Updated August 2020

Below you can find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Massachusetts. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.

State Contact

Director of Adoption Support Services
Massachusetts Department of Children & Families
Adoption Support Unit
600 Washington Street, 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02111
800-835-0838 (within MA)
617-748-2000 (outside of MA)

NACAC Volunteer

Theresa E. McNulty
E. Bridgewater, MA 02333-2029

What Is Adoption Subsidy?

Parents who are thinking about or are in the process of adopting a child with special needs from foster care should know about adoption assistance (also known as adoption subsidy). Federal (Title IV-E) and state (often called non-IV-E) adoption assistance programs are designed to help parents meet their adopted children’s varied, and often costly, needs. Children can qualify for federal adoption assistance or state assistance, depending on the child’s history. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state in which the child was in foster care before the adoption.

Below is information related to definitions of special needs, benefits available, and procedures in Massachusetts. Answers to select questions were made available by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (AAICAMA) through the Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov). Profiles for other states’ subsidy programs are available. If you have additional questions, please contact NACAC at 651-644-3036, 800-470-6665, or adoption.assistance@nacac.org. If you have state-specific questions, please call your State Subsidy Contact Person or the NACAC Subsidy Representative (listed above) for more information.

For more information on Title IV-E eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.

Adoption resources on the web:

Massachusetts-specific medical assistance information:

Massachusetts’s adoption subsidy information:

General Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 18B: Section 21, Adoption subsidy program:

Massachusetts’ regulations 110 CMR 7.209 Adoption Subsidy:

Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?

1. How does Massachusetts define special needs to determine eligibility?

A child with special needs is defined as a child who has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to adoption without financial assistance:

  1. A member of a sibling group of three or more to be adopted together
  2. A member of a sibling group of two to be adopted together when one of the children is eight years of age or older
  3. Has one or more special needs as a result of a mental, emotional, or physical impairment, behavioral disorder, or medical condition diagnosed by a licensed professional who is qualified to make the diagnosis
  4. A birth and/or family history that places the child at risk of having special needs but, due to the child’s age, a reasonable diagnosis cannot be made

Children must be legally free for adoption and placed in a preadoptive home to apply for adoption assistance.

2. Does the state-only funded adoption assistance program differ in any way from the Title IV-E program?

To be eligible for state-funded adoption assistance a child must meet the special needs definition in question 1, must be in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and DCF must sponsor the adoption. For state-funded adoption assistance, DCF considers the family’s resources when determining the amount of assistance.

3. Are children adopted from private agencies in Massachusetts eligible for adoption assistance?

A child adopted through a private agency is eligible for adoption assistance only if: (1) the child had been determined to be eligible for SSI by the Social Security Administration, and (2) the adoption subsidy application had been submitted to DCF and a signed Adoption Assistance Agreement was in place before legalization of the adoption.

What Supports and Services Are Available?

Monthly Payments

4. What is the maximum basic daily adoption assistance maintenance payment in Massachusetts?

Age Rate
0-5 $21.92/day
6-12 $24.71/day
13+ $26.26/day

5. Does Massachusetts provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?

Specialized rates (called Parent and Children Together or PACT rates) may be paid for tasks or extenuating circumstances that require additional service hours beyond routine care of a child. Each request must be pre-approved by the Subsidy Administrator and must specify the frequency with which the task must be performed, and the type of intervention required. The hourly rate paid for service hours is $7.50. All PACT hours must be documented by a professional provider. After adoption finalization, parents are responsible for providing the documentation from the professional who is monitoring the child’s treatments.

Massachusetts also offers what is known as supplemental reimbursements. If parents request payments for supplemental reimbursement in addition to the standard adoption assistance payment rate, the adoption social worker provides relevant documentation describing ongoing, additional expenses that are paid above the current foster care rate and that are not expected to be absorbed by other resources, services, or third party payments following adoption. The need must be documented in the adoption assistance agreement.

Massachusetts may also pay a quarterly clothing allowance in addition to the adoption assistance rate. For more information, parents should contact their adoption assistance worker at 800-835-0838.

6. When do adoption assistance payments begin?

Adoption assistance benefits typically begin at adoption finalization.

