Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Maryland

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Family Law § 5-702

The local Department of Social Services is required by legislation to protect children who have been subjected to abuse or neglect. The local department is required to provide appropriate services in the best interests of the abused or neglected child.

Best Interests Factors

Citation: Family Law § 5-525(f)(1) 

In developing a permanency plan for a child in an out-of-home placement, the local department shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child, including consideration of both in-State and out-of-State placements. 

The local department shall consider the following factors in determining the permanency plan that is in the best interests of the child:

  • The child's ability to be safe and healthy in the home of the child's parent
  • The child's attachment and emotional ties to the child's natural parents and siblings
  • The child's emotional attachment to the child's current caregiver and the caregiver's family
  • The length of time the child has resided with the current caregiver
  • The potential emotional, developmental, and educational harm to the child if moved from the child's current placement
  • The potential harm to the child by remaining in State custody for an excessive period of time

Other Considerations

Citation: Family Law § 5-525.2

A local department shall place together siblings who are in an out-of-home placement if it is in the best interests of the siblings to be placed together and placement of the siblings together does not conflict with a specific health or safety regulation.

Any siblings who are separated due to foster care or adoptive placement may petition a court, including a juvenile court with jurisdiction over one or more of the siblings, for reasonable sibling visitation rights.