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California adoption is one option for expectant parents facing an unplanned pregnancy or hopeful adoptive parents looking to build a forever family. You can navigate the adoption process in California with the help of the Adoption.com Team. Whether you’re looking for pregnancy support or you’re trying to get the word out about your interest in adopting, we can help you get started on a California adoption plan.

Adoption Near Me

Looking for more resources in your area? Check out the Adoption Directory for a listing of adoption professionals in your state.

Considering Placing Your Baby or Child for Adoption? You can learn more here or call an adoption counselor 1-800-236-7898.

Domestic Infant Adoptions can be completed through agencies and adoption attorneys. They can help prospective adoptive parents adopt domestically. Click here for a directory of California adoption service providers.

International Adoptions must be completed through agencies and adoption attorneys. They can help prospective adoptive parents adopt internationally. Find an international adoption service provider here.

Foster Care Adoptions in California can be completed through the California Department of Social Services (877-846-1602).

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Adoption in California

By: Jennifer Mellon

As an expectant parent finding yourself unexpectedly expecting a baby, you may be researching all of your options. In doing so, you may have found adoption in California one of those options. As an expectant parent you may be feeling a lot of emotions and just wanting to find as much information as you can regarding the process, costs, and requirements for creating an adoption plan for your baby. This article is a good place to start regarding adoption in California.

As a hopeful adoptive parent, you too may be beginning your adoption journey or just seeking more information about adoption in California. You may be exploring options on building your family through adoption in California by foster care adoption, private infant adoption, or intercountry adoption. Understanding the cost, process, and how to start is important. This article will help serve as a good launching pad for a better understanding of how to complete an adoption in California.

1. Who Can Adopt in California

A person considering adoption in California as a prospective adoptive parent or an expectant parent may wonder who meets California’s adoption requirements and can adopt a child in the state.

First, the state of California does not have an adoption age limit. This means you can be of any age to adopt, as long as the adoptive parents are at least ten years older than the child he or she is adopting from California. Adoption laws in the state of California require that a hopeful adoptive parent meet this requirement unless it is a special circumstance. Those special circumstances may include cases where a relative is attempting to adopt a child. California adoption law does, however, require that if the adoptive parent is married, the other spouse must also adopt the child. This differs from many other states which allow only one married person in a partnership to legally adopt a child.

However, there are no regulations regarding the marriage of adoptive parents in California. Any marriage requirements would be up to the adoption agency or adoption attorney with whom the hopeful adoptive parent or expectant parent decides to use to facilitate the adoption process for all members of the adoption triad (the child, adoptive parents, and birth parents).

Adoption agencies and adoption attorneys will likely have other requirements besides California state requirements for adoption. This is important to know. When you interview agencies early in the process, you can ask what requirements you must meet to adopt a child through their agency or practice. If you adopt a child internationally, there will be additional requirements per the country you are adopting from.

2. Home Study Process for Adoption in California 

Once you meet the initial requirements to adopt a child in California, you will need to complete an adoption home study.  If you are placing your baby for adoption, this is an important part of the process to give you peace of mind that the adoptive parents are safe and loving and can support your child. If the hopeful adoptive parents live in a state different from California, they will need to complete a home study in their respective home state even if they are adopting your baby and you live in California and will give birth in California.

California state regulations for adoption require that the prospective adoptive parents complete an adoption home study which includes the following:

  • A criminal background check for every county in which you have resided in adulthood. These criminal background checks must be done for every adult living in the home in which the child will be placed.
  • Every adult in the home will need to submit fingerprints in addition to background checks. These are FBI fingerprints that will need to go through an FBI livescan check.
  • The adoption home study will include a physical examination completed by a licensed physician for every adult in the home. If you are completing an intercountry adoption and bringing the child home to California, you may also need to have andy children already in your home complete a physical exam with a licensed physician as well. This is based on the country from which you are adopting.
  • Included with the home study package will be evidence that the prospective adoptive parents attended adoption training classes either online or in person.
  • Also included are individual interviews with a California licensed social worker with each adult in the home and sometimes children in the home over a certain age.
  • A completed in-home visit by the licensed social worker will be held to ensure the home is safe for the child you are adopting and can accommodate the size of your family.
  • Financial records and proof that you can financially support a child or an additional child in your family will be assessed.
  • Letters of recommendation from your neighbors, friends, teachers of children in the home, faith-based leaders like a rabbi or pastor if you attend a house of worship will be necessary to complete a home study.

