Updated December 2020

Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Maryland. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.

State Contact

Clezel Farmer
Department of Human Resources (DHR)
Social Services Administration
311 W. Saratoga Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

NACAC Volunteer

Jennifer Klotz
Baltimore, MD 21228

What Is Adoption Subsidy?

Parents who are thinking about or are in the process of adopting a child with special needs from foster care should know about adoption assistance (also known as adoption subsidy). Federal (Title IV-E) and state (often called non-IV-E) adoption assistance programs are designed to help parents meet their adopted children’s varied, and often costly, needs. Children can qualify for federal adoption assistance or state assistance, depending on the child’s history. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state in which the child was in foster care before the adoption.

Below is information related to definitions of special needs, benefits available, and procedures in Maryland. Answers to select questions were made available by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (AAICAMA) through the Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov). Profiles for other states’ subsidy programs are available. If you have additional questions, please contact NACAC at 651-644-3036, 800-470-6665, or adoption.assistance@nacac.org. If you have state-specific questions, please call your State Subsidy Contact Person or the NACAC Subsidy Representative (listed above) for more information.

For more information on Title IV-E eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.

Adoption resources on the web:

Maryland’s state-specific medical assistance information:

Maryland Statute, Article – Family Law , Title 5, Parts I and II, §5-401 to §5-412 Part I – Adoption Subsidy Act; Part II – Adoption Subsidy Program:
(then click on the following links: (1) Family Law; (2) Title 5. Children; Subtitle 4. Adoption Subsidy Act; Part I; and (2) Part II )

Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) COMAR to

Adoption Assistance Program Policy, SSA 13-1:

Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?

1. How does Maryland define special needs to determine eligibility?

To qualify as special needs, the child must be one for whom the local department or agency that holds guardianship has made reasonable efforts to find an adoptive family without adoption assistance, but has not been successful because of one or more of the following factors:

  • The child is 6 to 17 years old;
  • The child has a physical or mental disease or disability;
  • The child has an emotional disturbance;
  • The child is recognized to be at high risk of a physical or mental disability or disease;
  • The child is a member of a sibling group being placed together; or
  • Race or ethnicity if combined with any of the above factors.

2. Does the state-only funded adoption assistance program differ in any way from the Title IV-E program?

Children who receive non Title IV-E adoption assistance may have their adoption assistance reduced if they receive Social Security benefits from a parent’s record.  Children who receive non Title IV-E adoption assistance may have their adoption assistance suspended if they are out of the home for more than 30 days.  

3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Maryland eligible for adoption assistance?

Families that adopt children from private agencies are eligible to apply for adoption assistance in Maryland. There are several requirements that must be met.

The private agency must assist the family with applying for adoption assistance, and provide all needed documentation in order for the family to apply.

What Supports and Services Are Available?


Monthly Payments

4. What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Maryland?

In Maryland the maximum monthly adoption assistance payment shall not exceed the applicable foster care board rates, which are as follows:

Age at Adoption Maximum Basic Foster Care Board Rate Maximum Intermediate Foster Care Board Rate
0-11 $887 $1,008
12-20 $902 $1,024

The amount of the adoption assistance payment for a child adopted by his or her treatment foster parents may not exceed the foster care payment received by the treatment foster parents up to a maximum of $2000.

All adoption assistance amounts must be negotiated. All rate increases must be negotiated based on documented changes in the child’s needs (see question 17).

5. Does Maryland provide specialized rates based on the extraordinary needs of the child?

A higher adoption assistance rate may be available for “medically fragile children.” A medically fragile child means a child who meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Depends at least part of the day on mechanical ventilation
  2. Requires prolonged intravenous administration of nutritional substances or drugs
  3. Depends on other device-based respiratory or nutritional support, including tracheotomy tube care, suctioning, oxygen support, or tube feeding on a daily basis
  4. Depends on other medical devices that compensate for vital body functions and who requires daily or near daily nursing care including:
    1. A child who requires renal dialysis as a consequence of chronic kidney failure, and
    2. A child who requires other mechanical devices such as catheters or colostomy bags, as well as substantial nursing care in connection with the disabilities.

