Bright-Futures divides the adoption process into the following steps:
Learning about Adoption
As an adopting parent, the adoption process begins with learning about the different types of adoption available to you, analyzing your parenting strengths and considering what type of child you are comfortable parenting. Bright Futures will assist you in beginning this process with an Orientation Packet and an Initial Educational Consultation. The Orientation Packet will include information about adopting a waiting child(ren), an overview of the adoption process, an overview of the home study process, and qualifications for adoptive parents. During the Initial Educational Consultation, we will talk with you about why you have decided to build your family through adoption, your specific needs, desires and concerns about adopting a waiting child(ren), and what type of adoption is right for you. We will also explain the services offered by Bright Futures, our policies and procedures, and how you can get started.top
Pre-Screening and MAPP Training
Before you can participate in the state required pre-adoptive parent training, Massachusetts requires that all pre-adoptive parents participate in a home visit and background record check to determine whether there are any concerns about a child being safe in your care. We will ask you to provide some basic information to us and we will submit that information to the Department of Children and Families and a background record check will be completed. If there are any concerns about the results of your background record check, we will discuss those concerns with you and determine whether you may be able to continue in the adoption process. The home visit involves a social worker coming to your home to look at the physical condition of your home and assess whether your home meets the safety and space requirements for adding a child(ren) to your family.
Once you have completed the pre-screening process, pre-adoptive parents must complete the state required pre-adoptive parent training, referred to as MAPP (the Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting). This is a 30 hour training that must be attended by all pre-adoptive parents and is intended to help pre-adoptive parents understand the impact of abuse and neglect on children and the needs of these children; identify the skills necessary to be a successful adoptive parent of a waiting child(ren); and determine whether adopting a waiting child(ren) is a good fit for you and your family. MAPP Training is offered two or three times a year on either 5 longer Saturdays or 10 shorter weekday evenings or some combination of evenings and Saturdays. top
The Home Study Process
During MAPP training, pre-adoptive parents participate in a family assessment process called a home study. Each pre-adoptive family is assigned a family resource worker. The family resource worker will work with you to help you consider your parenting strengths, identify the kind of child(ren) you feel most capable of parenting, and evaluate your ability to meet the physical, developmental, emotional and educational needs of a child. The family resource worker will then write a written report stating his or her conclusions as to the characteristics of children which your home can safely accommodate and which you can best serve. A home study involves the background record check described above, the home visit, as well as a series of meetings with the family resource worker, some in your home, some elsewhere; review of the health of all members of your household; review of references provided by your employer and by those who know you well; reports from your child(ren)’s schools (if you are currently parenting); review of your financial situation; and review of other required documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees etc. top
Networking/Identifying a Child or Sibling Group
When you have completed MAPP training and the home study, you are ready to begin the process of identifying a child or sibling group. Bright Futures will share your home study assessment, your family profile, and the profile of the type of child that would be best suited to your family with DCF offices throughout Massachusetts and with other private agencies that work with DCF so that others are aware that you are ready and waiting for a child. At the same time, Bright Futures expects that you will become involved in the search process by registering with the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (“MARE”); reviewing the MARE photolisting of waiting children each month; and attending adoption parties sponsored by MARE where you can meet waiting children. top
Making an Adoption Plan
Once you have been matched with a child or sibling group, Bright Futures will work with you and with DCF or the private agency working to place the child(ren) to be sure that you are provided with as much information as possible about the child(ren)’s needs, strengths, current functioning (including behaviors and behavioral supports), medical history, social history, educational history, and trauma history so that you can be certain that the match makes sense for you, your family and the child(ren). A transition plan will be established that gives you and the child(ren) time to get to know one another and adjust to the idea of living together. A transition plan might include talking on the phone with the child(ren), meeting the child(ren) in person, and having the child(ren) visit in your home and spend overnights in your home. During this time, the importance and safety of birth family connections for the child(ren) will be discussed and a visitation plan will be established that takes into account the best interests of the child(ren) and permits the child(ren) to maintain connections to those people from their birth family or chosen family who have provided the child(ren) with positive, nurturing interactions. top
Post-Placement and Legal Finalization
After your child(ren) are placed with you, there is a six-month post-placement period (beginning on the date of placement) before the adoption can become legally final. During that time, the child(ren)’s adoption social worker will meet with you and your child(ren) at least once a month to assess how everyone is adjusting to the placement and provide referrals for suppportive services for your child(ren), while your family resource worker will continue to provide support and referrals for your family. Based on these visits, the child(ren)’s adoption social worker will complete reports that summarize the child(ren)’s growth, development and adjustment since joining your family, your and your family’s adjustment to the role of parent and adoptive family, and the worker’s conclusions about the appropriateness of the placement.
If your child is legally free for adoption at the time the child is placed with you or if the parental rights of your child’s birth parents are terminated during the six months after placement, at the conclusion of the six-month period, a Petition for Adoption will be filed with the Court by the agency holding legal custody of the child(ren), typically DCF. If the parental rights of your child’s birth parents are not terminated at the time of placement (generally referred to as a “legal risk placement”) or during the six months after placement, your family will continue in post placement with monthly visits from the child’s adoption social worker until the birth parents’ parental rights are terminated. Once the birth parents’ parental rights are terminated, a Petition for Adoption will be filed with the Court by the agency holding legal custody of the child(ren). Once the Petition is filed and reviewed by the Court, the Court will set a date for a hearing on the Petition of Adoption. The court date is usually at least 2 to 3 months from the date of the Petition. At the hearing, the judge will confirm your commitment to parenting the child(ren) and execute the adoption decree finalizing the adoption of your child(ren). In legal risk placements, it is important to know that it could take 1 to 2 years after placement for legal finalization to occur. top