Frequently Asked Questions
I am estranged from my spouse. What can I do to prevent parental abduction?
According to the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, the most important thing you can do is maintain healthy communication with your children and spouse.
How often do kidnappings occur in Baltimore County?
Non-custodial kidnappings are extremely rare in Baltimore County. The last non-custodial kidnapping reported in Baltimore County occurred in 1979.
I'm frightened by all the recent cases of children being kidnapped and killed by strangers. Is this kind of crime increasing nationwide?
No. Statistics show that children abducted by strangers constitute a very small percentage of missing children. There are only about 100 children kidnapped and murdered in the United States each year, less than one-half of one percent of all murders committed. The largest number of missing children are runaways; followed by children abducted by family members; followed by lost, injured or otherwise missing children; followed by non-family abductions. Children abducted by a stranger are more likely to suffer death or injury than other missing children.
If I think my child is missing, how long do I have to wait to call for help? Who do I call? What can I do to help?
Do not wait. Call 911 immediately. A current photo of the child and an accurate description, including distinguishing characteristics, are essential.
What is the AMBER Alert? Does Maryland use this system?
The AMBER Alert is a critical missing child response program that uses law enforcement and media to notify the public when children are kidnapped by predators. Maryland uses the AMBER Alert system.
My child spends a lot of time online. Do I have to worry about online sexual predators?
Yes. Surveys conducted by the United States Department of Justice show that one in five children ages 10 to 17 receive unwanted sexual solicitations online. Parents should monitor their children's Internet activity, just as they would pay attention to who their children call on the phone or meet after school.
Abuse and Neglect
What should I do if I suspect a child being abused or neglected?
Maryland law requires educators, health practitioners, police officers and human service workers to report suspected child abuse or neglect. All other citizens are encouraged to report suspect abuse or neglect. Call the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3000.
How old does my child have to be before I can allow her or him to be home alone?
Under Maryland law, a child must be at least eight years old to be left alone in a house or car. State law also says a child must be at least 13 years old to baby-sit another child. Generally, it is left up to the parent to decide whether a child who is at least eight is mature enough to be home alone. Any time you leave your child alone, be sure the child knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Baltimore County Department of Social Services' Child Protective Services (CPS) may become involved if a child of any age is left alone and is placed at risk of harm because he or she is unable to manage on his or her own. CPS may also become involved if your child's babysitter or caretaker is unable to properly care for him or her.
Do parents have the right to discipline their children as they see fit?
Yes, parents are responsible for disciplining their children. Under the law, physical discipline becomes abuse when the child suffers physical harm. If you or someone you know has questions about discipline, wants information about community counseling services or wants information about support groups for parents, call the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3000.
What should I do if I see unsupervised children in my neighborhood and I am worried about their safety?
Call 911. Police will assess the children's safety. If necessary, police will contact Child Protective Services at the Department of Social Services.
If you have a general concern and there is not an immediate safety issue, call the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3000. Depending on what you have observed, a child neglect investigation might result.
Where do I call for help regarding child support?
To establish new child support orders or enforcement of existing child support orders, call the Maryland State Department of Human Resources at 1-800-332-6347.
For payment information call the Maryland State Department of Human Resources at 410-962-1110 or 1-800-723-9937.
Where can I get immunizations for my child?
My child has head lice. What can I do?
The public health nurse in your nearest health center can provide you with information about how to identify and treat head lice. Call the Department of Health at 410-887-3078, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
How can I become a foster or adoptive parent for Baltimore County?
Call our foster and adoptive parenting inquiry line at 410-853-3170.
Basic eligibility requirements to become a foster and adoptive parent state that applicants must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be financially self-sufficient
- Be physically and emotionally capable of meeting the special needs of foster and adoptive children
- Have sufficient bedroom space
If you meet these requirements, you may attend an informational meeting sponsored by the Department of Social Services to learn more about the program.
Revised July 3, 2014
Revised April 6, 2016