The home study requirement for adoption in California ensures that the child you are placing with an adoptive family will be safe, nurtured, and provided for. The home study is a long and thorough process to ensure the adoptive parents are prepared to raise a child and to help the adoption service providers and expectant parents see that the child will thrive in this family and home. The purpose of the adoption home study is also to give information to the licensed California social worker so he or she can better understand the prospective adoptive family and determine the best type of adoption plan for that respective hopeful adoptive family. The purpose of the adoption home study is also to provide guidance and support to the hopeful adoptive family by educating them and ensuring they are prepared to build their family through adoption.

Many hopeful adoptive families can feel anxiety or fear over the process. It can seem intimidating at the onset, however, if you ask any adoptive family who finished the home study process they will likely share that it was painless and actually incredibly beneficial to them as they started their adoption journey. Reaching out to other expectant parents and hopeful adoptive parents about home study questions and the adoption journey, in general, is a great resource at this point in the process. Adoption.com adoption forums are a wonderful resource to connect you with others who are currently on their adoption journey and there are parents at every stage in the process. Remember that the home study is just a tool to ensure that the adoptive family is eligible to adopt through the adoption agency or adoption attorney and in the state of California.

Many people, when they are researching adoption home studies in California, wonder what would make a prospective adoptive family with whom they wish to place their child ineligible to adopt. There are various reasons why a family may not be approved and the adoption social worker will communicate that with the hopeful adoptive family at each step. Sometimes going into the process, the hopeful adoptive parents may read requirements for the state of California or a country from which they hope to adopt and think they are not eligible based on current requirements.  However, a social worker may share there are exceptions and current requirements often change. It is important to speak with your adoption agency or adoption attorney early in the process to understand the requirements for adoption in California and how it may affect your ability to adopt a child in the state. Often the reasons a home study is not approved are due to a crime against a child by an adult in the home, a crime involving sexual assault, assault in general, homicide or other violent crimes, or crimes involving any kind of drugs or alcohol. This is for the protection of the child you wish to adopt. Your social worker will help you understand more about the eligibility requirements in the state of California and all of the steps to complete your home study.

3. Types of Adoption in California 

There are a few different types of adoption in California, as previously touched on in this article. Those include independent or private infant adoption in California, intercountry adoption, kinship adoption, step-parent adoption, and adoption from foster care. Here we explain a few of the differences for each of these respective adoptions. The one similarity is that they all require an adoption home study.

Private Infant Adoption

Private infant adoption is the type of adoption you will complete as an expectant parent if you choose to create an adoption plan for your child.  The first step is to choose an adoption agency or adoption attorney with whom you will work to complete your adoption. As the expectant parents (or parents), you will work with your adoption service provider to choose an adoptive family for your child. The adoption agency will also likely be working with adoptive families that are hoping to adopt a baby. You will look through the books of profiles the adoption agency will provide you to choose an adoptive family. The adoption agency will work with you every step of the process and you can even interview the family.

Once you choose an adoptive family for your baby, you will work with the adoption agency to understand what expenses can be paid for by the prospective adoptive parents. In the state of California, specific birth parent expenses are not referenced, however, many birth mothers receive reimbursement for counseling services, rent or mortgage payments, maternity clothes, food, transportation, medical expenses during and after the pregnancy, and birth and legal fees. Your adoption service provider can share more information on what is allowed by law and help you to work through those expenses with the adoption family.

Once you give birth, and if you decide to place your baby for adoption, the birth parent will sign an Independent Adoption Placement Agreement which is automatically irrevocable after thirty days according to the state law.

Foster Care Adoption in California 

Currently, there are fifty-five thousand children in the California foster care system. Many of those children will be placed with other family members until they can live with their biological parents. However, other children will become or are eligible for adoption in California. These children are in desperate need of a safe, loving forever family. Hopeful adoptive families will complete an adoption home study and work with a state adoption agency or social worker to finalize the adoption. The family will be matched with a child and the child will be placed in their home. The social worker will supervise the placement of the child in the home with home visits for six or more months until the court approves the final adoption. The cost to adopt from foster care is much less than intercountry or private adoption. You can also use a private adoption agency if you so choose.

Intercountry Adoption in California

Private infant adoption and foster care adoption in California mainly go through the requirements set by the state of California. When completing an intercountry or international adoption you will also need to meet the requirements and regulations of the United States immigration process and the requirements for the country from which you hope to adopt. You will complete a home study and work with an adoption agency that is licensed and approved to work in the country from which you hope to adopt. The Hague Adoption Convention ensures that international adoption is safe and ethical and that you are adopting an actual orphan as per the Convention. Adoption agencies working in Hague countries must be compliant with the Convention and accredited. The purpose of the Convention is to protect children and families and provide transparency in the process. If you wish to adopt from a country that is also party to the Adoption Convention, you will need to work with an accredited agency. If you wish to adopt from a country not a party to the Hague, you can simply use an agency that works in that respective country.

