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 birth families 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 are some of the most important points about 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, such as rape, sexual assault or homicide. Additionally, the home study will not be approved if an adult living in your home has been convicted of certain felonies. Some of these bans may be lifted if the offense is more than five or ten years old; other bans are permanent. Please ask FCCA about any concerns before proceeding with an application.

What are the legal requirements to finalize my California domestic adoption?

Before your adoption can be finalized in California, you must complete the post-placement supervision process with a licensed California adoption agency (for agency adoptions) or the delegated public agency (for independent adoption). This process lasts for at least six months and includes a specified number of interviews with your social worker, one of which must take place in your home with your child present.

How are international adoptions finalized 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 that the adoption was not legally finalized in the country of origin. in this case, you must finalize the adoption after six months of post-placement supervision by a California private adoption agency, licensed to provide international adoption service. This will include at least four visits with you and the child, and written reports. The foreign country often has additional requirements, which may include more visits, as well as pictures of the child. 

For adoptions that were finalized in the foreign country, the child will have arrived on an IR-3 or IH-3 visa. In these cases, California Family Code Section 8919 requires every adoptive family to “re-adopt” their child in California. The adoptive family must file a readoption request within 60 days of the child's arrival in the US, and must complete at least one post-placement home visit from an internationally-licensed private adoption agency.

Whether finalizing an adoption or completing a readoption, the following documents must be filed with the court:

For both adoption finalization and readoption, your licensed adoption agency will be responsible for filing additional documents that the court will require before setting the final hearing. The good news is that each process results in a state-issued birth certificate in English for your child - no need to order expensive copies or translations from the child's birth country! More good news: you can ask FCCA prepare and file your finalization or readoption paperwork with the court, and set the final hearing for you! No need for endless research regarding the correct forms, the correct courthouse, or the like.

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 placing parents must make written requests for payment and must provide or sign written receipts for any money exchanged; you must 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 are placing the child with relatives, you may be able to sign your consent in the presence of a social worker from the public agency that is investigating the adoption.

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

Your FCCA social worker will explain your rights and and the various options open to you, and will answer your questions, before you sign anything that is legally binding. We want you to ask so you can make the best decision for yourself and your baby.

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 information 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.

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