Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents - Massachusetts

Date:

Who May Apply

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, §§ 7.100; 7.104

A person will be eligible to apply to be a foster parent if:

  • The person's home meets the physical standards as set forth in regulation.
  • The person's schedule would not require that a foster child of preschool age spend in excess of 50 hours per week in child care or that a foster child in the first grade or beyond spend more than 25 hours in child care each week.
  • The person has a stable source of income sufficient to support the household.
  • The person has a stable housing history.
  • The person possesses the basic ability to read and write in English or in his/her primary language.
  • The person has a working telephone.
  • The person is at least age 18.
  • The person is a U.S. citizen or has been granted legal permanent resident status.
  • The premises of the home are free of any animal that would pose a danger to a foster child.

In order to be licensed, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • The applicant must demonstrate the ability:
    • To provide a safe, supportive, nurturing, and stable family environment
    • To respect the child's racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious background
    • To accept and support the child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and other family members
    • To work with the Department of Children and Families and the foster child's parents in implementing the child's service plan
  • The applicant or any household member must:
    • Be free of any physical, mental, or emotional illness or handicap that would impair his or her ability to provide appropriate care
    • Have a record that is free of criminal conduct that bears upon his or her ability to assume the responsibilities of a foster/preadoptive parent

Training Requirements

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.103; Tit. 102, § 5.10(2)

After the department receives a completed application, the department shall arrange for the foster/preadoptive applicant to attend the department's approved foster/preadoptive service orientation, education, and support training program for the type of foster care the applicant seeks to provide. The training program will include, but not be limited to, the information required by 102 CMR 5.10(2) (see below). The training is designed to ensure that the foster/preadoptive family will provide adequate foster care (including health care), abide by the foster/preadoptive parent agreement, and comply with applicable State and Federal laws and regulations. The foster/preadoptive applicant's participation will be recorded in the foster/preadoptive applicant's record.

The agency shall provide an orientation for foster parent applicants. The orientation shall include general information on the following:

  • The characteristics, needs, and number of children available for foster care
  • The role of the placement agency, the children served by the agency, and the services provided by the placement agency
  • The agency philosophy and policy regarding discipline of children
  • Separation and loss and the circumstances under which children require placement
  • The legal rights and responsibilities of foster parents
  • Fostering children with special needs

Minimum Standards for Foster Homes

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.105

An applicant's home must meet the following requirements:

  • The home must be clean, safe, free of obvious fire and other hazards, and of sufficient size to accommodate comfortably and appropriately all members of the household and the approved number of foster children.
  • The home must have safe and adequate lighting, ventilation, hot and cold water, plumbing, electricity, and heat.
  • The home must be furnished with a refrigerator and cooking stove in safe, working condition.
  • No foster child over age 1 shall share a bedroom with an adult, except if the foster children had been sharing a bedroom in the foster home prior to their 18th birthday and one of the children turns age 18.
  • The home must have sufficient furniture to allow each child to sleep in a separate bed and to have adequate storage space for his or her personal belongings.
  • No foster child over age 4, except for siblings up to age 8, shall share a bedroom with a child of the opposite sex.
  • The home must have bedrooms that provide at least 50 square feet per child, except for kinship homes if the bedrooms provide at least 35 square feet per child, and shall accommodate no more than four children per bedroom.
  • Each floor of the home, including the basement, shall be equipped with smoke detectors in working order.
  • If the home uses well water, it shall be tested and determined safe, and a report of the test shall be furnished to the department.
  • No more than four foster children shall reside in the foster home at any one time, and at no time shall the total number of children residing in the home exceed six. Exceptions may be made to accommodate siblings.
  • Any firearm located in the home shall be licensed and registered in accordance with State law, shall be trigger locked or fully inoperable, and shall be stored without ammunition in a locked area. Ammunition shall be stored in a separate locked area.

Approval Process

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 26A; Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.107

As part of the department's licensing and background record check process, the department shall conduct fingerprint-based checks of the State and national criminal history databases for all applicants and all household members age 15 or older. The department also shall obtain from the sex offender registry board all available sex offender registry information associated with the address of all persons in the household who are age 15 or older.

In regulation: A comprehensive assessment will be performed by the department and shall include at least the following:

  • An interview with each household member as appropriate to her/his age and verbal capacity, including an individual interview with each applicant
  • Home visits
  • Contacts with personal references supplied by the applicant and other individuals seen by the department as useful to the assessment
  • Contact with a licensed physician who has conducted a current medical examination of the applicant and each household member
  • Contact with the employer for each employed applicant
  • Contact with the school for school-age children living in the home and younger children who participate in a preschool or child care program
  • A check of the department's central registry
  • For any applicant who has lived out of State within the 5 years prior to application, a check of the central registry of child abuse and neglect of each State in which the applicant lived
  • A check of the State criminal offender record information
  • A fingerprint-based check of the national crime information databases for each foster/preadoptive parent during the initial license study
  • A specific assessment of the applicant's ability to meet the special needs of the children the department will be placing
  • Successful completion of the department's training program, unless waived
  • Confirmation that the applicants and the applicants' home meet the standards established by regulation