In addition, a child may be eligible for a higher adoption assistance rate if he or she in treatment foster care, is adopted by their treatment foster care parents, and has one of the following conditions and is need of a high level of treatment in a family setting:

  1. A serious medical condition including, but not limited to:
    • HIV and symptomatic or has AIDS
    • Multiple disabilities
    • Symptomatic drug-exposed newborn
  2. A serious emotional, behavioral, or psychological condition including:
    • Psychiatric diagnosis by appropriate qualified professionals
    • History of an ongoing substance abuse problem
    • Developmental disability

The amount of the adoption assistance payment for a child adopted by his or her treatment foster parents may not exceed the foster care payment received by the treatment foster parents up to a maximum of $2000. All adoption assistance amounts must be negotiated. All rate increases must be negotiated based on documented changes in the child’s needs (see question 17).

6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?

Adoption assistance payments begin after the adoption is finalized. The adoption assistance agreement must be signed by the local department of social services director and the adoptive family prior to finalization. Pre-adoptive placements receive the foster care board rate payment during the pre-adoptive placement period.

7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?

Adoption assistance payments may be made until the month in which a child attains his or her 21st birthday, provided (a) The child is completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent; (b) The child is enrolled in an institution which provides post-secondary or vocational education; (c) The child is participating in a program or activity designed to promote, or remove barriers to employment; (d) The child is employed for at least 80 hours per month; or (e) The child is incapable of doing any of the described activities due to a medical condition. In any case, the adoptive parents must remain legally and financially responsible for the child.

8. Does Maryland offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?

Yes. Deferred adoption assistance is for “at risk” special needs designations related to physical, emotional or mental health where the child is at risk but has no symptoms. This designation, which is typically for infants, requires documentation that an “at risk” condition exists at the time of adoption finalization. The will enter into a Medicaid only adoption assistance agreement to keep the possibility of monetary assistance later. If symptoms develop, the family can request a monthly amount based on the child’s needs (see question 17).

Medical Care

9. What Medicaid services are available in Maryland?

Adoption assistance recipients receive the same full range of Medicaid benefits that are available to non-adoption assistance recipients. All medically necessary and appropriate services are covered. For more information, visit: https://mmcp.health.maryland.gov/Pages/home.aspx

Families should use their private insurance as the primary coverage, and the medical assistance coverage as secondary coverage. Parents should contact their adoption assistance caseworker for details regarding eligibility, applying for services, and any required annual re-determination for services.

10. What mental health services are available?

The Children’s Services Division of the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) is charged with developing a system of care for young people and their families ranging from early childhood all the way through to the time when young people reach the age of majority and legally become adults. The system of care is designed to meet the needs of individuals within this age range who have mental health conditions, substance-related disorders, and those who have both. The Division evaluates the network of services that the BHA funds for this age group and has the responsibility for statewide planning, development, administration and monitoring of provider performance to assure the highest possible level of quality in the delivery of services. The Division also manages a number of special projects and is responsible to work with all other child serving agencies at both the State and local levels to assure a highly coordinated and individualized approach to care. More information regarding the services offered can be found at https://bha.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Child,Adolescent%20and%20Young%20Adult%20Services.aspx .

The Center for Children is dedicated to the promotion of positive mental health for children, youth and families and the prevention and treatment of child abuse in Southern Maryland. Through therapy, education and advocacy, they provide hope and healing. More information regarding the services offered can be found at https://center-for-children.org/.

Other Benefits

11. In Maryland, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?

In a domestic adoption, an adoptive parent of a child who meets the special needs criteria may be eligible for reimbursement (up to $2,000) for certain nonrecurring expenses directly related to the legal process of adoption.

Adoptive parents must apply for the reimbursement and sign the nonrecurring agreement prior to the finalization of the adoption. Documentation must be provided by the adoptive parent, specifying the costs related to the adoption, prior to signing the agreement.

12. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?

Child care assistance is not available as part of the adoption assistance program.

13. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?

Respite care services are not part of the Adoption Assistance program. Respite care services may be available through other resources in the state of Maryland.

