Researching Adoption & Foster Care Law
Adoption and foster care are largely governed by state statutes. In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR, Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. This guide provides links to Maryland's family law statutes in a free web database maintained by the General Assembly. You can also navigate through the codes structure at the Westlaw website. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides summaries and citations to cases that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland Family law statutes:
- Definitions and General Provisions (Title 1).
- Children (Title 5).
- Interstate Compact on Adoption and medical Assistance (Subtitle 4A)
- Adoption Search, Contact, and Reunion Services (Subtitle 4B)
- Child care; Foster Care (Subtitle 5)
Court Rules & Court Information
The Maryland court rules applying in adoption law cases are found in Title 9 of the Maryland Rules. The court rules applying in foster care cases are found in Title 11. The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, provides summaries of cases that interpret the rules.
The five largest Circuit Court jurisdictions in Maryland (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County) have Family Divisions. These Divisions strive to provide a fair and efficient forum to resolve family legal matters in a problem-solving manner, with the goal of improving the lives of families and children who appear before the court. In Maryland's smaller cities and counties, there are Family Services Programs which serve the same purposes. For more information on the Maryland Judiciary's Family Divisions and Family Services Programs, see the Maryland Judiciary Department of Family Administration home page.
The Maryland Department of Human Resources makes regulations relating to adoption and foster care. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 7 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations), the print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR). The Administration's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents home page: Subtitle 2 - Social Services Administration and Subtitle 5 - Private Child Placement Agencies.
Because family law is mainly based on statutes, you will probably want to look for cases that interpret Maryland's family law statutes. The easiest way to do this is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, then look at the case summaries that follow them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain Maryland family law and noting the cases they cite. See "Resources for More Help" below for a list of books to get you started. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. The topics "Adoption," "Infants," and "Parent and Child" would be good places to start in the Maryland Digest.
- The Maryland Judiciary's Domestic Relations Forms page.
- Maryland Domestic Relations Forms, with Practice Commentary / Ann M. Turnbull and Joseph J. Wase. New York: Lexis Publishing, 2000. Updated annually. This and the other books listed below are available in many law libraries. Check your local law library's catalog for availability.
- Maryland Practice Forms, 5th ed. / Alex M. Allman ... [et al.] ; Baltimore, Md.: Young Lawyers Section, Maryland State Bar Association, 2009.
Resources for More Help
The resources below may help you to understand Maryland adoption and foster care law. Keep in mind, however, that books that explain the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
- Maryland Child Welfare Benchbook / Annapolis, MD.: Administrative Office of the Courts, 2009.
- Maryland Family Law / John F. Fader, II, Richard J. Gilbert. New York : Lexis Publishing, 2009. Updated annually.