The Adoption Process at CFCS
+ Step 1: Family Resource Application
To begin the adoption process, all prospective adoptive parents must complete a Family Resource Application. By signing the Family Resource Application, you are giving permission for our agency to conduct a criminal record check, as well as a review of any prior involvement you may have had with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
+ Step 2: Initial Home Visit and Safety Check
Once the first step in the adoption process has been completed, a social worker will contact you to schedule a meeting with you at your home, during which he or she will make sure that your home would provide a safe physical environment for an adopted child. The social worker will review the adoption process with you during this meeting and will answer any questions you may have.
+ Step 3: MAPP Training
All prospective adoptive parents are required to complete a 30-hour training program called Massachusetts Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP). MAPP Training is designed to provide you with information about how and why children enter the foster care system, and about what adoption may mean for you and your family. The purpose of MAPP Training is to assist you in making the best decision that you can about whether adoption is right for you, and about the kinds of issues and challenges you may be able to help an adopted child overcome.
+ Step 4: The Homestudy
After you have successfully completed MAPP Training, your social worker will begin the process of conducting your homestudy. The purpose of the homestudy is to help you determine whether adopting a child with special needs is right for you and your family, and to help you identify your strengths and needs as a prospective parent. The homestudy process also represents an opportunity for you to speak with your social worker at length about your thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams for adoption. Your social worker will meet with you and with everyone in your household. Prospective parents will be asked to share information about their life experiences, and to consider how those might shape their role as adoptive parents. Your social worker may also wish to speak with any children in the home about their feelings about having a new child join the family.
As part of the homestudy process, you will also be asked to provide personal references, medical references, employment references and educational references for any school-aged children in the family. Once your social worker has gathered all the necessary information, a written adoption homestudy will be completed. You will be provided with a copy of your homestudy.
+ Step 5: The Matching Process
Once your homestudy has been approved, you will be eligible to be matched with a waiting child. To learn about those children who are in need of adoptive families, you may review the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange’s photo listing of waiting children, which is available at CFCS and at your local library. You may watch WBZ’s “Wednesday’s Child” segment, or read The Boston Globe’s “Sunday’s Child” column and other publications. You may attend adoption parties and other events designed to facilitate matches. Your social worker will also be attending matching meetings and networking with other adoption professionals to discuss the skills and qualities you have to offer a waiting child.
When you become aware of a child about whom you would like to learn more, your social worker will be able to gather that information for you and facilitate further discussions with the child’s social worker about the possibility of a match. The child’s social worker will review your homestudy. If you and the child’s social worker believe the match might be a positive one, you will move into the disclosure process.
+ Step 6: The Disclosure Process
As adoption professionals, we are required by law to provide prospective adoptive parents with all the information we have about the child to be adopted so that you may make an informed decision about your ability to provide a permanent home for the child. You will be invited to attend a disclosure meeting, during which the child’s social worker will present you with a written disclosure form documenting the child’s history, current needs and anticipated needs. You should be provided with copies of birth and medical records, and with any developmental, psychological and educational records available. You should also be provided with the names and phone numbers of those adults who know the child, including foster parents, teachers, doctors and therapists, and encouraged to speak with those adults to gather as much information as possible about the child you wish to adopt. Your CFCS social worker will attend the disclosure meeting with you to ensure that you receive all the information to which you are entitled, and to help you understand that information. In most cases, you will not meet the child during the disclosure process, as social workers work hard to protect children from the possible hurt and rejection that could occur if you were to decide not to move forward with the adoption. If both you and the child’s social worker agree that your family is the best match for the child, you will begin the process of transitioning the child into your home.
+ Step 7: The Transition
Children transition into their adoptive homes gradually. Every transition is different; some take a few weeks, and some take a few months. The length of the transition depends on the age and needs of the child or children. You will be asked to create a “welcome book,” full of photos of your family, home and community, which your child’s social worker will use to introduce you to the child before you meet in person. Typically, you will meet your child in his or her current foster home, where he or she feels safe and comfortable. Following the introductory visit, you may visit in your child’s community for a few hours, first with people the child knows and trusts, then on your own. Once your child feels comfortable with you, you may bring your child to your home for a few hours. Later visits will take place at your home, and will gradually increase in frequency and duration, from one overnight, to a weekend, and perhaps to an extended visit of several days. During the transition process, your child’s social worker will be in frequent contact with you to make sure that everyone is receiving the support and guidance they need during this period of getting to know one another.
+ Step 8: Post-placement
“Post-placement” refers to the period of time after your child has joined your family, but before the adoption is legalized in court. After your child moves into your home, you will begin the process of becoming a family together. Throughout this time, your child’s social worker will visit with you and the child in your home at least once per month to help everyone through the period of adjustment and to provide any support your child and family may need. The post-placement period will last a minimum of six months, as required by law, but may last longer, depending on both the child’s legal status and the needs of your family.
+ Step 9: Adoption Legalization
Before your child’s adoption may be finalized, he or she must be legally available for adoption and have resided in your home for at least six months. Once you and your child’s social worker are ready to legalize the adoption, your social worker will apply to the Department of Children and Families for an adoption subsidy for your child. This subsidy is based on your child’s needs, not on your family’s income. While the subsidy application is being reviewed, your child’s social worker will be gathering documents to submit to the court for the adoption. You will be asked to provide birth certificates and marriage and/or divorce certificates (if applicable), and to sign two forms, the “Petition for Adoption of Minor” and the “Affidavit of Petitioner for Adoption,” which your child’s social worker will review with you. Some forms require the signature and seal of a notary.
Once your child’s social worker has gathered all the necessary paperwork, a packet of documents will be submitted to the court. After a court clerk reviews all the information carefully and ensures that everything is in order, a date for the adoption will be scheduled. The length of time required to schedule an adoption varies greatly from court to court; it may range from a few weeks to a few months.
On the day of your child’s adoption, you and your family will travel to the court to meet with the judge, who will sign the adoption decree in your presence. Your child’s social worker will be present, as well. Judges enjoy the adoption legalization process greatly and usually talk very informally with parents and children. Family and friends are encouraged to join you in court, and all are welcome to take photos of this exciting event!
+ Step 10: After Legalization
Once your child’s adoption has been legalized, you will be his or her legal parent, solely responsible for your child’s well-being. Your child’s social worker will ensure that any adoption subsidy payments begin, and will provide you with information about post-adoption support services that are available in your community. Your family’s case will formally be closed. However, we strive to help families in any way possible, and we remain available to provide any support, guidance and information whenever you wish. Families are encouraged to contact us at any time.