Respite care is also available for children receiving adoption assistance who are also eligible for services from the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). Funding for these services is limited, however. For information about respite for children with mental health diagnoses, and for information about a variety of services including respite for children with developmental disabilities or severe, chronic disabilities caused by physical or mental conditions other than a sole diagnosis of mental illness, visit https://dda.health.maryland.gov/Pages/community%20pathways.aspx

14. What post-adoption services are available in Maryland and how do families find out more about them?

Post adoption services in Maryland are administered by the Department of Human Resources (DHR), Social Services Administration and include the following examples:

  • Short-term adoption-related counseling;
  • Medical treatment;
  • Mental health services;
  • Crisis intervention services; and
  • Information and referral services

The purpose of the Post Adoption Permanency Program services is to provide post adoption assistance in the form of services to children adopted through a public agency or a licensed private agency and their adoptive families. A local department shall notify families of the availability of post adoption support services during the adoption orientation process. Upon the request of an adoptive parent for available post adoption support services, the local department of social services shall:

  • Obtain a copy of the adoption decree from the adoptive family requesting support services;
  • Conduct a clinical assessment of the needs of the child and the adoptive family; and
  • Determine whether the adopted child is at risk of coming into of out-of-home placement, or foster care placement and in need of post adoption support services not available from other resources

Upon determining that an adopted child and adoptive family are in need of post adoption support services the local department shall:

  • Develop with the family a proposed post adoption support services plan that:
    • Identifies treatment goals;
    • Suggests treatment modalities; and
    • Recommends services;
  • Select appropriate vendors from those providers approved by the local department; and
  • Submit the plan to the Administration for review and funding plan approval

Upon submission of the proposed support services plan, the Executive Director or designee shall determine whether to approve the service plan and the funding necessary to implement the plan. The Administration shall notify the local department of the status of the proposed service plan within 15 days of receipt of the service plan request. Funds available for the provision of post adoption support services shall be:

  • Limited to the maximum amount established by the Maryland General Assembly; and
  • Provided during a fixed year until allocated funds are expended

The local department shall provide the post adoption support services to the adopted child or the adoptive family upon approval and release of funds by the Administration.

What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?

15. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?

The family must request assistance. The child’s caseworker will meet with the adoptive family to discuss the child’s eligibility for adoption assistance. If the child is deemed eligible for adoption assistance, the monthly payment should be negotiated between the adoptive parents and the local department of social services. The negotiated rate is based on the child’s special needs and the circumstances of the adoptive family. The adoption assistance may not exceed the foster care payment received by the foster parents for the child.

16. How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?

Families who wish to apply for adoption assistance after finalization may apply through the agency that handled the adoption. The family must provide documentation (such as medical, psychological, and/or educational records) that establishes that the child’s special needs existed, but were not known, before the adoption and would have made the child eligible for adoption assistance. If eligibility is established, the family and the director of the local department sign an agreement. For more information see: http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/comarhtml/07/

How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?

17. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?

Adoptive parents may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement if there is a change in the child’s needs or the family’s circumstances. The department and the family review agreements annually, but parents can request a change whenever there is a need by contacting (in person, by phone, or in writing) the agency that placed the child.

The agency will advise and assist the family in collecting documentation necessary to support the request and determine eligibility for the requested change. If the adoption agency is private, they will forward the request and the documentation to the public agency for consideration. The local Department of Social Services reviews the request and approves or denies it.

If parents do not receive the requested change, they can request a fair hearing and appeal the decision through the local office that denied the request.

18. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Maryland?

Adoptive parents can request a fair hearing whenever there is disagreement with a decision that affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. Parents should make requests for fair hearing to their adoption assistance worker or the director of the local department that made the contested decision. Requests can be made in person, over the phone, or in writing and must be made within 30 days of the notice of contested decision. Once a request is received, the department will send the family a fair hearing request form to complete and return to the department. The local department will then forward the form to the Office of Administrative Hearings. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will hear the case, render a decision, and notify the family of the decision.

Parents should call their adoption assistance case manager for assistance.

What Else do Families Need to Know?

19. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Maryland?

The program is state supervised/state administered. Policy and regulations relating to adoption assistance and other programs are made at the state level. The counties make decisions related to children’s eligibility.

In Maryland, the federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children is 50 percent (the Federal Financial Participation/FFP rate). The remaining cost of the program is funded with state funds.

20. Does Maryland operate a subsidized guardianship program?

Yes. The Guardianship Assistance Program provides legal stability for children who are unable to return home to their birth parents and where adoption has been ruled out as an option. The program allows relative caregivers to take full legal responsibility for children without terminating parental rights while also receiving financial support.

