California is the land of wine, movies, and big dreams. It is also a sunny place to raise a family.
If you are considering adopting a child in California, you may be wondering where to start. Here are some things you should know.
Who Is Eligible For Adopting a Child in California?
There is no age limit for adopting a child in California. You only need to be at least 10 years older than the child you are adopting. If an adopting parent is a relative and also married, the child must be adopted jointly with the adopting parent’s spouse.
There are no marriage requirements for adoption in California. You may be married, single, divorced, or widowed. Your agency, however, may have separate requirements.
Who Can Adopt A Child Through California Foster Care?
To foster a child through the California system, you must be at least 18 years old.
Foster parents must be U.S. citizens who rent or own their residences. They need to provide proof that they can support themselves financially. You will also need to be in good enough health to care for a child. There are no requirements in terms of race, religion, or ethnic background. Those who wish to foster a child should have a separate room for them. Children of the same gender are allowed to sleep in the same room, but they need to have separate beds.
You will need to attend an orientation, submit an application, attend training classes, and become certified in CPR and First Aid. After a home study, you can become a foster family (also known as a resource family) for children in need of refuge.
The goal of residential foster care is to provide a safe and stable environment for a child while their birth parent takes the time to become more physically, financially, and emotionally stable. When reunification is not possible, the child becomes available for adoption. About 6,000 children were adopted from foster care in California in 2015, according to Child Trends.
Foster parents in California receive a monthly stipend to be used to provide for the basic needs of the child they are fostering, including food, clothing, and childcare. The current foster care rate in this state is about $657-$820 monthly per child, according to WeHaveKids. The rate could fluctuate depending upon the special needs, age of the child, and the county in which you reside.
There are currently over 14,000 children available for adoption through foster care in California, according to the AFCARS Report on FY 2018. Many may have unique developmental or emotional needs due to a history of trauma or abuse. Others may have special physical needs. Some may be members of sibling groups that need to be adopted together.
According to the FY 2018 AFCARS report, infants are a growing portion of first-time entrants to foster care. In fact, many children adopted through foster care with public agency involvement were 3 years old or younger.
It may, however, be difficult to adopt an infant through foster care. Your social worker may be able to help you identify foster babies who are more likely to become available for adoption in the future, but they cannot guarantee that birth parent rights will be terminated.
How Much Does It Cost To Adopt A Child Through The California Foster Care System?
Adopting a child in California through foster care is very reasonable. In fact, some foster adoptions incur fees of less than $400. The national adoption tax credit of $14,080 per child may more than reimburse you for any money spent on adoption-related expenses if your combined household income is less than $211,160. The state of California also has an additional tax credit of $2,500 per child.
The Adoption Assistance Program in California provides additional benefits for children with special needs adopted from foster care. You may be eligible for a monthly rate (based on needs) and reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses for up to $400 per child per adoption, according to the California Department of Social Services.
Also, your child may receive medical coverage through Medicaid until they are 21 years old. The benefits may continue in a subsequent adoption.
Adopting A Child In California Through An Agency
Some parents choose to adopt through a private agency in California because they wish to adopt an infant or younger child, and do not want to take on the level of risk involved in foster care.
Some popular California adoption agencies include Adoption Connection and Bay Area Adoption Services. There are many more so make sure you go talk to a ton of different agencies.
Adopting a child through a private agency is significantly more costly than a foster care adoption. According to Child Welfare, you may expect to pay somewhere between $20,000 and $45,000 or more between home study fees, legal fees, and agency fees. These fees may be eligible to be reimbursed through the National Adoption Tax Credit, provided that you save your receipts and can prove that all monies were spent on adoption-related costs. While the tax credit is not a windfall, it is money that you may not have to pay in taxes after your adoption is complete. You will have up to five years to use it.
Many adoptive parents also have benefits through their employers that allow them to be reimbursed a modest amount for each child they adopt. Others apply for adoption grants to help them offset the cost.
Adopting through an agency is a fairly straightforward process. The agency locates prospective birth mothers for you, so your job is to showcase your strengths as an adoptive family.
A home study will involve interviews both inside and outside your home. Its goal is not to see if you are wealthy and highly educated. Rather, your agency will be looking for a safe, happy place where children can grow and thrive. If your home is comfortable and clean, with a separate room for your child, your social worker will probably be satisfied with your house. You do not need to live in a palace.
Expect to be asked questions about your own upbringing, as well as your philosophy on discipline. You will need to prove that you are financially able to provide for both yourself (and your partner if you have one) and prospective children in the home. A medical exam will be required to prove that you are in sound health. You will also need to provide character references.