4. Post Placement Process in California

Families who choose to adopt privately or from the foster care system in California must complete at least six months of post-placement reports before the final adoption decree is granted from the state. These reports are done by the licensed social worker you likely worked with during your home study process. He or she will visit with the family and child in the home at least four times over those six months. Families can feel intimidated by this, but it is simply to ensure the family and child are supported during this time and to see if any additional support services are needed for the family or child. Post-placement reports will also need to be done for the country from which you choose to adopt and those differ from country to country.

California Adoption Guide

The information contained on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the advice of a licensed and qualified professional. While the content of this website is frequently updated, information changes rapidly and therefore, some information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies, omissions or typographical errors.


Can I Adopt in California?

Parents wishing to adopt a child will need to pass a home study conducted by a licensed adoption agency from the county in which they reside. During the home study, the home will be examined to see if it is safe and clean, if there is enough room for the adopted child, if applicants have experience with children, and if they can afford to have another child in the home. Aside from the physical home, social workers will check the parent’s physical and mental state to ensure they are ready for another child.


What Adoption Regulations Exist in California?

Advertising: Only licensed agencies and adoption attorneys can advertise in order to place a child for adoption.

Relinquishment: In a direct placement, the mother has to be discharged from the hospital before she can consent to an adoption. If the child is discharged before the mother, consent can be given from the mother with verification of competency from her physician. Relinquishment to an agency can occur at any time after the child’s birth.

Birth parent expenses: The birth parents may request in writing that the hopeful adoptive parents help pay medical, hospital, counseling, or living expenses. The birth parents must present receipts to the hopeful adoptive parents for any money provided to the birth parents. The adoptive parents then present the receipts to the court.

Any expenses that exceed reasonable hospital expenses and necessary living expenses are unlawful.

Post-adoption contact agreements: Post-adoption contact agreements are legally enforceable in California as long as they are included in the final adoption decree. The court granting the adoption petition holds final jurisdiction over the contact agreements enforcement. Contact agreements are only enforced when both parties have tried and failed mediation.

Birth father rights: Before an unmarried couple leaves the hospital after the birth of their child, they will both be presented with a form for voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Hospital staff then witness the signing of the document. Unmarried fathers who sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity have the right to receive notice of adoption proceedings.

Finalization: Children must live with hopeful adoptive parents for at least 6 months before the adoption becomes final. The 6 month period can be waived if the parents have successfully adopted a child from California within the past 5 years, if the applicant is in the U.S. Military or American Red Cross, or in the case of a relative/stepparent adoption.

Review California adoption laws in detail.


Is Adoption Assistance Available in California?

Many of the children waiting to be adopted in California have special needs. Federal (Title IV-E) and state (non-IV-E) programs exist to help adoptive parents meet their child’s needs. In California, monthly payments range from $700-883 if the adoption was finalized after May 27, 2011. To see if your child qualifies for an adoption subsidy and what amount of aid is available, please visit NACAC.org.

Can I adopt a Child from another country?

It is always possible to adopt a child from out of the country. If you are considering a foreign adoption, you will need to find a licensed international adoption agency in California. Hague Convention adoptions are recognized as a final adoption in California.

Readoption, the process by which a U.S. state court issues a final adoption decree separate from a foreign adoption decree stating that the child has been legally adopted according to the laws of a particular state, is only required in certain states.

California law requires parents to readopt a foreign child if it is required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to do so. In cases where the child is coming to the U.S. on an IR-3 visa as opposed to an 1R-4, the adoption will have to be finalized in the state of California.

An IR-4 visa can be issued if either parent cannot meet the requirement to travel abroad before or during the adoption process to meet the child. Readoption in this case will almost always be a requirement. Readoption can potentially be waived if the state provides sufficient proof to the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of a recognition of a foreign adoption decree.


State Contacts

Gallery of children waiting to be adopted:


State subsidy contact person:

Marta Platt

Adoptions Services Bureau

Children and Family Services Division

Department of Social Services (DSS)

744 P Street, M.S. 8-12-31

Sacramento, CA 95814

916-651-8089 • fax: 916-651-8143


Adoptions in California can be completed through the California Department of Social Services.

Parents will need to pass a home study. During the home study, the home will be examined for safety and cleanliness and available space. Parents need to have a stable income.

Only licensed agencies and adoption attorneys can advertise in order to place a child for adoption.

In direct placements the mother has to be discharged from the hospital before she can consent. If the child is discharged before the mother, consent can be given from the mother. Relinquishment to an agency can occur at any time after the child’s birth. In direct placements parents have 30 days  from the date of executing consent to revoke. In agency adoption, consent is final upon execution unless an adoptive parent has been named and placement has yet to occur. In this case, parents have 30 days to revoke.

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