Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Maryland

Date: August 2020

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Code of Regs. §§;

A 'resource parent' is an individual dually approved as a foster and adoptive parent. To be approved as a resource parent, an applicant and all family members and other residents of the household shall undergo a home study.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Code of Regs. §

The State Department of Human Services or a local Department of Social Services may conduct the home study.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Code of Regs. §§;

An applicant must be a U.S. citizen or alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. An applicant must be at least age 21, unless otherwise permitted by statute.

All family members and other residents of the household shall undergo an initial medical examination and formal medical reexamination at least every 2 years. If a resource parent is age 60 or older, the local department shall observe and document that the resource parent's strength is adequate to meet the needs of children in care.

A resource family shall have sufficient income and financial stability to provide reasonable living conditions for their own family group without depending upon the reimbursement for basic foster care.

A resource home shall meet State and local public health and sanitary standards, including the following:

  • All firearms and ammunition maintained in the home shall be stored in a locked room or container that is inaccessible to children
  • Prescription and nonprescription drugs, dangerous household supplies, and tools are kept in a safe location, inaccessible to children.
  • The home meets fire safety standards, including the installation of approved smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • The family living quarters shall be adequate to provide space for foster children without disrupting the usual sleeping and living arrangements of the family group.
  • Any pets in the home shall be appropriately licensed, vaccinated, and leashed.
  • The resource parent shall have access to legal and safe transportation.

The prospective resource parents shall attend 27 hours of preservice training and meet the technical requirements for resource home care to be approved as a resource home. An orientation meeting may be counted toward the required 27 hours of preservice training.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Code of Regs. §§;

Before a resource home may be approved, an applicant and all household members age 18 and older must apply for a State and Federal criminal background investigation. In addition, the local department shall request information from the child abuse and neglect registry of any State in which an applicant or another adult in the household has lived within the last 5 years to determine whether an individual in the household has a prior indicated finding of abuse or neglect.

For the home study, the resource home worker shall do the following:

  • Conduct at least three visits at the home of the prospective resource parent, with one home visit including a meeting with each resource parent individually and other visits that include the following:
    • Meeting with the entire family
    • A discussion of training
    • A tour of the house
  • Obtain three personal references, as follows:
    • Only one reference from a relative
    • If there is a school-aged child in the prospective resource family, references from school personnel
  • Obtain verification of income
  • Obtain verification of marital status, if applicable
  • Request a health and sanitary inspection of the home by the local health department
  • Review local department records to determine whether a member of the prospective resource family has an indicated finding of abuse or neglect
  • Review the results of the State and Federal criminal background checks
  • Make certain that fire safety approval is obtained

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Code of Regs. §§;

The local department may not approve an applicant to whom any of the following applies:

  • Has an indicated finding of child abuse or neglect
  • Has a felony conviction at any time for any of the following:
    • Child abuse or neglect
    • Spousal abuse
    • A crime against a child, including child pornography
    • A crime of violence including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including other physical assault or battery
    • Human trafficking
  • Has a felony conviction in the previous 5 years involving physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense

The local department may deny an application if any of the following are true:

  • The applicant's home fails to meet requirements.
  • The applicant knowingly reported false information.
  • The applicant has a history of regulatory violations that demonstrates an inability to provide for the health and safety of the children.
  • The applicant has previously had approval denied or revoked by any local department, unless the local department is satisfied that the condition that was the basis for the denial or revocation has been corrected.
  • The applicant prevents the local department from completing its responsibilities for approval.
  • The applicant cannot provide for the health, safety, or welfare of the children in care because of abuse of alcohol or other controlled dangerous substances, mental instability, or any other condition that creates reasonable doubt as to the applicant's ability to provide care.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Code of Regs. §

A local department shall notify a prospective resource parent in writing and within 120 days of the date on which the local department accepts the application of the decision of approval or denial.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Code of Regs. §§;

The child must live with the adoptive family for at least 6 months, unless a shorter period is allowed by the juvenile court on recommendation of the local department. Postplacement services may be extended by mutual agreement of the family and local department based on the needs of the child and the family.

