Foster families are selfless and do so much good work for children all over the country. They are able to take displaced children into their homes and give them a loving place to stay for as long as they need it. Luckily, the number of children who are in foster care is steadily decreasing year over year across the United States.
However, the numbers are still astonishingly high. At the end of 2020, the Administration for Children and Families found that there were over 407,000 children in foster care in the United States—and 4,579 of those children are in foster care in Maryland alone.
With so many children needing a place to go when their immediate family and home life is not safe for them, foster parents are able to step up. Other family members are sometimes able to take them in or even strangers with lots of extra love to give are able to help out. However, Maryland does not make it easy for Columbia foster families. There are tons of rules and requirements before foster parents can be approved, but there is one small Maryland rule that makes it especially hard: bunk beds are strictly banned.
Prohibiting bunk beds disqualifies many Maryland families from fostering
The state of Maryland wants the best for every child. But when their home life is not suitable anymore, they will always try to keep children with someone else in their family, like a grandparent. A recent article on Reason spoke to the Director of the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network, an organization that helps older generations step up to take care of children in their family more seamlessly. In it, she gave the example of a grandparent who wants to foster two children in their family.
The Maryland law states that each child needs to have their own bed: “Each child shall have an individual bed that may not be stacked in vertical bunk bed formation.” However, the grandparent lives in a studio apartment that does not have enough room for two standard size beds along with her own. Rather than allowing the children’s blood relative to purchase a bunk bed in order to meet the bed number requirement, the foster care system would deny the grandparent because of the bed type. Now these children will be forced to live with a different foster family who they do not know.
The rule was probably put in place with good intentions. It is likely to encourage foster families to give their foster children a room or space of their own, rather than shoving them in any available space. However, if Family Services in the Columbia area really care about keeping children with their family, then they would remove the outlandish bunk bed rule.
Eliminating the bunk bed rule could open more doors
Right now, the Maryland law discredits many perfectly good homes for foster children because they do not have or cannot afford the right type of bed. If the bunk bed rule is eliminated, then it could open up a world of possibilities for both the children and foster parents. Back to the example mentioned above, say those children’s’ parents have had their legal rights terminated. The grandparent was able to buy a bunk bed for their studio apartment and take the two kids in as fosters. Meanwhile, they are working through the foster-to-adopt program. They know these kids, and they love these kids; so the grandparent is going through the system to make sure they remain with family and are not placed with someone unfamiliar.
Sure, the grandmother can petition for adoptive rights if she is not able to foster because of that bunk bed rule, but this is different. While the court is working on the case, the kids would be able to live with their biological family and keep as close to a normal life as possible. If the grandparent was not allowed to foster because of the bunk beds, then the children would be placed into another foster family’s home.
Adopting a child in Maryland
Adopting a child in the Columbia area is not a simple thing to accomplish. There are quite a few steps you need to take in order to be approved, and it can be a tricky system to navigate without an experienced adoption attorney. If you want to adopt a child, you will need to:
- Determine which route is best. You can focus on adoption, fostering, or foster to adopt.
- Choose who to work with. You can work through your local social services department or find a private adoption agency. Each one has their pros and cons, so it is important for you to weigh your options carefully.
- Complete parenting classes. Before you are approved, you will need to complete 27 hours of parenting classes in order to better understand what the child has gone through with their family and how to properly integrate them into yours.
- Pass a home study. This is where someone from the state or agency will review your documentation, interview your family members, and inspect your home to ensure you are ready to bring a new child into your family.
Once all those prerequisites are complete, you essentially just need to sit back and wait for a placement. It may not take nearly as long to find a child in need when you work with the state, since so many of these kids need immediate homes to go to. But that is not always the case with private adoption agencies. Having an adoption attorney on your side throughout the process may help expedite things since they know exactly what agencies are looking for and what to expect next.
If you are trying to adopt or foster-to-adopt a child in Maryland, you should talk to an experienced Columbia adoption lawyer about your options and your legal rights. The family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, PA, are here to ensure the adoption process goes smoothly for everyone involved. We proudly serve families in Fulton, Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia. To set up a consultation, call our office, or fill out our contact form.