7. When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?

Benefits may be continued if the child continues to have a documented special need(s) or is in a recognized full-time educational program. Adoption assistance benefits approved beyond the child’s 18th birthday will end on the child’s 22nd birthday or earlier if the child is no longer eligible for the adoption assistance program.

8. Does Massachusetts offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?

Yes. Massachusetts requires that an adoption assistance application be submitted for every child being adopted through DCF. The Subsidy Unit may determine that a deferred adoption assistance is the appropriate benefit given the child’s circumstances. With a deferred agreement, Medicaid will be provided, but no daily rate is approved. For children who are IV-E eligible, the monthly rate of $0 is reached as part of negotiation between DSS and the adoptive parents. For state-funded adoption assistance, DSS will simply set the monthly rate at $0.

Medical Care

9. What Medicaid services are available in Massachusetts?

Parent should contact the Medicaid Helpline at 800-841-2900 to learn what Medicaid covers.

10. What medical benefits are available for state-funded children? (Children who have federally funded/Title IV-E adoption assistance are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits.)

Children with state-funded subsidies receive Medicaid benefits through MassHealth.

11. What mental health services are available?

Public mental health services for children in Massachusetts are covered by MassHealth, operated by the Division of Medical Assistance. MassHealth services currently include rehabilitation and therapeutic services; behavioral health, inpatient, and outpatient hospital services; prescription drugs; pharmacy services; and physician services. Massachusetts provides mental health coverage through the MassHealth program rather than funding specific services.

For more information, parents should call the Medicaid helpline (800-841-2900) or visit http://www.cms.gov/ or http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/behavioral-health/mental-health/mental-health-services-overview.html.

Parents should contact their subsidy administrator or MassHealth for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services. Children receiving MassHealth are eligible for services through the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI). CBHI’s mission is to ensure that families and their children with significant behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs obtain the services necessary for success in home, school, and community. To learn more, parents can visit http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/commissions-and-initiatives/cbhi/.

Other Benefits

12. In Massachusetts, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?

Parents may be reimbursed, up to $400 per child, for expenses directly related to the adoption of a child with special needs. Such expenses can include reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorneys’ fees, and other costs that are incurred legally and that have not been and will not be reimbursed by other sources. Parents must make the request for reimbursement and reach agreement with DCF before the adoption is finalized. Parents must send court documentation of the finalization, including the date, to the subsidy manager, and payment will be made after finalization.

13. Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?


14. Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?

DCF funds a post-legalization program known as Adoption Journeys that offers services including respite care to families who have adopted (see question 16). Many private organizations also offer respite options. Parents can search for Massachusetts resources in the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator (https://archrespite.org/respitelocator).

15. Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?

To request voluntary residential treatment services, families should contact the DCF office that covers their city. If a child is placed out of the home, the family and the placement social workers are expected to inform the Subsidy Unit. All Title IV-E adoption subsidy agreements will be renegotiated at that time. State-funded adoption subsidy agreements are suspended until the adopted child returns home.

16. What other post-adoption services are available in Massachusetts and how do families find out more about them?

DCF funds post-adoption services through a contract with Adoption Journeys. Services are available to all adopted children in Massachusetts and include the following:

  1. Information and referral (24 hours/day)
  2. Adoption competency training
  3. Support groups, parent liaisons
  4. Adoption counseling
  5. Respite care
  6. Regional response teams (short-term crisis support)

For more information, parents should contact Adoption Journeys at 800-972-2734.

17. If the assistance listed above in questions 12 to 16 are for specific services, must these services be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement?


What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?

18. Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?

The adoption worker enters the application for adoption assistance into the DCF data system, after consulting with the adopting family. The application should reflect both the family’s wishes and DCF policy. All children being adopted from DCF care must have an adoption assistance application submitted.

In the case of a private adoption, the agency working with the family is responsible for submitting an application for adoption assistance, before adoption finalization, for a child who receives SSI.

19. Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?

The Subsidy Manager in the DCF Central Office makes the final determination.

20. How do families request adoption assistance after adoption finalization?

State and federal laws require the adoption assistance agreement to be signed before adoption finalization. DCF will only provide adoption assistance after finalization when a Fair Hearing Officer has determined that very specific extenuating circumstance have been met.

To request assistance after finalization, families should send a written request to:

Director of Adoption Support Services
Department of Children and Families
600 Washington Street 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02111

How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?

21. Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?

Adoptive parents may request a change in the adoption assistance agreement at any time. Parents must make the requests in writing to the Subsidy Manager and must include documentation of a significant change in the child’s special need. The significant change must be based on the current needs of the child and documented by a professional qualified to make the diagnosis. The Subsidy Manager will review the request and documentation, and provide the family with a written decision within a reasonable period of time.

DCF must provide written notice before any proposed change in the adoption assistance agreement, unless there is reason to believe that the family is no longer providing any support for the child.

22. What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Massachusetts?

Adoptive parents can request a fair hearing when they disagree with a DCF decision that affects their child’s adoption assistance benefits. Requests must be in writing. If adoption assistance has been denied or an existing adoption assistance benefit has been reduced or terminated, the Subsidy Administrator notifies applicants in writing of the denial or approval at a lesser rate and includes a statement of reasons for denial and notice of the right to request a fair hearing to appeal the decision.

Parents should send requests for a fair hearing to the following address:

Director of the Fair Hearing Unit
600 Washington Street 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02111

What Else do Families Need to Know?

23. How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Massachusetts?

The program is state supervised/state administered. This means that both policy and eligibility decisions are made by personnel at the state child welfare office. The federal contribution to Title IV-E-eligible children—the Federal Financial Participation or FFP rate—is 50% in Massachusetts. The remaining cost of the program is funded entirely with state funds.

24. Does Massachusetts operate a subsidized guardianship program?

Yes. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides both a IV-E and a state-funded guardianship subsidy for children who are placed with an approved resource, in DCF custody and sponsored by DCF. The program is administered through the Adoption Subsidy Unit. The child must be under the age of 18, and continue to reside with the guardian sponsored by DCF. Families must complete and return annual re-evaluation forms.

The amount of the assistance cannot be more than the child would have received in family-based foster care. For children with subsidized guardianship residing in Massachusetts health insurance is provided through the MassHealth program. For children funded through IV-E, the health insurance is transferrable if they move to another state. Children with a state-funded guardianship subsidy are not eligible for health care from other states., but they may keep their MassHealth with some restrictions in coverage.

25. Does Massachusetts offer a tuition waiver program?

Any child adopted through DCF since 2000 by a resident of Massachusetts or an employee of the Commonwealth will have 100% of the tuition for state-supported undergraduate courses waived until the adopted youth reaches his or her 25th birthday. This benefit applies to all state colleges and universities, as well as community colleges.

In 2008, the legislature expanded the waiver to include fees as well as tuition, although the fee waiver is subject to available funding The waiver is also available to any child who was in DCF care under a Care and Protection petition for 12 consecutive months, and was neither adopted nor returned home (including children who were placed in guardianships).

Eligible youth (or a parent if the youth is under 18) can request a waiver by writing to the address below. Youth must include a copy of the their amended birth certificate.

Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
Director of Adoption Support Services
600 Washinton Street 6th floor
Boston, MA 02111

The Educational and Training Voucher Program provides up to $5,000 per academic year for post-secondary educational or vocational training programs, including colleges and trade schools and related costs of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation, day care). Eligibility for the program includes:

  • Youth who were adopted after turning 16 and youth who were in DCF custody (any type) until age 18, who were unable to return home and have not yet reached age 23.
  • Youth must have achieved a high school diploma or GED certificate.

To find out more about the specific eligibility requirements, youth or parents should contact their caseworker or:

Maureen Fallon Messeder
Associate Director of Adolescent Services
Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
600 Washington Street 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02111

26. Does Massachusetts offer a state adoption tax credit?


27. Does Massachusetts have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?

If the child does not return to DCF care, DCF will attempt to provide financial support to legal guardians on a case-by-case basis.

28, What is the payment schedule for adoption assistance? Who do I contact if I haven’t received my payment? Can I receive my adoption assistance through direct deposit?

Contact the adoption support unit listed at the top of the profile.   Massachusetts pays adoption assistance twice a month, there may be a few months in a year where a payment is every third week.  It is always 24 payments a year, not 26 which would happen if it was always every other week.  

29. What else differentiates Massachusetts’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?

Massachusetts has had many of the provisions of the Fostering Connections Act in place for many years.

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