Frequently Asked Questions About Adoption

Photo of a family watching the sunset

1. What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process which permanently gives parental rights to adoptive parents. Adoption means taking a child into your home as a permanent family member. It means caring for and guiding children through their growing years and giving them the love and understanding they need to develop their full potential.

2. How do agency adoptions, independent adoptions, and intercountry adoptions differ?

In an agency adoption, a public or licensed private adoption agency or a CDSS adoptions regional office places the child for adoption. The birth parent's parental rights are terminated either by court order or by the filing of a relinquishment. The adoption agency becomes legally responsible for the care, custody and control of the child. The agency studies and approves adoptive applicants before placing a child in their home for adoption, then supervises the placement for six or more months before the court approves the adoption.

In an independent adoption, birth parents choose the prospective parents and place the child directly with them. When making this decision, a birth parent must have personal knowledge of certain facts about the adopting parents. The birth parent placing the child for adoption must receive an advisement of rights, responsibilities, and options from an Adoption Service Provider (ASP). The birth parent must also sign an Independent Adoption Placement Agreement (AD 924), which in 30 days automatically becomes an irrevocable consent to adoption unless revoked within that time.

In an intercountry adoption, prospective parents adopt foreign-born children for whom the federal law makes a special immigration entry visa available. Intercountry adoption includes completion of the adoption in the child's native country or in California. For more information see question #14.

3. About the children!

Foster children of all ages are in the child welfare system awaiting permanent homes. Parental rights to these children have been terminated by court order. The county or the CDSS selects permanent homes in which to make an adoptive placement. Potential adoptive parents are informed of special needs or significant problems which the child may have or encounter. Information provided by the child's caseworker depicts the child and describes the adjustments and challenges the child will have to overcome once placed with an adoptive family.

In an effort to use the power of the Internet and to bring children and families together, the California Kids Connection program was developed as California's registry of children waiting to be adopted and families wanting to adopt. The program offers both a secure website accessible only to California licensed adoption agency personnel and a public site accessible to any Internet user. The public site is available to anyone using the Internet at Visitors to this area of the website may view and indicate their interest in specific children by sending an immediate email to the adoption agency identified for each child. This site features children for whom legal clearance has been granted by the court.

4. How do I find a child, and how do I adopt a child?

If you would like to adopt a child, contact your local public adoption agency or a CDSS adoptions regional office to speak with an agency representative about the adoption process which will include an orientation. After the orientation, if you make the decision to adopt, you must complete and submit a written application and the agency will assign an adoption caseworker to discuss the type of child you wish to adopt and the children that are available through the public adoption agency. You must participate in a "family assessment" which consists of a thorough review of your criminal, medical, employment, emotional, marital, and life history and your home environment, as required by law. This process is a joint effort by the agency and the adoptive applicants. The agency evaluates and determines your ability to provide a stable, safe and permanent home to a child who is available for adoptive placement.

You may also wish to consider adoption through a licensed private adoption agency. You will need to contact licensed private agencies in your area for information about their services, requirements and fees.

Please see question # 3 to view children, via the internet, who are waiting to be adopted.

To obtain a copy of licensed adoption agencies, click here "Directory of Public and Licensed California Adoption Agencies" or call 1(800) KIDS-4-US.

To locate a CDSS adoptions regional office CDSS Adoptions regional offices.

5. What ages of children are available-do you have any babies?

The ages of children available for adoption vary from county to county. Persons wishing to adopt infants may expect to wait some time for their application to be selected, as most agencies have many homes already approved and waiting for the placement of infants.

6. How much will it cost to adopt? Do we need an attorney?

In an agency adoption, the public adoption agency or CDSS adoptions regional office requires that you pay a fee of no more than $500 prior to submitting a favorable report to the court. This fee may be deferred, reduced, or waived under certain conditions. You should also expect to pay for fingerprinting, medical examination, court filing and other adoption-related costs that usually total no more then $100-$300.

Families who adopt children who are eligible for the Adoption Assistance Program may qualify for the Non-recurring Adoption Expense Program. The program reimburses families for adoption related expenses that they incur during the adoption process. The amount of reimbursement is limited to $400 per child. For more information regarding this program, please contact your local county adoption agency or a CDSS Regional Office.

Please note: Fees for services rendered by licensed private adoption agencies are not regulated by the State and may vary. You should ask about the fee schedule when you initially contact the adoption agency.

Adoptive parents may qualify for a federal tax credit for certain expenses paid to adopt an eligible child with special needs and a state tax credit for adopting a child who was in the custody of a California public child welfare agency. For further information about the federal adoption tax benefit, contact the Internal Revenue Services at or 1-800-829-1040 and request Publication 968. For further information about the state tax benefit, contact the California Franchise Tax Board at or 8-800-852-5711 and request information on Credit for Child Adoption Costs - Tax Credit Code 197.

The fee for the cost of the investigation of an Independent adoption petition is $4,500. The fee may be reduced under certain circumstances.

The fee for the cost of the investigation of an Independent Adoption petition for a family with a completed, approved pre-placement evaluation is $1,550. The pre-placement evaluation must meet the requirements of Family Code Section 8811.5.

Services of an attorney are generally not necessary in an agency adoption. Although independent adoptions can be done without the involvement of an attorney in some instances, the involvement and consultation of a legal professional is generally desirable to ensure all legal requirements are met and the rights of the parties to the adoption are protected.

7. Is there financial assistance provided once the adoption is final?

The Adoption Assistance Program can provide financial assistance and some medical coverage for many of today's waiting foster children. This assistance may continue until the child is age 18 or, in certain circumstances, age 21.

