Foster Care

Foster Care Home and Bedroom Requirements in Maryland

Every foster parent needs to go through a home inspection before welcoming a child in care. Here’s your go-to checklist for Maryland!

Thinking about becoming a foster parent in Maryland? There's a big step you might be worried about: the home inspection for foster care. 

This might sound a bit scary, but really, it's all about making sure your place is safe and cozy for a child in care who needs a home.

It's not just about rules. It's about turning your home into a place where a child in care can feel welcome and loved.

In this blog, we're going to show you what this check-up for your home includes, what you've got to do, and how to make your house ready for a child in care.

What is the Home Inspection Process in Maryland?

Before you actually have your home inspected, there are several steps involved in the home study process in Maryland. Additional preservice sessions and requirements may be necessary depending on the type of foster care.

Let’s dive into the process.

  • Pre-service sessions - Applicants must complete at least 27 hours of PRIDE pre-service education courses. Access to a computer and a valid email are necessary.
  • CPR & First Aid Training - This is a requirement, with the possibility of online or in-person classes. Applicants cover the cost themselves. If you work with Mentor Foster Care, this is something we provide for free.
  • Identification verification - Government-issued photo ID is required for applicants, adult household members, and frequent visitors. Applicants must also prove their age (over 21) and citizenship or legal residency.
  • Financial stability - Applicants need to demonstrate they can support their family without relying on foster care reimbursements. This involves providing income proof and detailing monthly expenses.
  • References - Three personal references are required, including a family member and a close friend or colleague.
  • Marital status documentation - If applicable, documentation related to marriage, divorce, separation, or widowhood is required.
  • School verification - For children over 5 and under 18 living in the home, recent school records will be reviewed.
  • Pets - Current rabies vaccination records for pets are needed, along with compliance with local licensing laws.
  • Background clearances - Comprehensive background checks are conducted on all applicants and adult household members. Certain felony convictions can result in denial.
  • Medical checks - A recent physical examination is required for all household members, with additional vaccinations for those caring for infants or children with special medical needs.

Foster Care Bedroom Requirements in Maryland

Once the above steps are taken care of, it’s time to have your home inspected!

For this home inspection, there’s no better place to start than the bedroom of a child in care. It’s meant to be their safe space, and these steps help ensure that it’s suitable for them:

  • Every bedroom for a child in care needs a door and a window big enough to climb out of (at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches tall).
  • These bedrooms can't have a door or opening that goes directly into another room.
  • Each bedroom for a child in care must be at least 80 square feet if it's for just one kid.
  • You can't have skylights in bedrooms for children in care.
  • Fireplaces in these bedrooms are not allowed.
  • If there's a door to a balcony from the bedroom, it must have an alarm and a lock that's easy to use but also very secure.
  • The adults taking care of children in care need to be able to hear them at night, so they have to sleep in a room reasonably close by.
  • If children in care share a room, they need to be of the same gender and not more than four years apart in age.
  • Babies under 2 years old can sleep in the same room as their foster parent or the adult taking care of them. But, by the time they turn 2, they need their own space to move into.
  • Once children in care are over 2 years old, they can't share a bedroom with an adult. This includes foster youth who are 18 or older.
  • No child, no matter their age, is allowed to share a bed with another person, adult or child.
  • Every child must have their own bed that's right for their age. This means no bunk beds, beds with another bed that pulls out from underneath, or sharing beds.
  • Babies need to sleep in a safe crib or pack 'n-play that meets the safety guidelines from the CDC. Cribs are the preferred choice for infants.

The science of sleep also backs up the need for a child to have their own bedroom and bed: Kids with their own room get an average of 28 minutes of extra sleep per night. 

General Home Safety Checklist for Maryland Foster Care

The rest of your home also needs to meet the requirements of the state if you want to welcome a child in care into your home.

From the kitchen to your outdoor spaces, here’s what you need to know. 

Home & Health Requirements

  • The space where the family lives needs to be big enough for children in care. Adding a child cannot disrupt the normal sleeping or living setup for the family.
  • Every door in the house, including the storm doors, should have locks that you can turn with your thumb to open.
    • If there are locks that need a key on both sides, those have to be taken off and either covered up or switched out with a thumb turn lock.
  • The home must have enough heating, lighting, water supply, a fridge, ways to cook, and bathroom facilities.
  • The home should be free from mice, bugs, or any other pests.
  • Pets should be kept at a reasonable number to avoid too much crowding.
  • Broken windows, doors, or steps need to be fixed.
  • There shouldn't be any holes in the roof, floors, walls, or ceilings.

