The Methods of Adoption
When adopting a child in Massachusetts, you must consider which method of adoption works best for you and your family. There are three ways to adopt in the state, each of which involve a different legal process.
You could foster a child and, if the opportunity arises, adopt them through the state’s child social service system, known as the Department of Children and Families. Alternatively, a local adoption agency or attorney could assist you with a private adoption. Finally, you could work with an international adoption agency and adopt a child from another country. The process you choose should reflect various personal and financial considerations.
Legal Requirements for Adopting a Child
If you are going to adopt, you should be familiar with the necessary legal requirements for any prospective adoptive parent. The adoption laws outlined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 210 require that adoptive parents:
- Are over 21 years of age
- Rent or own a home with adequate safety and space for all family members
- Undergo a thorough background check and complete a home study
- Attend training to prepare for adoption and parenting
The Home Study
Regardless of which adoption path you choose, you must complete a home study before you can adopt a child. In some situations, this can be waived, but for the majority of adoptive parents, this is a necessity. A home study involves a caseworker assessing your fitness to be an adoptive parent. This assessment may include verifying your employment, reviewing your medical records, and inspecting your home and neighborhood to determine whether they are safe and secure places for the child to live. The report is filed with the Court.
At some point during the adoption process in Massachusetts, you must consider whether you want your child to maintain contact with their biological family. Some adoptive parents choose to have some level of post-adoption communication with their child’s birth family, as such an arrangement could be beneficial for everyone involved.
If you do want an open adoption, you could negotiate with the birth family to determine what type of contact will be established. This contact can range from exchanging letters and pictures several times a year to frequent, in-person visits.
Adoption Costs in Massachusetts
Because adoption in Massachusetts can be costly – particularly if you are seeking a private or international adoption – it is important to consider the financial aspects of this process. The average cost of a domestic private agency adoption in Massachusetts or an international adoption is approximately $40,000.
If you foster a child through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the adoption costs may be minimal, and you may receive a monthly stipend during the foster period. If your adopted child has special needs, you may also be eligible for a subsidy that continues even after the process is complete. This is meant to help you meet your child’s various emotional and medical needs.
The cost of a contested adoption (such as when a grandparent is looking to adopt a child who has been left in their care with no involvement or hope for reconciliation with the biological parents who object to the adoption) depends on how quickly the case settles or goes to trial.
The cost of an uncontested adoption (such as when the biological parents want to have their child adopted) is generally much easier and therefore, significantly less costly, as the court involvement is substantially less.
Consider Counseling when Adopting a Child
Adoption can be an emotionally challenging process for both the child and their adoptive family. It can be disheartening to see your child unhappy or scared in your home after you’ve done so much work and paid so much money in order for the adoption to go through. However, it is not unusual for a child to require an adjustment period, especially if they are older, and it’s a great idea to get a family counselor on board to help with a smooth transition.
Working with a counselor experienced in adoptions can not only make the transition smoother and help your child adjust to their new environment, it can strengthen your family unit as you grow. Counseling can also provide support to adoptive parents and siblings and help the family bond with each other and communicate feelings efficiently. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the adoption agency, and your lawyer are good resources for getting connected with a qualified counselor.
Speak with an Attorney in Massachusetts when Considering Adoption
Adopting a child can be a complicated and emotional process, but for most, the rewards far outweigh the challenges. If you are considering adopting a child in Massachusetts, talk with an attorney experienced in these matters. The lawyers at O’Connor Family Law can discuss your options with you. We focus primarily on private adoptions or defending against an adoption when DCF has removed the children from your care and are trying to have your child adopted by their foster family.