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Obtaining legal custody of a foster child can be a challenge

For one family in a southern state, the struggle to adopt a relative's baby has ended in heartbreak. The couple claims that they were misled by workers from their state's Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS). They believed that they would be able to gain legal custody of the child. The end result, however, was a decision to leave the child in the foster home where he was placed after being born in prison. This case has received media attention in Maryland and across the nation.

Because of her incarceration, the biological mother could not provide for the needs of her infant. Various other family members sought custody of the child, but DFCS workers found none of them to be fit for placement. That left the infant in the foster care system, where he was cared for by a family that eventually sought to adopt him.

The couple learned about the matter when they were called by a family member. Having spent years trying fertility treatments and pursuing adoption, they jumped at the chance to take the child into their home and provide him with a permanent family. They worked with DFCS to facilitate the transfer from the foster home to theirs, including going through an eight-day training class and having their home evaluated for fitness. They even attended a family planning meeting that outlined the timeline for transitioning the child to their care.

As the transition approached, DFCS determined that the foster parents should adopt the child, leaving the couple (who have a biological connection to the infant) out of the loop. A statement issued by a Deputy Director of the DFCS asserted that the agency's goal is to support placement with family whenever possible. There is no word on what might have caused the deviation from the established plan, and no indication that the couple will make a legal challenge to that decision. For those in Maryland who are considering adopting a family member's child, the story illustrates the complexities of obtaining legal custody of a child that has already been placed in foster care.

Source:, "Families fight over foster child's future", Rebecca Lindstrom, March 30, 2016

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