are the local mental health authorities responsible for planning, managing, and monitoring public mental health services at the local level. CSAs exist under the authority of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and are agents of the county government. The functions of core service agencies are to plan, develop, and manage a full range of treatment and rehabilitation services for persons with serious mental illness in their jurisdiction.


Does your State provide additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under your State medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance?

If a child develops a special need subsequent to finalization that was present at the time of the adoption but was not known at the time of adoption, the child may be eligible to receive post-adoption assistance. A post-adoption assistance is state-funded and the adoptive child must meet the following criteria:

  • The child was in the guardianship of a Maryland public or private agency at the time of the adoption; and
  • The child’s condition would have made the child eligible for adoption assistance had the condition been known prior to the finalization of the adoption


What is your State's process for applying for a fair hearing? (A fair hearing is a legal, administrative procedure that provides a forum to address disagreements with agency decisions.)

Adoptive parents can request a fair hearing whenever there is disagreement with a Department decision that affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits.

Each individual who applies for or is receiving an adoption assistance payment, has the right to appeal the denial, reduction, or termination of adoption assistance payment. Additionally, any individual is entitled to an appeal of any decision made by a local department of social services concerning adoption assistance with which he/she disagrees. A request for a Fair Hearing must be made within 10 days from the receipt of the decision. The local department of social services shall provide specific information to the families about the procedures to follow when making an appeal.

Directions for filing for a fair hearing can be found at Interested parties also may provide written comments by mail or personal delivery to the:

Office of Administrative Hearings
11101 Gilroy Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21031

For complete information about a fair hearing, see: Code of Maryland Regulations.


Does your state, territory, or tribe offer a guardianship subsidy or assistance (monthly payments and medical coverage) program?

Yes. Assistance is available regardless of the child’s title IV-E eligibility.

  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? The guardianship assistance cannot exceed the foster care board rate. Youth must also be in the home for at least six months.


What are the eligibility criteria for a child to receive guardianship assistance?

Eligibility criteria for guardianship assistance may be found in the Maryland Department of Human Resources Administrative Code 07.02.29 Guardianship Assistance Program.


Do families have to meet a kinship definition to receive guardianship assistance? If yes, how is kinship defined?

Yes. Kinship is defined as a relative or fictive kin. Relative means an adult who is related by blood, marriage, adoption, godparent, or strong kinship bond to a child, who is in the care, custody, or guardianship of a local department and who has been designated by the local department as a temporary 24-hour caregiver of that child. Relative Guardian means a relative caregiver whom the court has designed as a guardian.