8. Both of us work. Will I have to quit my job if I want to adopt or be a foster parent?

NO. Both parents may be working as long as appropriate childcare arrangements are made. The State also enacted new legislation which extends disability compensation to allow individuals who take time off work to bond with a new child. For more information about the Paid Family Leave Insurance Program.

9. I don't own my own home, or I live in an apartment. May I adopt?

YES. You don't have to own a house to give a home. You may rent or own as long as your home is safe and has enough room for family members. What is most important is the love, understanding and guidance you can offer a child.

10. May single persons adopt?

Yes, single men and women may also adopt. In fact, approximately one-fourth of the children adopted from the public foster care system are adopted by single individuals.

11. How long will it take to adopt a child?

In an agency adoption, depending on the workload of the agency selected, it will take anywhere from six months to a year to complete an adoption family assessment. Most adoptive placements occur one to several months after the family assessment has been approved.

In an independent adoption, the process will vary based on when the prospective adoptive parents have been chosen by birth parents. However, the department or delegated county adoption agency must investigate the proposed adoption within 180 days after they receive a copy of the filed petition and 50 percent of the adoption fee.

In an intercountry adoption, the process will vary with each country. You should contact a private adoption agency licensed to provide these services in the county where you reside to inquire about the length of the process.

12. How can I get referrals to appropriate agency/county adoption offices?

A "Directory of Public and Licensed California Adoption Agencies" is available as a PDF. It may also be obtained by calling 1-800-KIDS-4-US or writing to:

California Department of Social Services
Child and Youth Permanency Branch
Permanency Policy Bureau
744 P Street, M.S. 8-13-66
Sacramento, CA 95814

13. What are interjurisdictional placement requirements?

In 1999 California enacted statutes that implemented interjurisdictional adoption provisions. These provisions specify that the placement of a child for adoption may not be delayed or denied because the prospective approved adoptive family resides outside the jurisdiction of the Department or the licensed adoption agency. Such an adoptive family is one who is approved by an authorized entity in the state of residence in accordance with California standards.

It is also indicated in statute that if a person alleges there was a denial or a delay in the placement of a child for adoption based solely because they live outside the jurisdiction of the Department, they will be accorded an opportunity for a state hearing.

14. If I find a child in another country, how can I adopt him/her?

Through the Intercountry Adoption Program, licensed private adoption agencies are specially licensed to assist California residents in adopting foreign-born children who are classified as orphans by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). Individuals must file with the BCIS regional office that serves the area where they live, the BCIS form I-600A ("Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition") before a child to be adopted has been identified. They must also file a BCIS form I-600 ("Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative") after the child has been identified. For details, view the website at or contact the BCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. You may order the informational brochure "The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children" (M-249N) revised in September 2000 by calling 1-800-870-3676. The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000, entitles most foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizens to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically on the date they enter the United States as lawful permanent residents without the need to apply for citizenship.

The child must meet the following BCIS requirements:

  • At least one adoptive parent is a U.S. citizen,
  • The child is under the age of 18,
  • The adoption of the child has been finalized,
  • The child is a U.S. lawful permanent resident, and
  • The child is residing permanently in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the United States citizen parent.

If you are finalizing an adoption or have to re-adopt a foreign-born child after he or she has been admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, the child automatically will become a citizen on the day he or she meets all of the above requirements. If you want to have documentation of the child's U.S. citizenship, you may obtain a Certificate of Citizenship by filing BCIS form N-643 "Application for Certificate of Citizenship on Behalf of an Adopted Child" with the BCIS or apply for a passport with the State Department.

To obtain more information about California's Intercountry Adoption Program requirements, contact a private adoption agency licensed to provide these services in the county where you reside. Click here to obtain a "Directory of Public and Licensed California Adoption Agencies".

15. How do I find an adoption service provider?

A "Registry of California Adoption Services Providers", for purposes of independent adoption proceedings, may be obtained by calling (916) 651-8089, or writing to:

California Department of Social Services
Children's Services Operations & Evaluation Branch
Adoptions Services Bureau
744 P Street, M.S. 8-12-31
Sacramento, CA 95814

16. What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)?

The ICPC is an agreement among the states to provide for movement of children across state boundaries for purposes of foster care or adoption. The compact governs adoptive placements of children between states, including independent adoptions. ICPC procedures must be followed and requirements met before children can be placed in another state. There is more information on the ICPC Page.

17. What is the difference between adoption and guardianship?

Adoption is the permanent legal assumption of all parental rights and responsibilities for a child. Adoptive parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities as parents whose children are born to them.

A guardian is someone appointed by the court to care for a child until he or she is 18. If you become a guardian, the court grants you the right to make most decisions regarding the child. A guardian is not a child's legal parent and may be subject to ongoing supervision of the court. Guardianship does not give all the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent to the guardian the way adoption does to an adoptive parent. The court can make a decision about guardianship whether or not the parent agrees.

18. What is an Adoption Facilitator?

An Adoption Facilitator is an independent business entity that is in the business of matching prospective adoptive parents with birth parent(s) who have decided to place their child for adoption. An Adoption Facilitator’s only legitimate service is to arrange contact between the birth parent and the prospective adoptive parent(s). Following that contact, all further key actions to proceed with an adoption are performed by the birth parent and the prospective adoptive parent(s) and/or their attorney in an Independent adoption, or a licensed, public or private adoption agency in an Agency adoption. Adoption Facilitators must inform potential clients that they are not a licensed adoption agency.