The agency caseworker shall do the following:

  • Visit the adoptive family at least monthly
  • Use observations during the visits in determining the frequency of visits and the family's readiness for finalization of the adoption
  • Include the child in these visits according to the child's age and capability

In a private adoption, the agency shall provide postplacement services to all children and adoptive parents before an adoption is finalized. The agency worker shall visit the adoptive parent at least three times and as needed during the first 6 months following placement. The worker shall use the observations during the visits in determining the frequency of visits needed to ascertain the adopting parent's readiness to finalize the adoption. The child shall be included in the home visits according to the child's age and capability.

The agency shall do the following:

  • Provide evaluative, supportive, and educational services for the adoptive parents
  • Place special emphasis on the integrity and continuity of the child's heritage and genetic histories
  • Ensure that all complaints of child abuse or neglect are reported immediately to the local department
  • Use a written instrument to assess the child's safety in the adoptive home

The agency shall terminate services to the adoptive parent when the adoption decree is final, unless the agency and adoptive parent agree that services will continue beyond the final adoption decree, or when a child is removed from an adoptive home.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Code of Regs. §§;

Consistent with the best interests of the child, the local department shall consider and give first priority to adoption by a relative. A 'relative' is an individual who is related to the child by blood or marriage within five degrees of consanguinity or affinity and who is age 21 or older or age 18 or older and lives with a spouse who is age 21 or older.

An assessment of the relative will be made, with particular attention given to their willingness to assume legal responsibility for the child if reunification is not possible within 12 to 18 months.

To approve a relative as a resource/adoptive parent, a local department shall conduct the following:

  • State and Federal criminal background checks and child protective services clearances
  • A home inspection to verify that the home is physically safe and appropriate and has the following:
    • Adequate heat, light, water, refrigeration, cooking, and toilet facilities
    • Functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
    • Safety precautions regarding firearms and prescription and nonprescription drugs, dangerous household supplies, tools, and any other household items that are potentially life-threatening or injurious to children
    • Otherwise meets basic health and safety standards

The local department may not approve, or continue to approve as a placement, any home in which any of the following applies to an adult in the household:

  • Has a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children, child pornography, or a crime of violence including rape, sexual assault, or homicide but not including other physical assault or battery
  • In the previous 5 years has a felony conviction involving physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense

The local department may not approve any home in which an individual has an indicated child abuse or neglect finding.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Fam. Law § 5-604; Code of Regs. §§;

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

In regulation: All placements of children for out-of-home placement or as a preliminary to possible adoption in Maryland from another State shall comply with the requirements of the ICPC. The placement of Maryland children into States that are members of the compact also shall comply with ICPC requirements. To place a child out of State, ICPC requires that, before the two States involved sign a contract or an agreement, the plan shall be approved by the other State based on its interstate placement requirements and the Social Services Administration.

A foster child may be placed in an adoptive home located out of Maryland only under one of the following conditions:

  • The adoptive family that has the child moves to another State before finalization of the adoption.
  • A local department has a plan approved by the Social Services Administration to use foster or adoptive homes in bordering States. This plan ensures that the local department can provide responsible supervision of the placement.

A home study for a relative placement, foster care placement, or adoption that is referred from another State under the ICPC shall be handled as follows:

  • Forwarded to the appropriate local department within 5 days of receipt at the Maryland ICPC Office
  • Completed by the local department and returned to the ICPC Office within 45 days of receipt
  • Forwarded to the requesting State within 60 days from the date of the receipt of the request at the ICPC Office

Foster to Adopt Placements

Citation: Code of Regs. §

A home study shall provide indepth information about foster care and adoption to a prospective resource parent, including the following:

  • The nature and purpose of the local department's planning documents, including the permanency plan, the case plan, and the service agreement
  • The order of priorities of permanency plan options, which are as follows:
    • Return home to birth parents
    • Placement with relatives
    • Adoption
    • Independent living, in which the child is learning to be self-sufficient and responsible for living arrangements
    • Another planned permanent living arrangement, which is described as follows:
      • A permanency plan that addresses the individualized needs of the child, including the child's educational plan, emotional stability, physical placement, and socialization needs
      • A plan that includes goals that promote the continuity of relations with individuals who will fill a lasting and significant role in the child's life
  • The option to be considered as an adoptive home for children who have been in continuous care in the foster home for at least 1 year

Links to Resources

Adoption (webpage), Maryland Department of Human Services