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Maryland foster system: Adoptive parents, mentors sought for teenagers

Of the over 8,000 kids in Maryland’s foster care system, around half are over 14, with more than a quarter older than 17. When young adults in foster care reach 21, they no longer qualify for the practical and financial support that the system offers. Unfortunately, because of their advanced ages, a foster teenager’s adoption is less likely than that of a younger child.

Maryland’s Ready by 21 program, a new state initiative, focuses on providing teenagers in foster care with the life skills that they will need in order to succeed without the benefits and security that the foster system offers them. More importantly, however, the Ready by 21 program tries to match the teen with a mentor who will provide him or her with love and emotional support, similar to what the teen might find in an older adult relative.

Adopting a Maryland teenager

While a teenage foster child’s adoption might be a relatively rare occurrence in Maryland, it is certainly not impossible. Foster children of all ages become available for adoption; in fact, most foster children now available for adoption are over 12. While many of these children may have special needs given their history, a loving and stable home is key to their healing and ultimate success as adults.

Like any other type of adoption, the process of adopting a foster child, and particularly an older foster child, can be complicated and involve certain guidelines. Further, foster child adoption may entail several related legal issues, such as receiving funding for federal programs aimed at special needs children. Despite these challenges, however, adoption of an older foster child can be a rewarding experience for many families.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “State’s Ready by 21 prepares foster youth for life”, Mary Gail Hare, Aug. 19, 2012

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