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How to Become a Foster Parent in Maryland
Looking to take a step forward and become a foster parent? For those located in Maryland, this guide helps you get started with the foster care process!
In Maryland, there are over 4,300 kids in care who need a loving home provided by selfless foster parents.
If you’re someone who wants to make a difference in the life of a child in Maryland, becoming a foster parent is an incredible step to take.
However, like with any state, there’s a process to follow and requirements that need to be met.
For those who want to begin their foster parenting journey in Maryland, we can provide you with the guidance you need.
But first, let’s talk about the role of a foster parent and if it’s the right decision for you to make.
The Role of a Foster Parent in Maryland
Being a parent to a child in care shares many similarities with parenting a biological child. However, many kids in care have been through trauma, so there are some aspects of fostering a child in care that are unique to foster parents.
Creating a Secure and Loving Home
A child in care flourishes when they feel both secure and happy, just like any other child. Building that security and trust with a child who may have experienced neglect or abuse is the challenge.
- Foster parents, much like biological parents, are responsible for creating a home environment that is both secure and filled with affection. However, foster parents must have homes that meet specific safety standards for care in Maryland.
- Foster parents are also tasked with supplying basic needs. For example, nutritious meals, a cozy spot for rest, and opportunities to participate in enjoyable activities and hobbies.
A proper foster home provides essential elements that assist a child in foster care to experience a normal, balanced life and develop in a healthy way!
Building Positive Relationships
Educating children on the value of healthy relationships can be a challenge — however, it's especially crucial for a child in foster care.
- It's important for foster parents to help a child in care in developing a bond with them and re-establishing ties with their biological parents when it’s part of the care plan.
- For many children in care — particularly those in therapeutic foster programs — forming connections with others can initially be difficult. However, compassion goes a long way toward making progress!
Addressing Emotional Needs
Children in foster care may have more complex emotional needs depending on what they’ve been through. As a foster parent, your support is crucial for their emotional healing.
- Foster parents play a crucial role in a child's healing by fostering an atmosphere of security, love, and belonging within the family.
- These children often need extra understanding and help in handling their feelings, particularly if they have experienced trauma.
- For certain children in foster care, their care plan might include specialized treatment services — and as their foster parent, you're instrumental in ensuring they attend these essential appointments.
Solving Educational Needs
Children in care are among the most vulnerable groups regarding high school graduation and going to college. Children who “age out” of care without support and preparation from loving foster parents are at an increased risk of experiencing homelessness and unemployment as well.
- During these critical developmental years, the support of foster parents is an amazing help for a child in care who needs guidance and assistance.
- Foster parents play a vital role by working together with educators and other specialists on the educational journey of a child in care. This cooperative effort helps address the unique educational needs of each child and tackle any academic obstacles they may face!
Preparing Them For Adulthood
Every parent wants their child to grow up into a thriving adult — foster parents are no different!
- The support of a foster parent helps shape a child in care into a well-rounded adult — they offer emotional guidance and teach crucial life skills.
- They also need to teach children in care about finances, saving strategies, and the available support for transitioning out of foster care in their later years.
- Foster parents that have the ability to permanently adopt a child in their care have the opportunity to dramatically change their future life as an adult for the better.
In 2021, over 30% of children still in foster care near the end of the year were aged 12 years or older. Of that number, 20% were aged 15 to 17 years. There is a very real and urgent need for foster parents willing to provide love to teens in care.
How to Become a Foster Parent in Maryland
If you’re ready to meet the needs of a child in care in Maryland, then Sevita’s companies are here to help you begin the journey of becoming a foster parent. Our Mentor Foster Care experts can help you through every step of the process with customized support — plus, it doesn’t cost anything.
You can also get started with the application process on your own by following some of the steps below and making sure you meet the minimum requirements in Maryland.:
Becoming a foster parent in Maryland means that you’ll have to meet these basic requirements before filling out an application:
- You need to be at least 21 years old - there is no maximum age, but if you are over 60, the local department will observe and document whether your health and strength are enough to meet the needs of a child in care.
- You can be single or married - all orientations are welcome. All religions are accepted and welcomed as well.
- You need to have a stable source of independent income - You don’t need to be wealthy, but you will need a reliable income source that is enough to support a child in care.
- You can rent, lease, or own a home - Any of these options are fine as long as the home meets safety standards set by the state of Maryland.
- You must pass a criminal record check - This is to protect children in care from danger and additional abuse.
- You must pass an initial medical exam - This does not exclude individuals living with disabilities from being foster parents, it’s more to make sure you will be able to care for and support a child while they are with you.
- You must have three character references - Similar to the background check, this is to protect a child in care from those who wish to do them harm.
- You must commit to a no physical discipline policy - Children in care are often living with and recovering from trauma. Physical discipline can set their progress back and create even more fear.
Filling Out an Application
If you meet the requirements above, then you’re ready to apply to become a foster parent in Maryland!
There’s more than one way to get started with the application process:
- You want to start the journey on your own - Visit the Maryland Department of Human Services website. There, you’ll find an introductory video, a guide for the Maryland home study process, and the form you’ll need to complete to apply.
- You want additional guidance from an expert - Mentor Foster Care, a part of Sevita’s companies, helps prospective foster parents in Maryland with the application process and to become foster parents. We can also answer any questions you might have about fostering along the way.
In most cases, the process of becoming a foster parent with support from our experts tends to be much faster than trying to complete the process alone!
Preservice sessions are a requirement in most states to become a foster parent. However, the amount of time spent varies depending on the state.
- In Maryland, foster parents need 27 hours of preservice sessions.
- These sessions prepare foster parents to care for a child in need, covering topics such as basic child care needs and medical and physiological needs, helping parents understand how to deal with certain behaviors, and more.
- For therapeutic foster care, 28 hours of preservice sessions are necessary.
Maryland, like every state in the US, requires a home study before placing a child in care into a new home.
- In a home study, a social worker will verify that your home offers a secure and supportive setting for a child.
- They will also explore aspects of your family dynamics, daily routines, and your motivations for pursuing foster parenting.
- This process also serves as a chance to reflect on your choice to become a foster parent.
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.
Mentor Foster Care operates in many locations across the state, including:
Sign up for our webinar today or call our local office to get started!