Fire Safety & Emergency Requirements

  • Smoke alarms that work on lithium batteries must be put in on every floor and near where everyone sleeps.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms in working order should also be installed on each floor and near sleeping areas.
  • There should be at least one fire extinguisher that can be easily reached. If you work with Mentor Foster Care, this is something we provide for free — along with a lockbox and a first aid kit.
  • A plan for getting out safely in case of a fire must be clearly shown in the house.
  • A first aid kit must be easy to get to in case of minor injuries.
  • Important emergency phone numbers should be put up in the house so everyone can see them.
  • There has to be a phone that works in the home, and children in care should be able to use it.
  • Doors and windows should be easy to open and close.
  • Paint, plaster, or wallpaper that is coming off, as well as any exposed wires, are not allowed.
  • The house and its surroundings should be kept clear of too much mess or clutter.
  • You're not allowed to smoke around children in care. This rule applies inside the foster home and in any car used to drive children in care.

Requirements for Dangerous Items

  • People applying to be foster parents must follow all the laws of the country and state about registering, getting permits for, and taking care of guns. They need to show copies of any permits or licenses they have for their firearms.
  • All guns and bullets have to be kept in a place that locks, like a room or a box, where kids can't get to them. Also, the bullets should be stored in a different place from the guns, and that place must also lock.
  • Anything in the house that could be very dangerous or cause injuries has to be kept somewhere safe where younger or more vulnerable kids can't reach them.
    • This includes things like cleaning products, chemicals, tools, sharp items, alcohol, and all kinds of medicines, whether they are prescribed by a doctor or bought from a store without a prescription.

Pools, Hot Tubs, and Spas

  • Swimming pools need to be surrounded by a fence or wall that's at least 4 feet tall.
  • Any way to get into the pool area through the fence or wall needs to have a safety lock — like a bolt lock — to keep it secure.
  • Swimming pools should be equipped with safety devices nearby, like a life ring, to help save someone in trouble.
  • If you can't drain the pool every time you use it, it must have a pump and filter that work to keep the water clean.
  • Hot tubs and spas must be covered with a safety cover that's locked whenever they're not being used.

How to Go Beyond the Basic Requirements

Making a child in care feel at home in Maryland involves more than just sticking to the guidelines. Here are additional suggestions to help them feel truly welcomed and comfortable in their new home!

Living Areas

  • Welcoming spaces - Ensure the common areas of the home are inviting, allowing the child to spend time with the family.
  • Display family photos - When it’s time to take portraits, include all children and display these pictures in the home. It helps them feel more welcome than you can ever know.
  • Quiet corners - Set aside areas where they can find solitude for reading or relaxing, away from the hustle and bustle.
  • Play zones - For younger children, designate safe areas for play and creativity.

Bedroom Areas

  • Personal touch - Involve the child in decorating their room, such as choosing wall colors, bedding, or posters.
  • Comfortable bedding - Provide a comfortable bed with soft bedding, quality mattresses, pillows, and blankets.
  • Study area - If space allows, include a desk or quiet corner for homework and studying.
  • Storage space - Offer ample storage for their clothing, toys, and personal items, making the space feel truly personal.

Around the Home

  • Cultural celebration - Embrace the child's cultural background by incorporating elements into the home that reflect their heritage. This could be anything from meals to keeping special holidays.
  • Relaxed atmosphere - Decorate with soothing colors and comfortable, age-appropriate furniture to create a calming environment throughout the house.
  • Outdoor activities - If possible, set up outdoor play areas, like a swing set or a small garden where they can explore while learning more about their food.

These tips aim to provide a nurturing and inclusive environment for children in care in Maryland, making them feel part of the family and community.

Join Sevita’s Upcoming Webinar For Potential Foster Parents in Maryland

Ready to become a foster parent in Maryland? If so, our upcoming webinar can help point you in the right direction.

By attending a Foster Parent Information Session Webinar and learning more about the fostering process, you can take the first step toward becoming a foster parent and providing a safe, loving, and supportive home for a child in need. 

Sign up for our webinar today, or call our local Baltimore office to get started!

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