Children must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • The child has been removed from his/her home pursuant to a voluntary placement agreement or as a result of a judicial determination that continuation in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child.
  • The child is eligible for foster care maintenance payments or is in an approved kinship home and has been residing with the relative caretaker for the last six consecutive months (no breaks in placement during this 6 month period).
  • It has been established that reunification with the parent’s or legal guardian or adoption are not appropriate permanency options for the child.
  • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative caregiver and the relative caregiver has a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child.
  • The child is school age, is a full-time elementary or secondary school student, or is incapable of attending school due to a documented medical condition.
  • With respect to a child age 14 or older, the child has been consulted regarding the guardianship arrangement.
  • The relative caregiver shall have some means of financial support independent of the Guardianship Assistance Program for the child (employment, Temporary Cash Assistance, social security, survivor’s benefits, TDAP etc.). If the relative caregiver is receiving a TCA Child-only grant, it may not be used in computing income as this grant will end with the establishment of the assistance payment.
  • Sibling groups may be eligible in the same guardianship arrangement if the state agency and the relative caregiver agree on the appropriateness of the arrangement for the siblings and at least one of the children meets the eligibility criteria.
  • Guardianship assistance may be paid on behalf of each sibling placed in the guardianship of the provider.
  • The monthly assistance payment amount shall be negotiated based upon the child’s specific needs, but may not exceed 100% of the foster care board rate which would have been paid on behalf of the child if the child had remained in a foster family home. Treatment foster care rates do not apply to guardianship assistance payments. Only regular or intermediate foster care board rates apply.
  • The Guardianship Assistance Program may not extend beyond the child’s 21st birthday.

Payments will be negotiated based on the child’s specific needs, but cannot exceed the foster care board rate the child would have received. Payments may be adjusted periodically based on the caregiver’s and child’s circumstances. Guardians may be eligible for nonrecurring expense reimbursements and medical assistance.

21. Does Maryland offer a tuition waiver program?

Maryland offers the Maryland Waiver, which allows foster youth and former foster youth who meet certain criteria to attend college in Maryland tuition-free. 

Eligibility Requirements

Students under the age of 25 who are or were in an out-of-home placement in Maryland by the MD Department of Human Services and who are attending a Maryland public college or university are eligible to apply. 

When applying, you must have been placed or were in an out-of-home placement by the Maryland Department of Human Services.

You must have been: 

  • Placed in an out-of-home placement by the Maryland Department of Human Services (MDHS); or
  • In an out-of-home placement on the your 18th birthday or at the time you graduate from high school or successfully completed a GED; or
  • In an out-of-home placement on or after your 13th birthday for at least one year and was placed into guardianship, adopted, or reunited with at least one of your parents; or
  • Been the younger sibling of an individual who met the first two eligibility requirements and were adopted or entered a guardianship concurrently with that sibling with the same adoptive parent or guardian.

All majors are eligible to apply, both credit bearing and non-credit bearing courses.

In addition, the Maryland Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program offers funds to foster youth and former foster youth to enable them to attend colleges, universities, and vocational training institutions. Students may receive up to $5,000 a year for four years as they pursue higher education. The funds may be used for tuition, books, or qualified living expenses. These funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis

22. Does Maryland offer a state adoption tax credit?


23. Does Maryland have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?

In certain circumstances, Maryland offers assistance through the state adoption assistance program to an adoptee whose adoptive parent dies. The adoption assistance is available until the child’s 18th birthday, or until the child’s 21st birthday, provided the child continues to meet certain criteria. In order for the adoption assistance to continue, an adult assessed as a responsible caregiver agrees to assume legal custody for the child, and signs an adoption assistance agreement. The caregiver is encouraged to adopt but does not have to do so.

24. What is the payment schedule for adoption assistance? Who do I contact if I haven’t received my payment? Can I receive my adoption assistance through direct deposit?

Maryland adoption subsidy checks are usually received by the 12th of month. If adoptive parents have questions or concerns regarding their payment they should contact the Maryland at 1-877-347-2729 for late payments of Maryland adoption subsidy.  Families can receive their payment through check or direct deposit.

25. What else differentiates Maryland’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?


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