Hello Bay Staters and welcome to this Massachusetts adoption guide. Massachusetts, the sixth state of the U.S and home to the New England Patriots and some of the top ivy league schools is a state full of history, pride, and tradition. From the Cape Cod beaches to the Berkshire mountains, Massachusetts is the best of both worlds and has a population of 6.7 million with 19.4 million visitors per year. Families from all different walks of life call this place home and many come to start new families. When it comes to adoption, Massachusetts is a wonderful place to participate in this process and community, whether are considering adopting or placing a child for adoption. This is a guide that will walk you through the steps. On this page, you will find information about:
-How to adopt a child
-What to expect as an adoptive parent
-How to place a child for adoption and what to consider as an expectant parent
This page should not be used for any legal advice or decisions. Please refer to a licensed professional when making any decisions regarding adoption. This guide is subject to change at any time and is not responsible for any direct or indirect effect with this information.
Hopeful Adoptive Parents: How to Adopt a Child
Let’s start from the beginning. In order to adopt in Massachusetts, you must be 18 years of age or older and a resident of the state. Your marital status can be single, married, or a couple that is not married. However, if you choose to adopt as a married couple, both spouses must be a part of the adoption process unless there’s a rare circumstance. Financial stability is a must, and the preferred personality traits of adoptive parents include being kind-hearted, warm, open, and responsible.
If you meet these qualifications above, you will then move onto the next step, which is working with an adoption specialist. By law, it is required that you go through an adoption agency, attorney, or social worker. If you go through a social worker, you will work with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF works in partnership with families and communities that provide foster care and permanent homes for children. When matching children to families, DCF considers age, gender, and specific care needs.
If you choose to go through an adoption agency or attorney, you may or may not have a similar experience as DCF. Adoption agencies are an intermediate party that helps facilitate adoptions with birth parents and expectant parents. These agencies and attorneys can be private or state-owned and are dedicated to helping both sides have a smooth process. But it should be noted, since adoption agencies are different, no one family will have the same experience as another. Everything depends on the type of adoption you choose. Different types of adoptions include international adoptions, foster adoptions, and domestic adoptions. For this article, we will be focusing on domestic adoption.
Once you find an adoption specialist you would like to work with, you will submit an application and then undergo an extensive background check that will determine whether or not you are eligible to adopt. If you pass the background check, the next part is waiting. The wait time can be as short as six months to as long as three years. But since every adoption process is different, there is no set time for how long the adoption process can take. It depends on the circumstance of the child and the family waiting to adopt.
While waiting, you will be asked to do a 10-week course called Massachusetts Approaches to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP), one night per week. This course is designed to enhance your parenting skills and prepare you for the challenges ahead. In addition to that, you will also be asked to do a home study. A home study is an evaluation of your home life and lifestyle carried out by an adoption agent or social worker. The first part will ask you to provide certain documents such as financial statements and health statements and the second part will be an in-home visit where you will be interviewed one by one (if there is more than one person involved). This evaluation can occur more than once and is one of the most rigorous parts in determining whether you are ready to adopt.
Requirements for this evaluation includes a couple’s motivation for adoption, emotional stability, and financial stability. Since this step is crucial for both the birth parents and adoptive parents, it is important that each one takes time in finding the right match.
Once you successfully complete your MAPP course and home study, you will then be matched with potential birth parents who are interested in placing a child for adoption. If your adoption specialist finds a family that would be a good fit, you will then get to meet the birth parent (s) through emails, meetings, and in-person visits. After multiple visits, the birth parent (s) will then decide if he or she would like to welcome the child into your family.
If both the birth parent (s) and adoptive parent (s) are happy with the arrangement, the last step will be to finalize the adoption. However, this will not take place until after the child is born. In Massachusetts, birth parents have four days after the child’s birth to terminate legal parental rights.
Once the child is born and you have completed all the post requirements with your adoption specialist, you will be given a date to attend an adoption finalization hearing. This occurs several months after the placement and takes place at your local probate court. During this hearing, the judge will ask about your desire to adopt and how you will provide for the child. The judge will also ask questions to your adoption specialist if he or she thinks it is a good match. If all goes well, the judge will then sign the final adoption. Once this is approved, you can file for your child’s amended birth certificate and social security.
After that, you can finally take a deep breath and exhale. The long process to adopt has ended and it is time to begin another chapter—with your child. The journey of adoption never ends and it is time to embark on all that comes with this unique relationship.
