Massachusetts law about adoption

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on adoption law.

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Table of Contents

Best bets

Adopting from DCF, Mass. Dept. of Children and Families.
"The Department of Children and Families (DCF) cares for children of all ages, from infancy to 18, and from all ethnic and economic backgrounds. Most of the children waiting to be adopted are between 6 and 12 years old. There is no cost to adopt a child."

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.

The court adoption process, Mass. Trial Court.
By understanding the adoption process in the Massachusetts Court system, you will have the tools you need to bring a new member to your family.

Find out who is eligible to adopt, Mass. Trial Court.
Find out who can adopt and who can be adopted in Massachusetts.

Get access to historic adoption records, Mass. Trial Court.
Find out which types of historic adoption records are available through the court archives and how to access them.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 18B, § 21 Adoption subsidy program (Department of Developmental Services)

MGL c. 18B, § 22 Adoption and medical assistance for interstate children; interstate compacts

MGL c. 46, § 2B & § 2C Access to birth certificates
Permits certain adoptees and their parents access to birth records. St. 2022, c.158 will remove all restrictions based on year of birth for adoptees, and other authorized persons, seeking the original of a birth record prior to adoption. Effective 11/3/2022.

MGL c. 119, § 23C Foster parents' bill of rights (effective April 5, 2023)

MGL c. 190B, § 2-114 Parent and child relationship (for inheritance)

MGL c. 210 Adoption of children and change of names
Massachusetts law allows for the adoption of an adult as well as a child. 

  • MGL c. 210, § 1 Defines who may adopt whom
    • Effective July 7, 2022: A person of full age may petition the probate court in the county where he resides for leave to adopt as his child another person younger than himself, unless such other person is his or her wife or husband. Removes the prohibition to adopt "brother, sister, uncle or aunt, of the whole or half blood."

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."

Massachusetts regulations

110 CMR 7 Services

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

Federal laws

25 USC § 1901 The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)

42 USC §  670 The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

42 USC § 1996b Interethnic adoption


Adoption court forms, Mass. Trial Court.
Includes instructions on how to fill out and file the forms. The same forms are used for both adoption of a child or adoption of an adult. 

Application for a non-certified record of birth prior to adoption, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Selected cases

Web sources

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, U.S. 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, October 6, 2017.
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."

Apply for a pre-adoption birth record, Division of Vital Records.
Eligibility and forms.

Intercountry adoption, U.S. 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."

U.S. citizenship for an adopted child, US Customs and Immigration Services.
Explains how to get a Certificate of Citizenship for your foreign-born adopted child.

Print sources

ABA consumer guide to adopting a child: everything you need to know for a successful adoption, ABA, 2016.  
While not Massachusetts specific, this book provides an overview of adoption basics. 

Adopting in Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Center for Adoption Research, 2000.
An 84-page publication, this book provides clear information 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, 1988, loose-leaf. Updated with current supplements. Covers all states.

Family law and practice: with forms, 4th edition. (Mass. practice v.2, v.3), West Group, 2013 with supplement, § 25.5 Adoption of children by domestic partners. §85.1 Adoptions in general.

Kindregan's Massachusetts domestic relations rules and statutes annotated: with related federal statutes annotated, West, annual. Chapter 10: 10.1 - Adoption of Children.

A legal guide for lesbian and gay couples by Frederick Hertz, Nolo, 2020, chapter 4. (eBook available here with library card)

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts family law, annual. Chapter 9 Adoption: §§ 9.1-9.18.

Living together: a legal guide for unmarried couples by Frederick Hertz, Nolo, 2020, chapter 7. (eBook available here with library card)

Contact   for Massachusetts law about adoption

Last updated: April 4, 2024

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