When do you need a residential license?

A person, corporation, partnership, agency or department of the Commonwealth needs a residential license when they wish to provide care for one or more children (when the child is not related to them by blood, marriage or adoption) on a 24 hour a day basis.

Residential care is provided in a wide variety of program types, including:

  • Small group homes
  • Private residential schools serving children with special needs
  • Transition to independent living programs
  • Acute residential treatment units
  • Wilderness programs
  • Non-secure alternative lock up programs
  • Teen parenting programs, emergency shelter programs
  • Shelter home program
  • Secure treatment facilities
  • Secure detention programs

The following types of programs are licensed under other laws or divisions of the Commonwealth and are not considered residential care:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Intensive residential treatment programs contracted with the Department of Mental Health
  • Drug treatment programs who only admit children for drug treatment
  • Private residential schools not serving special needs children
  • Summer or recreational camps

If a residential program which serves adults (only admits persons over the age of 18), wishes to admit a child (person under the age of 18), the program must apply for a license with EEC prior to admitting anyone under 18.

When do you need a placement license?

There are two types of placement license: foster care and adoption. All placement agencies seeking licensure must be incorporated in Massachusetts as a non-profit corporation.

A license to place children into foster care or residential placement is required whenever a person, agency, corporation, or Massachusetts State department wishes to approve foster homes and/or select foster homes or residential programs for children under the age of 18. Foster care means care in a private home on a 24 hour basis provided by a person or a person who is not related to the children they care for by blood, marriage or adoption. In Massachusetts, EEC licenses the foster care agencies and the agencies license or approve their own foster parents. Foster care may be long or short term and children may be placed into foster care on a planned or emergency basis.

A license to place children for adoption is required whenever a person, agency, corporation or Massachusetts State department wishes to approve persons as adoptive parents and/or wishes to select adoptive placements for children. Placement of a child for adoption by anyone other than a licensed adoption agency is not legal in Massachusetts.

What if I am exempt from licensing?

In Massachusetts, a license is required to provide most child care services. In some circumstances, the caring arrangement may be exempt from licensure and may not require a license. If you believe your childcare program is exempt from licensure, the Application for Child Care Licensing Exemption pdf format of Application for Child Care Licensing Exemption must be completed and submitted to your Regional Office for approval. You are not exempt from licensing unless approval has been granted from EEC.

Licensing Requirements for Residential Programs Serving Children and Teen Parents

Combined with the Temporary Shelter regulations in 1997 and recently revised in 1999, the Residential Care regulations include the following requirements:

  • All staff who have unmonitored contact with residents must have a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) check
  • A statement of ownership of the program, including financial documentation and evidence of financial capability, tax certification, business management plan, and evidence of contractual agreements for accepting residents.
  • A program that is safe, clean, comfortable, of adequate size, free from hazards, and has passed all local building, health, fire, and lead paint inspections.
  • Identification of the characteristics of the children who will be served by the program. Evidence that all administrative and direct-care staff are qualified for their positions, and that staff are appropriately supervised and evaluated.
  • Evidence that the required staff to child ratios are maintained.
  • Evidence that staff appropriately supervise residents to ensure the health, safety, and growth and development of each child.
  • Staff personnel policies, including plans for mandatory staff orientation and training.
  • A plan that defines the rules, policies and procedures for behavior management, including physical restraint, that safeguards the emotional, physical and psychological well-being of children in care.
  • The ability to provide all intake, service, and discharge planning for the children in care.
  • The ability to provide all necessary case management, family work, nutritional, health, social, psychological and psychiatric services for the children in care.
  • The ability to provide all educational, vocational preparation, and recreational services for the children in care.
  • Written records about the children in care that includes intake, evaluations and assessments, service planning, medical, progress reports, and discharge information plus all required authorizations and consents.

Licensing Requirements for Foster and Adoption Placement Agencies

Combined in 1997 and revised in 1998, the Foster Care and Adoption regulations include the following requirements:

  • Evidence that all foster and adoptive parents, and all household members 17 years and older, have passed a Criminal Offender Records Information (CORI) check.
  • Statement of ownership of the placement agency, including financial documentation and evidence of financial capability, tax certification, business management plan, and cash flow plan.
  • Evidence that child placement agency employees are certified and licensed as required and are qualified to provide services to children and families.
  • An evaluation of the physical characteristics of foster and adoptive homes by the child placement agency and evidence that the homes are found to be clean, safe, adequate in size, and free from fire and other hazards.
  • A process for the evaluation and assessment of foster and adoptive parents and evidence that the approved parents are able to meet the physical, developmental, emotional, and educational needs children.
  • Written procedures for the evaluation of foster and adoptive children and the development of service plans for children and their families by the child placement agency.
  • The ability to meet the health and educational needs of children and provide the necessary psychological and psychiatric services to children and families.
  • The ability to provide all casework management responsibilities for children and families, including social services, intake evaluations and service planning.
  • The ability to provide services, including counseling and education, to assist birth parents in making informed decisions regarding the surrender of their child for adoption.
  • Written records for foster and adoptive children and parents that includes intake, evaluations and assessments, service planning, medical, progress reports, and discharge information plus all required authorizations and consents.

How do I Apply for a Residential or Placement License?

When calling your EEC Regional Office, let the front desk know you are interested in applying for a residential license or a placement (foster care/adoption) license. For residential care, an application booklet will be sent that includes forms, a fee schedule and a guide for policies and procedures (PDF) pdf format of residential_lic_guide.pdf . For child placement licenses, an application packet along with a fee schedule will be mailed to you.

Soon after your call, a Residential and Placement licensor will contact you to guide you through the application and licensing process. While waiting for the application information, you can contact your local building, health, and fire officials. In addition, you should carefully review the Regulations & Policies, paying attention to the corporate, CORI, and financial requirements as these issues are addressed early on in the licensing process.


Information provided by the Department of Early Education and Care .