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When a Residential or Placement license is required and how to apply

Learn about whether your program needs a residential or a placement license and how to apply for one.

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
  • 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.

How do I apply for a residential or placement license?

First, contact your local EEC Regional Office and let the front desk know you are interested in applying for a residential license or a placement (foster care/adoption) license. A Residential and Placement licensor will provide you with more information about the licensing process, and how to apply. 

Prospective applicants for a new license should be able to show a need for the type of residential program or placement agency they wish to open. In addition, new applicants should carefully review the Regulations & Policies for Residential and Placement licensing, especially the background record check and financial requirements as these areas are addressed early on in the licensing process.