This article provides information about being a foster parent (also called a “resource parent”) of a child placed in foster care in Maryland.
How the foster care system works in Maryland
The Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) is the state agency that oversees the foster care program across the state. Each county (including the City of Baltimore) has its own local Department of Social Services (“DSS”). These departments are run by the county, but report to the DHR.
Foster care caseworkers from the county DSS work with families and foster parents (also called “resource parents”) to develop and implement a case plan for children in foster care.
A "case plan" is a detailed written description of a child's needs, the services that will be provided, and the laws that apply.
What does a resource parent do?
Resource parents are responsible for providing children with a safe, nurturing environment. This includes providing:
- Parental supervision and support;
- Food, shelter, and clothing;
- Health and dental care;
- Opportunities to participate in social, sporting and cultural events; and
- Emotional support to help the child cope with not being with his/her family.
Can I become a resource parent?
To be a resource parent, you must be at least 21 years old and apply for “resource home approval” at your county DSS. Here are some of the requirements:
For resource parents:
- Have certain characteristics such as knowledge of, interest in and regard for the principles of good child care;
- Be willing to work well with DSS personnel such as a child’s caseworker;
- Be mature and create an emotionally stable and supportive climate for the child;
- Help maintain family ties through regular family contact as required by the child’s case plan;
- Value and respect the child’s racial, ethnic, religious and cultural heritage;
- Be willing to support and encourage a child’s educational progress, including participating in school conferences and similar activities; and
- Owe no outstanding child support unless the applicant pays the arrears owed or makes a payment plan with Child Support Enforcement that are acceptable to DSS.
For resource families:
- The resource family must pay for and receive physical examinations for all people living in the home and be re-examined every two years;
- All resource family members 18 years of age and older must pass a State and federal criminal background investigation;
- No adult in the resource home may have a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against a child, rape, sexual assault and human trafficking; and
- No adult in the resource home may have within 5 years before the date of the application for approval been convicted of a physical assault, battery or a drug-related offense.
For resource homes:
- Secure certain health and sanitation approvals, including that for lead paint hazards; and
- Meet fire safety, window covering, and general safety requirements.
What would my responsibilities be as a resource parent?
As a resource parent, you owe responsibilities to the child in your care, the child’s birth family and DSS. Your responsibilities to each include:
To the child:
- Participate in the child’s mental, physical and dental health;
- Provide parental supervision and guidance appropriate to the child;
- Provide daily essentials that are required for the child’s health, comfort and grooming;
- Help the child cope with the anxiety being away from the child’s birth family and promote the child’s self esteem;
- Respect the child and the child’s family;
- Be sensitive to and respect the child’s individual needs, tastes, and values and support the child’s religious beliefs and cultural customs;
- Involve the child in family activities;
- Establish clear expectations for and limits on behavior and provide appropriate discipline when necessary;
- Provide or arrange for transportation to appointments and activities;
- Participate in the child’s educational process;
- Provide at least 10 working days’ notice if you request removal of a child except in circumstances that are critical to the health and safety of the child or resource family;
- Report any suspected incidence of a child’s physical or sexual abuse or neglect to DSS as soon as you know of the incident; and
- Keep the child’s information confidential.
To the child’s birth family:
- Assist DSS in maintaining and improving the child’s relationship with the birth family by helping with family visits;
- Respect and display understanding of the birth parents and family;
- Tell the child’s birth parents about events in the child’s life;
- Serve as a role model for the birth parent; and
- Give information about the birth family only to DSS.
To the local department of social services:
- Participate in required training;
- Work as a team member in assessing a child’s strengths and needs and in implementing the child’s case plan;
- Keep DSS aware of the child’s development and adjustment;
- Attend case reviews and meetings as requested by DSS; and
- Immediately notify DSS of changes within the resource family, such as:
- Employment and child care arrangements;
- Household composition;
- Residence and telephone;
- Health status; and
- Stressful conditions that may affect the child’s placement.
Read the law: COMAR 07.02.25.08 
What are your rights as a resource parent?
At the initial placement, at any time during the placement, and as soon as new information becomes available, resource parents have the right to receive complete information from the child’s DSS caseworker on all aspects of the child, except for privileged or confidential information.
Except for meetings covered by attorney-client privilege or meetings in which confidential information about the natural parents is discussed, the resource parent has the right to:
- Be notified of and generally be heard at scheduled meetings about the child concerning the child’s case plan;
- Be informed of court and child welfare agency decisions about the child;
- Provide input about the plan of services for the child and have that input given full consideration by DSS;
- Be given notice of plans to terminate the child’s placement with the resource parent unless the child is determined to be in imminent risk of harm;
- Receive timely and appropriate room and board payments for the child’s care;
- Receive timely compensation for allowable expenses such as parent training and transportation costs;
- Have liability and insurance coverage for certain losses a resource parent may sustain; and
- Be provided with the child’s case plan and visitation plan and schedule.
Access to contact information about all DSS offices in Maryland may be found at: http://dhr.maryland.gov/local-offices/ .