Adoption training is usually provided by an agency. These classes will give you strategies that may work in helping you to parent a child who has suffered trauma, even if you are adopting an infant. It may also give you an idea of how to relate to birth parents.
Your agency may require you to create a physical or online photo gallery that shows birth mothers what sets you apart as an adoptive family. They may connect with your favorite baseball team or the fact that you have a dog. Any great family traditions, values, or accomplishments should be highlighted so that you have a greater chance of adopting a baby sooner.
Most agency adoptions in California are at least somewhat open. This means that you may be communicating with a birth mother at least to some degree after you adopt. You may be sending emails on each birthday or texts every month. Or you may have an arrangement where you have in-person visits. Each family is different, and your agency can help you make a plan that will suit both the adoptive family and the birth mother.
Adopting A Child In California Privately
Many California parents also choose to search for infants to adopt privately through a lawyer. This may be less costly, it varies from $8,000-$40,000 or more depending on many factors, according to FindLaw. Tax credits, grants, and employer assistance still apply.
Adopting through a lawyer is a good choice if you are only interested in a closed adoption, as it is possible to arrange this privately. In most cases, however, the adoptions are semi-open. Pictures, emails, and texts are sent as updates at different intervals, including birthdays and holidays.
Private adoption may involve a little more legwork on the adoptive parent’s part. You may be required to assist in placing ads in local papers or answering phone calls from prospective birth mothers depending on the advertising laws in your state. You will need to complete a home study, although it may be less intensive than one conducted by an agency.
If you are adopting privately, it is critical to choose a lawyer you trust. Ask for recommendations from those who have adopted, and contact any references prospective lawyers have supplied. Find out if communication was strong, and if parents felt their needs and concerns were respected.
The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is a great place to start. These professionals have distinguished themselves in “at least five years of legal practice, at least 50 adoptions or assisted reproductive technology (ART) matters, a referral for admission by a current AAAA member, and rigorous review for high ethical standards and competency by the AAAA Board of Trustees,” according to their website. There are currently over 30 AAAA attorneys in the state of California.
Adopting Internationally In California
Some parents choose to adopt internationally because they have a connection to or respect for the culture of a different country. Others like the closed nature of international adoptions.
Children adopted overseas may be infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or school-aged children. They may have special needs or come as part of an inseparable sibling group.
International adoption allows you to experience the culture of another nation for a time while you are adopting your child. You will be able to soak in some local scenery and cuisine as you become a family. Most countries now require at least one stay in-country while you adjust to life with your new child.
International adoption is usually the most expensive adoption option. Expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 or more. This is because expenses also include travel and residence in another country. Tax credits, employer assistance, and grants may be used to offset the cost.
China, Ukraine, and India are currently some of the most popular countries to adopt from. A home study will be required, along with a medical exam, references, and pre-adoption training. It is important to remember that you are representing the U.S. overseas, so you should dress and act appropriately.
There are some popular international agencies in California that you can seek out and talk to. Review the countries each agency serves, and the types of children available for adoption from those countries, before contacting them. You will want to get a written estimate of your agency’s time frame. International adoption can take a little longer from start to finish.
Adopting A Child In California
Adopting a child is an emotional rollercoaster, but it can be worth every dip and climb. Be prepared for a change in your life that will challenge your faith and commitment.
Children who are adopted, especially after a year or two, may have experienced a lot of trauma and heartbreak in the past. You will need to demonstrate a great deal of patience, love, and humor. Remember that spontaneous fun can go a long way toward smoothing out the road!
It is critical to surround yourself with helpful resources, especially if you are adopting or fostering as a single parent. There are numerous books, seminars, and CDs that can supply you with lots of encouragement and helpful strategies. You will also need a network of people you can vent to and lean on for care and support. There are lots of online forums for adoptive parents. Some of these are created for specific groups of adoptive parents, such as “parents of kids adopted from foster care” or “families with kids adopted from China.” You will gain insight and comfort from folks who have experienced similar situations to yours.
Reach out to local community groups and houses of worship if you need more support than you are getting from your established friends and family. Remember that parenting adopted children happens on a different timeline, and some well-meaning people will not understand your journey.
Being an adoptive parent will require a boatload of energy. Remember to keep up with your self-care, including a healthy diet, regular sleep, and an occasional massage. It will keep you in a good mood and ready to cope with any surprises with confidence and humor.
Adoption is a brilliant, colorful journey that will last a lifetime where you can pour out your heart to change the life of a child forever.
Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.