California Adoption Laws for Birth Parents and Adoptive Families

Adoption is much more than a legal process —it is a life-changing experience that helps hopeful parents build their families and allows expectant mothers to make loving choices for their children.

Adoption laws do play an important role in every adoption experience. If you are considering adopting a child or placing a baby for adoption in California, find the information you need about state adoption laws below. 

Laws to Adopt a Child in California

As hopeful adoptive parents, you want to make sure your adoption is completed safely and legally. Adoption laws in California regulate nearly every aspect of the process, including who can adopt, what expenses families can pay, and how the adoption is finalized.

Here, learn more about some of the most important California adoption laws for new parents.

Do I meet the requirements to adopt a child in California?

Every state has laws regarding who is eligible to adopt. In California, hopeful parents must be at least 10 years older than the child they are adopting, with exceptions for stepparent or relative adoptions.

All adoptive parents must complete a home study, including criminal background (fingerprint) checks, before they will be approved to adopt in California.

What should I expect during the California home study?

During the adoption home study, you will be required to:

More information about the elements of the California home study, as well as FCCA’s home study services, is available here.

Why would my home study not be approved in California?

Your home study will not be approved if you or any adult living in your home has ever been convicted of a felony for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against a child (including child pornography), or a crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault or homicide. Additionally, the home study will not be approved if an adult living in your home has been convicted of a felony for physical assault, battery, or a drug- or alcohol-related offense within the past five years.

What are the legal requirements to finalize my California adoption?

Before your adoption can be finalized in California, you will need to complete the post-placement supervision period. This process lasts for at least six months and includes at least four interviews with your social worker, one of which must take place in your home with your child present.

Additional information about legal adoption requirements and finalization in California is available here.

How are international adoptions finalized in California?

Adoptive parents usually “re-adopt” their child in California after adopting internationally. This process usually involves at least one post-placement home visit and a review of the foreign adoption by a state court. To re-adopt, adoptive parents will need to file the following documents with the court:

You will be required to finalize your adoption in California if your child received an IH-4 or IR-4 visa; this means that your child came to the United States under guardianship and the adoption was not legally finalized in the country where he or she was born. If you received an IH-3 or IR-3 visa, re-adoption is optional but highly encouraged; this process allows you to obtain a state-issued birth certificate in English for your child.

What expenses can we pay for our baby’s birth mother?

California adoption laws regulate the birth parent expenses that can be paid during the adoption process. If you are working with an expectant mother who is making an adoption plan for her baby, you may pay her reasonable maternity-related medical costs and living expenses.

Prospective birth parents must make written requests for payment and provide written receipts for any money exchanged; you will need to submit these receipts to the court before your adoption can be finalized.

Laws to Place a Baby for Adoption in California

If you are pregnant and considering adoption, you likely have questions about how adoption works for birth parents in California. Adoption laws can be confusing, but it is important to understand your rights and role throughout this process.

Here, find some of the most common questions expectant mothers have about California adoption laws.

Who is required to consent to the adoption plan?

The following people are required to give their consent to adoption in California:

When and how can I give my consent to an adoption in California? 

Consent requirements and procedures vary depending on the type of adoption you choose.

In an agency adoption, you may sign a relinquishment any time after your child is born and you have been discharged from the hospital. You will need to sign these forms before two witnesses, in addition to an agency social worker.

In an independent adoption, you may sign the placement agreement/consent form any time after you have been discharged from the hospital after your baby’s birth. The forms are signed in the presence of an adoption service provider.

If your child is covered by ICWA, you must sign the forms before a superior court judge, any time after the child’s birth and after the appropriate tribes have received at least 10 days’ notice of the hearing.

How long do I have to change my mind after placing my baby for adoption?

Your revocation period will also vary depending on the type of adoption you choose. In an agency adoption, your consent can be revoked within 10 days or before the Acknowledgment is issued by the Department, whichever is sooner. In an independent adoption, you may withdraw your consent within 30 days of execution. In either case, you may choose to sign a Waiver of the Right to Revoke, which makes your consent or relinquishment irrevocable at the close of the next business day.

However, if your child is subject to ICWA, you are legally allowed to withdraw your consent or relinquishment at any time prior to finalization of the adoption.

If you are making an adoption plan with FCCA, your social worker will provide additional information about agency and independent adoption, consent and revocation. He or she will make sure that you understand your rights before you sign any binding documents. 

Does my baby’s father have to be included in the adoption process?

In California, each man who might be the child’s father must be given notice of the adoption plan. FCCA will make diligent efforts to locate and contact each potential birth father. This includes asking you for all information you have about how to contact him. Although you are highly encouraged to provide this information so that the adoption is legally secure, legally you cannot be forced to name the child’s father if you are afraid for your safety.

Once a man has been contacted:

Even in cases when the father does respond to notice and is opposed to the adoption plan, FCCA may be able to help you proceed with the adoption. Please read the following for more information about birth father rights, and discuss your individual circumstances with your adoption social worker. We can provide the legal guidance you need and identify your options for moving forward.

Can I receive living and medical expenses during my pregnancy?

California adoption laws allow the adoptive parents to assist you with expenses that are directly related to your pregnancy and necessary for the wellbeing of you and your baby. These expenses might include housing, food, utilities, transportation, maternity clothing and medical expenses.

You will need to sign for all items received or paid on your behalf so the adoptive family can report these payments to the court. To learn more about allowable living expenses in California, speak with your social worker to discuss your financial needs.

Whether you are a hopeful adoptive family or an expectant mother considering adoption, FCCA can provide the adoption services and information you need to reach your adoption goals. If you have additional questions about California adoption laws, or if you need legal assistance to complete your adoption, please contact any of our area offices.