What to Expect When Adopting
Now that you have read through all the rules and regulations for adoption in Massachusetts, you might be wondering what to expect. There are many parts to this process and it is easy to forget the other aspects that go into this process.
The first one is acknowledging your range of emotions. Since the adoption process can be an emotional roller coaster, expect a wide variety of emotions from sadness, happiness, joy, and confusion. There will be ups and downs but as long as you stay open and let your emotions in, you will be that much more ready when those feelings come.
Another thing to expect is delays or unanticipated issues. Whether it’s a complication with the agency or the birth family, expect the unexpected and embrace the unpredictable. But do not fear. Instead of seeing this as an obstacle, see it as a detour, a new path, to your desired eventual adoption. Anything can change at any given moment and the more positive you are, the more likely you are to see the situation clearer.
The last thing to consider is your life after the adoption. No matter who you adopt, there will be many times in your child’s life where he or she may want to explore adoption further and ask questions about the past and even the birth family. There will most likely be moments when your child will have questions that you may or may not be able to answer or at least don’t know how to. Adoption is as much a journey for your child as it is for you. It’s evident that you won’t know how to answer every question, and that’s ok. Continue to keep an open mind and help your child find resources that can attempt to answer questions, as well as help your child feel connected and loved. You are doing the best you can.
Placing a Child and What to Consider
If you are an expectant or birth parent looking to place your child for adoption, here are some options of what you can do. When placing a child for adoption in Massachusetts, it is advised to make a personalized adoption plan. An adoption plan is a specific and individualized plan of how you would like to carry out your adoption both before and after your child is born. This can seem very overwhelming but know that no plan is right or wrong. It is solely based on what is best for you and your child.
To start this process, you can find an adoption specialist. According to the law, it is required that any child being placed for adoption, go through an adoption agency. Once you start speaking with the adoption agent, you will be asked to consider what kind of family you would like your child to be placed in. You might be asked what kind of hospital stay you would like to have once the baby is born. You will even need to consider how much communication you would like to have over time with your child.
All of these decisions need to be up to you and it is up to you how much you would like to be involved. When choosing what kind of family, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself. How big would you like the family to be? Where do you see your child growing up? Would you want your child to be an adoptive family’s first child or a sibling in a family that already has children? Once you have decided on what feels right for you, the adoption agent will show you potential families that can match your preferences. Once you find one, you will then meet the couples and families through conference calls and meetings. After you have selected a family, you are then allowed to decide if you would like to stay in contact up until your delivery date.
Now let’s jump to a different topic–the hospital stay. It may seem like a small detail but when the day arrives, it is very important that everything is already planned out. You will be busy with other things and will want to have certain details in place. The hospital stay will determine how you interact (or not interact) with your child when he or she is born, and how the adoptive family will be introduced to your child. Some questions to think about are how much time would you like to spend with your baby? Which family members or friends would you want to be with you when your baby is born? Would you want to take photos with the baby and or the adoptive family? And, would you want to leave the hospital with the adoptive family or alone? All these questions factor into your experience. It is entirely up to you.
Communication is also essential. When it comes to communication post-adoption, you are entitled to have as little or as much as you would like. You can either have an open adoption or closed adoption. Open adoption is when the birth parent may stay in contact with his or her child through emails, phone calls, letters, and personal visits, based on agreements previously made. A closed adoption is when the birth parent decides to have no contact with the adoptive family or her child. In Massachusetts, 90% of adoptions are open adoptions. Many birth parents like to stay connected and involved in his or her child’s life, and open adoption gives the birth parents that chance. But that does not mean that this common decision is the right for everyone. Always choose what is best for you.
The most important thing to remember on this journey is that you are not alone. This process can be very intense and it is easy to lose track of all that comes with it. To help you stay connected and involved, here are some resources for both the adoptive and expectant parent (s) to use before and after the adoption process.
-Join a support group for adoptive parents and expectant parents on social media or in person.
-Use your network of family, friends to lean on when times get rough.
-Enroll in counseling and or therapy once the adoption is finalized.
-Attend informational meetings and social events that support and promote adoption
Katie Iles is a creative writer that lives in NYC and has a BA in psychology and an MFA in creative writing. She was adopted from China, grew up in Massachusetts, and is currently writing her own book of her experiences as an adoptee. In the past couple of years, she has played the cello, became president of a Buddhism club, and worked at Strand Bookstore. In her spare time, she loves to listen to music, explore NYC, and read memoirs. Katie can be reached at [email protected].