Frequently Asked Questions About Adoption
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 Adoption 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 parent(s) choose the prospective adoptive parent(s) and place the child directly with them. When making this decision, a birth parent must have personal knowledge of certain facts about the prospective adoptive parent(s). The birth parent(s) placing the child for adoption must receive an advisement of rights, responsibilities, and options from an Adoption Service Provider (ASP). The birth parent(s) 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. Please note, in most cases, the Independent Adoption Program may not be utilized for the adoption of foreign-born children. Most adoption petitions involving a foreign-born child are statutorily defined as intercountry adoptions. As a result, the CDSS Adoption Regional Office or a delegated county adoption agency lacks the authority and necessary credentials to investigate or conduct an intercountry adoption using the Independent Adoption Program. Thus, the Intercountry Adoption Program is the proper channel for proposed adoptions of foreign-born children. For additional information about adopting a foreign-born child through the Independent Adoption Program please review All County Letter 20-69.
In an intercountry adoption, prospective adoptive parent(s) 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 below.
If you have any questions regarding the Independent or Intercountry Adoption Programs, please e-mail APU@dss.ca.gov.
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 Adoption Regional Office 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. 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 CDSS Adoption 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, 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 above to view children, via the internet, who are waiting to be adopted.
To obtain a copy of licensed California adoption agencies, please review the Directory of Public and Licensed California Adoption Agencies or call 1(800) KIDS-4-US.
To locate a CDSS Adoption Regional Office, please visit the CDSS Adoption Regional Offices website.
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 Adoption 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 Adoption 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 (IRS) at 1-800-829-1040 and request Publication 968 or visit the IRS website. For further information about the state tax benefit, contact the California Franchise Tax Board at 1-800-852-5711 and request information on Credit for Child Adoption Costs - Tax Credit Code 197 or visit the California Franchise Tax Board website.
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. Visit the Paid Family Leave Insurance Program for more information.
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 individuals 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 may 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 parent(s). However, the CDSS Adoption Regional Office 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?
The 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
Adoption Services Branch
744 P Street, MS 8-12-521
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 CDSS Adoption Regional Office 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 CDSS Adoption Regional Office, 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. The licensed private adoption agency will assist you in completing the home study that is required for all Hague and Orphan adoption cases, as well as prepare you for the different requirements to adopt based on the child’s country or origin. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has final approval in determining the eligibility and suitability of the prospective adoptive parent(s) looking to adopt and the eligibility of the child to immigrate to the United States (U.S.).
There are three processes for adopting a child internationally: 1) Hague; 2) Orphan (non-Hague); and 3) Other Adoption Related Immigration. Each process is distinct and has different eligibility requirements. I am a U.S. Citizen...How Do I Help My Adopted Child Immigrate to the U.S. or Become U.S. Citizen guide explains the three different ways to adopt a child born abroad. Before a child immigrates to the U.S., the child will need an immigrant visa. The type of visa the child is issued will determine what steps you need to take for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship. For more information on citizenship for an adopted child, visit the U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child website. For more information on the process of intercountry adoptions, please visit the USCIS Adoption website.
In California, if the adoption of the child is full and final in the child’s country of origin, the child will need to be readopted in California per Family Code Section 8919. 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.
If you have any questions regarding the Intercountry Adoption Program, please e-mail APU@dss.ca.gov.
15. How do I find an Adoption Service Provider?
An Adoption Service Provider (ASP) is a licensed private adoption agency or individual who advises a birth parent when the birth parent is considering the placement of their child for independent adoption unless the prospective adoptive parent is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, legal guardian who has been the child’s legal guardian for more than three years, or is a person named in the will of a deceased parent as an intended adoptive parent where the child has no other parent.
For more information on ASPs, please visit the Registry of California Adoption Services Providers website or email: AdoptionServiceProviders@dss.ca.gov.
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 website.
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 they are 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.
For more information on Adoption Facilitators, please visit the Adoption Facilitator website or email: AdoptionFacilitator@dss.ca.gov.