Each state’s adoption laws can vary, so it is important that if you are considering adopting a child in Massachusetts that you become familiar with Massachusetts adoption laws.
Massachusetts adoption laws are in place to protect the birth parents, the prospective adoptive parents, and the child being adopted. You will want to find an adoption agency or an adoption lawyer who is very knowledgeable in the Massachusetts adoption laws.
We will cover some of the legal specifics for those adopting in Massachusetts involving newborn adoptions through the domestic adoption process, as well as adopting an infant or older child through the foster care system.
With so many aspects of Massachusetts adoption laws and their corresponding policies, it is impossible to cover them all in one article. We will, however, dive into many facets of the adoption laws in Massachusetts.
You are strongly encouraged to contact a licensed adoption agency or an adoption lawyer for specific adoption laws and policies in Massachusetts, as laws and policies do change.
Can you adopt without a lawyer? How much do adoption attorneys cost? Learn all that and more by visiting Adoption Lawyers in Massachusetts: Do You Need an Adoption Attorney? where we also give you step-by-step instructions on how to vet an adoption lawyer.
Adoption Requirements in Massachusetts
- 18-years-old or older.
- Married or single.
- Private adoptions not allowed.
- Child 14 and older must have lived with you for at least 6 months.
It is common knowledge that adoption is costly, but that is not to be confused with a false expectation that a prospective parent should be well off financially. Financial security is important and expected when applying to adopt a child, yet being upper class is not one of those qualifications.
Financial security simply means that you can pay your bills, cover your rent or mortgage and that you have a reliable means of income and transportation. What matters most is that a child is loved, cared for, and kept safe and comfortable.
Learn more about adoption attorneys in our article What Does an Adoption Attorney Do? We Find Out.
Adoption Consent in Massachusetts
Below is a summary including key points of the adoption consent laws in Massachusetts put together for your convenience and is intended to be quicker to digest. For a complete listing of all adoption consent laws in their legal format and their entirety, visit Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 210, § 2, courtesy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It goes without saying that consent to adopt is a huge part of the adoption process. We may forget, however, that there is more involved than the birth mother’s consent.
Another aspect may come into play that you will want to keep in mind.
- The adoptee who is 12 years of age or older must give their consent to the adoption. An exception to this would be if the child is mentally incompetent.
- The presumed father has the right to consent to the adoption.
- The agency to which the adoptee has been relinquished or which holds permanent custody and which has placed the adoptee for adoption.
Massachusetts Subsidies for Foster Care Adoption
Adoption assistance, otherwise known as adoption subsidies, is available for foster children in Massachusetts who suffer from physical, mental, and developmental challenges.
These children are at a heightened risk of health problems, learning disabilities, as well as mental health issues. Subsidized adoption assists adoptive families with medical access, special equipment, therapies, tutoring, and other support services.
In the US, about 90% of the children in foster care are eligible for adoption assistance.
Special Needs Eligibility in Massachusetts
A child with special needs may qualify for adoption assistance if the child meets one or more of the following circumstances, courtesy of NACAC.
- Noted emotional, physical, or mental issues.
- Siblings of three or more being placed for adoption in the same home at the same time.
- A member of a sibling group of two to be adopted together when one of the children is eight years of age or older.
- A child five years of age or older.
- Due to underlining issues in the past, the child is likely to suffer emotional, physical, or mental struggles in the future.
Children adopted from private adoption agencies may be eligible for an adoption subsidy, but only if the children are eligible for federal (title IV-E) adoption assistance.
Massachusetts Adoption Advertising Laws
Adoption advertising is defined as using a public medium to express an interest in adopting a child or sharing that a child is available for adoption either by print or electronically.
Common means of advertising include:
- Printed Flyers
Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 210, § 11A: Use of Advertisement
A person or entity must be a duly authorized agent or employee of the Department of Children and Families or a child care or a child-placing agency licensed under the provisions of chapter 15D to cause to be published in the Commonwealth an advertisement or notice of children offered or wanted for adoption; in any way offer to place, locate, or dispose of children offered or wanted for adoption.
Courtesy of ChildWelfare.gov.
Birth Parent Expenses in Massachusetts
In all states, no person or agency is allowed to accept payment for assisting, placing, or organizing the placement of a child, as this is illegal.