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 26A; Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.100

The department shall reject the application if a record check reveals a State felony conviction for any of the following:

  • Assault and battery upon a child
  • Assault with intent to rape
  • Rape and abuse of a child
  • Posing or exhibiting a child
  • Incest
  • Indecent assault and battery
  • Inducing a minor into prostitution
  • Murder
  • Unnatural acts with a child under age 16
  • Human trafficking
  • Physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense that was committed in the past 5 years

In regulation: An individual will not be approved to be a foster parent if he or she:

  • Has criminal record that, in the judgment of the department, bears adversely upon the individual's ability to assume and carry out the responsibilities of a foster parent
  • Is identified by the department as alleged to be responsible for abuse or neglect of a child in a screened-out report of child abuse or neglect or supported in an investigation that was referred to the district attorney
  • Has a history of involvement with the department, including, but not limited to, being the victim or the perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, which in the judgment of the department would bear adversely on the person's ability to assume and carry out the responsibilities of a foster parent
  • Is not a resident of the Commonwealth
  • Does not meet the requirements for applying to be a foster parent, as described above in 110 CMR 7.100 and 7.104

Kinship Foster Care

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.108

Kinship or child-specific placements may occur when a specific child is to be placed into a specific home and that home is not available for other foster children.

If the department determines that an emergency kinship or child-specific placement is necessary, the department will first conduct an initial eligibility screening of the individual seeking to become the child's foster parent, all household members, and the home that shall include the following:

  • Criminal records and child abuse and neglect history checks on all household members age 14 older
  • A home visit
  • A determination that the home meets the physical standards set forth in regulation
  • Interviews of all household members

If an emergency placement is made, the individual is deemed eligible to apply to become the approved family for the child and may submit a completed foster/preadoptive application. The department shall complete a comprehensive assessment of the foster/preadoptive application within 40 working days after placement. If the assessment reveals compliance with standards, the placement shall be approved, but solely for the child for whom an emergency placement had been made. If the assessment reveals that the requisite standards are not met, the placement shall not be approved, and the child for whom an emergency placement had been made shall be removed from the home.

When the department is not considering the kinship or child-specific home for an emergency placement, the department shall conduct an initial eligibility screening of the proposed caregivers. If the proposed caregivers are determined to be eligible, they shall submit a completed foster/preadoptive application to the department, and the department shall complete a foster/preadoptive assessment within 40 working days after receiving the completed application.

Foster to Adopt

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.200

Any foster parent may seek to become the preadoptive placement for a child for whom the department's long-term goal is adoption. A foster parent may be approved as the preadoptive placement for a particular child if the department determines, after assessment, that adoption by the foster parent will further the best interests of that child.

Whenever a child is placed with a family who has been approved as a preadoptive placement and the child is not yet free for adoption, the preadoptive family:

  • Shall be informed, plainly and clearly, that the child placed with them is not yet and may not become free for adoption
  • Shall be required to acknowledge their understanding and voluntary assumption of the 'legal risk' nature of the placement
  • Shall periodically be updated by the assigned social worker or adoption worker about the legal status of the child in their care
  • Shall be informed they are not parties to and should not expect to become parties to any proceeding brought by the department or to receive legal advice from department legal staff in connection with any such proceeding

All preadoptive parents who have a child in preadoptive placement shall have a full or abbreviated reevaluation, as appropriate:

  • Whenever the department learns of factors affecting the suitability of the placement
  • Within 30 days prior to an adoption if the adoption occurs more than 1 year after approval of the preadoptive placement
  • Annually in accordance with 110 CMR 7.113

The reevaluation shall be in writing and a copy shall be given to the preadoptive parents.

Interjurisdictional Approval

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, §§ 7.514; 7.516

Any sending agency that intends to send or place a Massachusetts child into another State shall give advance written notice of its intention to the Compact Administrator of the Commonwealth and of the receiving State. The sending agency must provide the following information:

  • The name, date, and place of birth of the child
  • The identity and address of the parents
  • A statement of the reasons for such proposed action
  • A social assessment of the child and family
  • Copies of all court documents relating to custody of the child
  • A home study of the proposed placement conducted by a placement agency licensed or approved by the receiving State
  • Evidence of the authority of the sending agency to place the child

All placements of children across State borders into the Commonwealth shall require the advance approval, in writing, of the Compact Administrator of the Commonwealth. Approval of the placement requires the submission of an application that includes the following:

  • The name, date, and place of birth of the child
  • The identity and address of the parents
  • The name and address of the person or institution to which the sending agency proposes to place the child
  • A statement of the reasons for the proposed action
  • A social assessment of the child and family
  • Copies of all court documents relating to custody of the child
  • A home study of the proposed placement conducted by a placement agency licensed or approved by the Office for Children
  • Evidence of authority of the sending agency to place the child

The receiving agency shall arrange for the actual placement of the child and shall supervise the placement if requested to do so by the sending agency. Within 30 days, the receiving agency shall conduct a home study of the family with whom placement is to be made and make a recommendation on the suitability of the placement to the Compact Administrator of the Commonwealth.

Links to Resources

State regulations full text (PDF - 517 KB)