Massachusetts law about adoption

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on adoption law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Adoptions: Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants, 3d ed., 2018, Chapter 14. Mass. Legal Services
This source focuses on the forms to file and how to fill them out.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 18B sec. 21 [DSS's] Adoption Subsidy Program
MGL c. 18B sec. 22 Adoption and Medical Assistance for Interstate Children; Interstate Compacts
MGL c.46, sec.2B-2C Access to Birth Certificates. 
Permits certain adoptees and their parents access to birth records
MGL c. 210 Adoption of Children and Change of Names

Massachusetts regulations

606 CMR 5 Standards for the licensure or approval of agencies offering child placement and adoption services

110 CMR 7 Services

Federal laws

25 USC sec. 1901 The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)
42 USC sec. 670 The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980
42 USC sec. 1996b Interethnic Adoption


Adoption court forms

Application for a Non-Certified Record of Birth Prior to Adoption, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics

Selected cases

Adoption of Marlene, 443 Mass. 494, 822 NE2d 714 (2005). 
Supreme Judicial Court held: "We conclude that a parent's consent to adoption of his or her child under G.L. c. 210, § 2 , does not terminate the parental duty to support the child."

Adoption of a Minor, 471 Mass 373 (2015)
Lawful parentage, and its associated rights and responsibilities, are conferred by statute on the consenting spouse of a married couple whose child is conceived by one woman of the marriage, through the use of assisted reproductive technology consented to by both women. (Chapter 46 sec 4B)

Adoption of Tammy, 416 Mass. 205, 619 NE2d 315 (1993)
Supreme Court stated that statute did not preclude same-sex cohabitants from jointly adopting child, and that adoption was in best interests of child.

Adoption of Thomas, 408 Mass. 446 (1990)
"A minor parent can consent to the adoption of his or her child; [and] the Probate Court is not prohibited by the filing of a consent in accordance with c. 210, Section 2, from taking evidence concerning the maturity and understanding of the minor parent at the time of the consent and the voluntariness of the consent, or from appointing a guardian ad litem to protect the interests of the minor parent."

Fineberg v. Suffolk Div. of Probate and Family Court Dept., 38 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1995)
An adopted child "does not have an automatic right to access" identifying information about their biological parent, and can only access that type of information "upon a showing of good cause."

Magazu v. Dept. of Children and Families, 473 Mass. 430 (2016)
The denial of a couple's application "to become foster and preadoptive parents because of their use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in their home" was OK, even though they held a sincere belief that "physical discipline is an integral aspect of their Christian faith."

Mohr v. Commonwealth, 421 Mass. 147, 653 NE2d 1104 (1995)
Adoptive parents may recover in a "wrongful adoption" action based on adoption agency's material misrepresentations of fact regarding child's history prior to adoption.


Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys
859 Riverside Drive, #11
Greenwood, IN 46142
(317) 407-8422

This is a national association of attorneys who practice or have otherwise distinguished themselves in the field of adoption law. The Academy publishes a newsletter, holds annual meetings, and provides educational seminars. Also provides information on retaining a lawyer and lists members by state.

Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange
19 Needham Steet, Suite 206 
Newton MA 02461
617-964-6273 or 800-882-1176

Nonprofit organization that strives to place older and special needs children. Offers information on adoption, support groups, FAQs, and links to related web sites.

Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)
51 Sleeper Street, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02210

The licensing authority for Massachusetts' adoption agencies.

Web sources

Access to Birth Records Prior to Adoption, Division of Vital Records
FAQs on access to birth records for adoptees, how to apply, and what to expect in the process.

Adopting in Massachusetts: How to Apply,, 2017.
Outlines the steps involved in applying to adopt.

Adopting in Massachusetts: The Placement Process,, 2016.
Outlines what happens when DCF matches a child to your family.

Adoption, Mass. Dept. of Children and Families. Includes information on how to adopt, resources for adoptive parents, and more.

Adoption, Federal Child Welfare Information Gateway
Includes information on many aspects of adoption including information for prospective adoptive parents, and sources on foster care adoption, supporting birth parents, search and reunion, and more.

Adoption, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
"Adopting a child from another country is often a complicated journey, and the information on this site is designed to help you as you move forward." Explains the different processes available to bring your adopted child into the US, with details and links to forms.

The Adoption History Project, University of Oregon Dept. of History
Great site bursting with information on the social and historical development of adoption with links to primary sources.

Adoption Questions and Answers, GLAD, June 2014
Information for LGBT individuals and couples on "bringing unrelated children into the family or securing the legal relationship of a second parent to the child of his or her partner or spouse."

Child Citizenship Act Fact Sheet, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Explains the circumstances under which a foreign-adopted child may become a US citizen.

Critical Analysis of Interstate Recognition of Lesbigay Adoptions, 3 Ave Maria Law Review 561, 2005

Guide for Foster and Pre-Adoptive Parents, Mass. Dept. of Social Services
"Provide[s] you with some basic information about how the placement process works at the Department, some of the procedures and situations you can expect, the roles of various Department staff, available resources, and how to access assistance and support."

Intercountry Adoption, US State Dept.
"Each year, thousands of Americans adopt a child from overseas. The process of adopting a child from another country, however, can be difficult. That's where we come in. This website aims to provide what you need to know about the adoption process."

Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act, St. 1851, c.324
Credited as "the first modern adoption law, recognizing adoption as a social and legal operation based on child welfare rather than adult interests."

Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoption Placements: Summary of State Laws, Child Welfare Information Gateway
Survey of state laws on the use of advertising or intermediaries in adoption. Includes citations to relevant laws.

Print sources

Adopting in Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Center for Adoption Research, 2000. A 69-page publication, this book provides clear information about about the entire adoption process.

Adoption and reproductive technology law in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2018

Adoption Law and Practice, by Joan Heifetz Hollinger et al. Lexis, loose-leaf.

Adoption Law: Theory, Policy and Practice, by Cynthia Mabry, W.S. Hein, 2006

"Enforcement of Contractual Release and Hold Harmless Language in 'Wrongful Adoption' Cases, by Howard M. Cooper, 44 Boston Bar Journal 14 (May – June 2000)

Massachusetts Practice, vol. 5A (Methods of Practice with Forms), 4th ed. West Group, 2000 with annual supplement, sec. 25:1 to 25:13 (Includes forms)

Massachusetts Practice, vol. 14A (Summary of Basic Law), 4th ed. West Group, 2006 with annual supplement, sec.8.128-8.147

Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption: Everything You Need to Know About Domestic and International Adoption, by Elizabeth Swire Falken, Warner Wellness, 2006



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: August 30, 2018


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