By Nancy Rosenhaus

Are you considering adopting a child in Massachusetts? Adoption is a beautiful way to grow your family and provide a child with a loving, forever home. Choosing to adopt a baby is the start of an incredible journey. It is a journey of love, patience, and at times, paperwork. If you are just getting started, we understand the adoption process can be intimidating. There are many steps in the domestic infant adoption process, and adoption laws and processes do vary state to state. It is important for you to understand each choice you can make throughout the domestic adoption process. Follow these five steps to learn how to adopt a child in the Bay State.

1) Choose an adoption professional
You have decided you want to pursue a domestic infant adoption, but which adoption agency will best help you with the process? Massachusetts is an “agency” state that requires you to work with a licensed adoption agency. Choosing an adoption agency is a crucial first step for Massachusetts families hoping to adopt. Adoption agencies can help you navigate the adoption process, answer your questions along the way, and help to create the best adoption plan.

Adopting domestically in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can be done through a private adoption agency or through the foster care system. If you choose to work with a private adoption agency, you will need to decide which local adoption agency works best for you. Some agencies are “full service” and others only will do your home study.

Working with a local, private Massachusetts adoption agency allows you to truly personalize your adoption plan. You can meet face-to-face with social workers to talk through the laws of the state in which your child is born as well as your hopes and concerns in designing an adoption plan.

2) Complete an adoption application, training, and a home study
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires all potential adoptive parents to complete a thorough application process. This goes beyond filling out paperwork. To get approved to adopt a child in MA, prospective parents need to complete an extensive home study and take required baby care training courses to prepare for parenthood. You will also be required to submit paperwork for background checks through local and federal agencies.

A home study is a 2-3 month process to educate and prepare you for adoption. It allows us to understand your home environment, your familial relationships, and your personal background. Home study requirements differ state to state. Only a licensed adoption professional can assess your home and determine if you meet the Massachusetts requirements. Your social worker will guide you through this home study process, while also preparing to match you with expectant parents who are hoping to find the perfect family for the baby. The study looks at your stability, background checks and ability to financially, physically and emotionally raise a child to adulthood. Though the home study process may be nerve-wracking, it is nothing to sweat! Your adoption social worker is there to support you through the entire adoption process.

3) Create an Adoptive Family Profile
Once you have completed the application process, it is time to show expectant parents information about you as a prospective adoptive family. Many private adoption agencies today can help you create a Prospective Adoptive Parent Profile. This profile is a compilation of photos, letters, and information that will help expectant parents get to know you and your family. This is the first impression you will have on expectant mothers, so it is crucial to put a lot of thought and dedication into your adoption profile.

4) Meet or establish contact with the expectant mother
If an expectant/birth mother chooses to make an open adoption plan, she may ask to meet or speak with you before the adoption occurs and sometimes prior to the baby’s birth. A licensed adoption agency can facilitate this contact, whether it be through an in-person meeting or via phone or email. In this conversation, you will have the opportunity to get to know one another, ask questions, and discuss ongoing contact. If all parties choose to have a face-to-face visit, you may have to travel to the state in which an expectant mother resides.

5) Finalize the adoption
In each state, there is a specified period birth mothers must wait before signing legal papers and making a final decision regarding adoption. In Massachusetts, birth parents must wait four days after the baby’s birth before signing any adoption papers. The birth parents may take longer to decide what to do regarding proceeding with the adoption plan and signing consents to the adoption. In MA, once the consent to the adoption is signed, it is legal and irrevocable.

Once the adoption papers are completed and you have welcomed your baby home, you can expect a series of home visits from your adoption social worker. These post-placement visits will allow your social worker to see how well you and your baby are adjusting and offer any further support.

Remember, the adoption process does not end once the adoption is finalized. Adoption is a lifelong journey, and for you, it is just the beginning of a new happily ever after.

Nancy Rosenhaus L.I.C.S.W. is the Associate Director of Adoptions With Love (AWL). She has been working at AWL since 1988 and became the Associate Director in October 2001. Nancy’s responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day operations of the office and formulating and implementing plans for AWL’s future. Nancy works extensively with expectant birth parents over the phone and in person. She also conducts home studies and provides post placement services for adoptive families. Nancy has a Master’s degree in Social Work.