Child Welfare

The Circuit Court for Prince George's County Welcomes All - A Fair Forum for Justice

Children with Disabilities—Voluntary Placements Act of 2003

Governor Robert Ehrlich signed an Executive Order on January 17, 2003 which identified “the urgent need to identify alternatives to the practice of requiring parents to relinquish custody of their children, who have significant and complex mental health needs and/or developmental disabilities, in order to access service”. Governor Ehrlich’s Executive Order was followed by Senate Bill 458 Children with Disabilities—Voluntary Placement, which expanded the definition of Voluntary Placement. The bill prohibits the relinquishment of custody if the child has developmental disability or mental illness and the purpose of an out-of-home placement is to provide treatment or care related to the child’s disability that the parent is unable to provide.

On October 1, 2003, local departments of social services were directed to accept requests for voluntary placements for a child who has a developmental disability or a mental illness when the purpose of the voluntary placement is to obtain treatment or care that the parent/legal guardian is unable to provide. When a local department receives a request for voluntary placement, a worker is assigned to conduct an assessment, explain the procedures and requirements of the program, and encourage the parent’s involvement in the search for an appropriate placement. If the placement exceeds 180 days the local department must file for a voluntary placement hearing. Although the parent does not have to give up their legal custody of the child, the parent has to voluntarily agree that all placement and care decisions are the responsibility of the local department.

The Voluntary Placement Act of 2003 was established to assist those families who were unable to meet the care and treatment needs of their developmentally disabled or mentally ill child. This Act cannot be implemented in those situations where a parent or legal guardian is able to meet their child’s needs, but unwilling to do so.