The issue of birth parent expenses is not addressed in the state statutes. It would be best to seek an adoption lawyer or other licensed adoption representative to obtain their professional advice regarding birth parents in the state of Massachusetts.
Your licensed adoption liaison will help to ensure that all financial aspects of the adoption process run smoothly and legally.
What do you do, though, if said expenses are paid and the birth mother changes her mind in the end? Adoption Disruption insurance is available for adoptive parents to protect them from such a misfortune for those adopting domestically.
Accessing Adoption Records in Massachusetts
Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 210, § 5D: Who May Access Information
Nonidentifying information may be provided to the following:
- The adoptee who is age 18 or older
- The adoptive parents
- The birth parents
Identifying information may be released to the following:
- The adoptee who is age 21 or older
- The adoptive parents
- The birth parents
Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 210, § 5D: Access to Nonidentifying Information
A child-placing agency that holds records relating to an adoptee, the birth parents, or the adoptive parents shall do the following:
- Release to the adoptee who is age 18 or older, upon his or her written request, information about his or her birth parents that does not identify the birth parents or their present or former locations.
- Release to a birth parent of an adoptee, upon the birth parent’s written request, information about the adoptee that does not reveal his or her identity after adoption or his or her present or former locations.
- Release to an adoptive parent, if the adoptee is under age 18, upon the adoptive parent’s written request, information about the adoptee and his or her birth parents that does not identify the birth parents or their present or former locations.
The information shall include such nonidentifying information that the agency holds concerning the medical,
ethnic, socioeconomic, and educational circumstances of the person. The agency, in its discretion, shall further
release such nonidentifying information concerning the circumstances under which the adoptee became
available for adoption as it deems to be in the best interests of the person so requesting.
Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 210, § 5D: Mutual Access to Identifying Information
If a child-placing agency has received written permission from a birth parent to release the identity of the birth parent to the adoptee and the agency has received written permission from the adoptee or written permission from the adoptive parents, if the adoptee is under age 21, to release the identity after adoption of the adoptee to the birth parent, then the agency shall release the identity of the adoptee to the birth parent and the identity of the birth parent to the adoptee.
The child-placing agency shall do the following:
- Release to the birth parent, upon the birth parent’s written request, any personal data that it holds relating to the birth parent.
- Release to an adoptive parent, upon his or her written request, any personal data that it holds relating to the adoptive parent.
Courtesy of ChildWelfare.gov.
Post Adoption Contact Laws in Massachusetts
Adoptive parents have a right to decide who has contact with their adopted child and when. Many times in an open adoption, the adoptive parents and the birth family have a mutual and informal agreement regarding contact with the adopted child.
Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 210, § 6C: What may be included in postadoption contact agreements?
Before the finalization of an adoption, the prospective adoptive parents and the birth parent may agree to postadoption contact or communication between or among a minor to be adopted, the prospective adoptive parents, and the birth parents.
A contact agreement needs to include the following to be accepted by the court:
- The contact agreement is entered into pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 210, § 6C.
- Any breach, modification, or invalidation of the agreement or any part of it shall not affect the validity of the adoption. The adoption shall be final.
- The parties acknowledge that either the birth or adoptive parents who have entered into the agreement have the right to seek enforcement.
- The parties have not relied on any representations other than those contained in the agreement.
The contact agreement must be signed by all parties, as well as the adoptee if he or she is 12 years of age or older.
The agreement shall be signed by the parties and acknowledged before a notary public as the free act and deed of the parties.
Courtesy of ChildWelfare.gov.
When are Adoption Birth Certificates Issued in Massachusetts?
When your adoption is finalized, court proceedings should immediately include beginning the process of obtaining a new birth certificate for the adopted child that reflects the child’s new last name and adoptive parents.
Do not hesitate to ask your adoption attorney or adoption agency if you need to initiate that process, or if the courts will do that on your behalf.
DISCLAIMER: The above state law information is provided to our readers as a courtesy and is meant to help offer some insight as to what to expect during your adoption journey. This information is not meant to be viewed as legal advice. In addition, possible changes to state laws may have taken place since the publishing of this article in July 2021.