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How To Adopt From

Foster Care

Your complete guide to adopting from foster care in Massachusetts


Adopting a child or teen from foster care is a great way to grow your family while helping youth find the love, stability, and permanency they deserve. The process to adopt from foster care can be daunting, but the overwhelming feedback we have heard from families over the years is that it is worth it!

We're here to provide all the details you need to know about adopting from foster care in Massachusetts. From understanding different types of adoption, to eligibility requirements, to the specific steps in the process, we've got you covered.

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Your Complete Guide to Adopting From Foster Care

Everything you need to start your adoption journey.


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deciding to adopt from

foster care

The road to adoption as a way to create or add to your family is different for everyone.  One of the first decisions is which type of adoption best suits your family.  There are three types of adoption: foster care, domestic infant, and intercountry. Regardless of the type of adoption, Massachusetts requires that all families work with a licensed adoption agency. 

Learn more about the three types of adoption in this article.


MARE’s mission supports adoption from foster care. All of the children MARE serves are in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and reside in either foster homes or residential facilities. 

Adopting from foster care is similar to other types of adoption in that after all of the decision making, paperwork, and preparation are completed, a dream of family is fulfilled. But foster care adoptions are different in a few important ways:

  • Though it is possible to adopt an infant from foster care, the children who are available for adoption generally range from toddler to 18. Most of the children we serve are ages six and older, are children of color, are a part of a sibling group and many have not yet been legally freed for adoption.

  • Children enter foster care through no fault of their own, because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. That means all children in foster care have experienced some form of trauma

  • Parents who adopt from foster care either work directly with DCF or a private agency that has contracted with DCF to provide services.

  • Adopting from foster care is free! There are no fees to get licensed and adopt from Massachusetts foster care.

Trying to imagine what adopting from foster care might look like?


We've worked with all kinds of families and kids to help make adoption a reality. Check out our Stories page to hear from families just like you!


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Children don't need perfect parents. They need loving individuals who are fully committed to supporting them on their life’s journey, whatever that holds. The most important “requirements” for adults interested in adopting a child, teen or sibling group from foster care are: 

  • Ability to offer a child unconditional commitment, love and support

  • Flexibility and comfort tolerating the unknown

  • A good sense of humor

  • Advocacy skills
  • Stability and self-confidence
  • Good communications and problem-solving skills 


  • An adult of any age, as long as you are at least 21 years old; there is no upper age limit to adopt from foster care

  • Single, married, partnered, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer

  • Starting your family or have other children in your home

  • A homeowner or renter

  • Of almost any income level, as long as there is a stable source of income that can support the family; there is no cost to adopt a child from foster care and financial and medical subsidies may be available

  • Of any race, ethnicity and religion

  • An adult with a medical or mental health condition and disability; disabilities or medical conditions are not reasons for automatic disqualification from the process; they will likely be a consideration when deciding what type of child you can best parent

  • A permanent legal resident 

  • A Background Record Check will be completed on all applicants; applicants with a charge on their CORI can apply for a waiver and if a waiver is granted, you will be eligible to proceed with the licensing process

For more detailed information regarding the Department of Children and Families’ standards for foster and adoptive parents, click here.

If you live outside of Massachusetts, please visit AdoptUSKids to learn about the policies and resources in your state.

Take the information with you

Your Complete Guide to Adopting From Foster Care

Everything you need to start your adoption journey.



There are just 9 steps to adopt a child from foster care. MARE is here to help you along the way, and if you would like more information, please do not hesitate to reach out. Let’s get started.

step 1


Create a MARE account to receive information about adoption from foster care and to be in contact with a MARE staff who can guide you along the process. We offer regularly scheduled Explore Adoption webinars to help orient you to what to expect in this process and help you know which licensing agency to contact. Think of us as your friendly guide to the adoption process, ready to help you every step of the way. 

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step 2

Select a Licensing Agency 

Next, you will select an agency to work with through your adoption journey. This agency will license you to adopt. You can start the process by contacting one of the agencies from our official list. Simply enter your contact information below, and we will send the list right to your inbox!

step 3

Information Session with Your Agency

Your agency will invite you to an information session for you to learn more about the process with that agency. Depending on the agency, this will either be a virtual group information session or a one-on-one information session over the phone. If you selected DCF as your agency, you can view their upcoming information sessions here. 

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step 4

Agency Application

After the information session, you will have a follow-up conversation with a social worker. If you decide to move forward in the process, you will receive an application which is to be returned to that agency. You will be assigned a social worker who will provide you with guidance and support throughout the process. 

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step 5

Safety Check

Background record checks, including criminal and state child welfare histories are completed. Your home must meet housing standards established by state law and regulations. The agency seeks to ensure that your household is a safe environment for placing a child or sibling group.

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step 6

Caregiver Training and Licensing   

Massachusetts Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) Training prepares adults to parent a child from foster care. You will learn about the needs of children who have been placed in foster care. The training covers such topics as communication, building self-esteem, child guidance, understanding behaviors, and working with agencies and courts. Concurrently, the caregiver licensing process begins. This is the time when a social worker will visit you, interview you and your household members and will request personal references. The caregiver licensing process is a mutual assessment process and it allows you to actively engage in the process. This process identifies your family’s strengths, and it will also identify the type of child(ren) who is the best match with your family. Once your training and assessment has been completed and approved, you become licensed to adopt.  

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step 7


Now that you are licensed, you can register the home study with MARE for access to our matching services. Social workers will match the needs of a child or sibling group with your strengths. You will be given all available information about the child so you can make an informed decision about moving forward. You and the child will have pre-placement visits and support prior to placement.  

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step 8


Placement decisions are mutual and are based on the planned transition schedule. You receive support throughout the process. When the child is placed, you will work with the child’s social worker and with your social worker, issues are assessed and services located that will support the child and your family, as may be needed.  If the court has ended the parental rights of the biological family of the child placed in your home and the child has stayed with you for at least six months, the adoption can be finalized by the court. Based on the child’s needs and adjustment, this process may take longer.

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step 9


Your adoption is officially legalized by the court! Support services continue to be available to you and your family after the adoption is legalized. Post adoption services can be sought when a child is approaching developmental milestones or when a crisis occurs in the family. Services are available on a periodic or ongoing basis. 

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Start your journey by learning more about the complex topic of adoption from foster care.


All children in foster care have experienced some degree of trauma, loss, abuse or neglect and the way in which trauma impacts a child’s development varies dramatically from child to child. 

Go deeper in exploring trauma and how to embrace trauma-informed parenting.

Legal Status

Children in foster care are not only impacted by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), but by the status of their case in the Massachusetts court system. A child's legal status has a huge impact on their adoption journey.

Learn more about what being "legally freed" or at "legal risk" means.

Open Adoption

Open adoption refers to any type of contact between the child and their birth family after the adoption legalization. Studies have shown that it is vital for adopted children to maintain a connection to their biological and cultural history.

Get informed about the practice of open adoption.



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