• Christopher J. Fry, Esq.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting...To Adopt in California

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

What To Expect When You’re Adopting In California

Child adoption can be a time consuming process. If you’re considering domestic adoption in the State of California, you may be wondering just what this entails and what the process is to complete it. Have no fear. In this article, I will lay out the process step by step. The requirements for this article adhere to the State of California. If you live in another state, you will want to do a little research about your state’s specific requirements, but they should be similar.

Part 1: Prepare For Adoption

Understand the minimum legal requirements. So, the first thing you need to do is understand the minimum legal age requirements to adopt in California. You must be at least 10 years older than the child or be a stepparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or first cousin of the child. You must treat the adoptive child as your own child, you must provide support for the child, and your residence should be suitable for a child. Finally, you must actually agree to the adoption.

Select an approach to adoption. 

The next thing you need to do is figure out how you are going to adopt. Will you adopt from a birth family? Will you go through an agency? There are several different types of adoption that are recognized in California. Please note that we are not discussing international adoption here. These are your options for domestic adoption:

Independent adoption: In this type of adoption, the legal rights are transferred directly from the birth parents to the adoptive parents.

Agency adoption: An adoption through the California Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency.

Stepparent/domestic partner: In this type of adoption, the birth parent gains legal rights over the child and only one birth parent’s rights are terminated. In this type of adoption, the couple that will become the legal parents must be married or legally registered domestic partners. In cases of divorce, sometimes one parent will lose custody and have their parental rights terminated for a variety of reasons. The spouse or domestic partner of the custodial parent in good standing could then be able to adopt the child.

Interstate adoption: In this type of adoption, a child is moved from one state to another. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children would come into play here. This law, which is valid in all states, sets the standards and procedures by which you can transfer a child from one state to another. Different states have different laws pertaining to adoption, but the ICPC will cover your bases.

Find a source.

You can call the California Department of Social Services to get information on adoption or call 1-800-KIDS-4-US. Essentially, at this point you need to pick who you are going through to get your adoption done. If you don’t know where to start, calling the California Department of Social Services or visiting their website, calling a domestic adoption agency, or contacting your adoption services of your specific city or county is a good place to start.

Fulfill the source requirements. 

Whether you adopt through your county or go to a private agency, there will be different requirements. You will need to do a home study, submit fingerprints, go through a background check, and they will investigate your family and examine your lifestyle and residence.

Also, you can likely expect an adoption agency. If you are going through your county/city or California Department of Social Services, this fee shouldn’t be more than $500, perhaps with some additional court costs, filing fees, and costs for fingerprinting, and records checks.

Part 2: File All The Paperwork

Make the Adoption Request. 

Fill out the ADOPT-200 Adoption Request form. This form includes the basic contact information of the adoptive parent, basic details, specifies what type of adoption it is, gives information about the child, and whether the legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Complete the Adoption Agreement. 

With the ADOPT-210 Adoption Agreement, the adoptive parents agree to (with their signature) adopt the child and treat the child as their natural child. This child will maintain the same rights as any natural child would. One of these rights includes the right to inherit from adoptive parents. Adoptive parents who disinherit adoptive children run the risk of being challenged by their adopted child in court.

Fill out an Adoption Order. 

The ADOPT-215 Adoption Order form must partially be filled out by the adoptive parents. This form contains basic information about the adoption. The judge at the adoptive hearing will look over this form and the rest will be filled out by the clerk.

Submit the expenses. 

With an independent agency or international adoption, you must submit the relevant expenses on the ADOPT-230 Adoption Expenses form. You need to put everything from hospital services of the birth Mom, prenatal care, legal fees, adoption agency fees, gas or transportation costs, adoption facilitator fees, adoption services provider costs, counseling costs, court filing fees, fingerprinting fees, and really any other costs associated with this adoption.

Fill out local or specific forms. 

Certain adoptions and each specific local court may require additional forms. If you are adopting a Native American child through any procedure other than a stepparent/domestic partner adoption, it is imperative that you fill out fill out the ADOPT-220 Adoption of Indian Child form and the ADOPT-225 Parent of Indian Child Agrees to End Parental Rights form. 

Review your forms. 

Once your forms are completed, have a third party review those forms to ensure they have been fully and appropriately completed. A lawyer or a clerk may be a good person to help you. If you are using an agency, likely the agency will review your forms for you. For an independent adoption or a stepparent adoption, the local court’s family law facilitator or self-help center can help you review any forms.

Make multiple copies. 

Make multiple copies so that you have enough for yourself and for all parties that must receive a copy. Make a few extra to be safe.

Obtain the required consent. 

For your adoption to be approved, you must get the written approval of the birth parents or obtain a court order that ends the parental rights. If you’re going through an agency, they will handle the consent part of it or provide proof the child has been abandoned or parental rights have been terminated. If you are a stepparent or domestic partner, you must serve the required forms to the other birth parent whose rights will terminate. If you can’t find the other birth parent, you must follow the court procedures to try to gain consent or waive the requirement.

File your documents. 

All forms should be filed with the local county clerk. File all the required forms with the local county clerk. At this time all fees should be paid. If you can’t afford to pay court fees, you can apply for a waiver.

Part 3: Finalize The Adoption

Have the court complete the Adoption Order. 

The court will make sure the adoption meets the requirements and is in the best interests of the child. If this is the case, the order to adopt will be approved. If either adoptive parent has ever been convicted of felony related to child abuse, neglect, spousal abuse, child pornography, rape, sexual assault, violence, or homicide, the adoption will not be approved. Furthermore, if either adoptive parent was convicted of a felony for physical assault, battery, or a drug or alcohol related offense in the past 5 years, the adoption will not be approved.

Ensure all related issues are resolved. 

In many adoptions, other issues must be resolved before the court. For example, the ADOPT-310 Contact After Adoption Agreement form explains who in the child’s birth family the child will be able to remain involved in.

Keep all relevant paperwork. 

Do not throw away an adoption paperwork. Keep it in a safe place and make sure that you have multiple copies of everything. You may need to show someone a judge's approval of your child’s adoption someday.

Deal with any post-placement issues. 

Children who are adopted may need some time to adjust. Make sure that their needs and the needs of your family are met, even if that means you need to seek mental health help or counseling.

I hope that all of this information about adopting in the State of California has been helpful. Good luck and best wishes with your adoption journey! To show you what patience can bring you, here’s a few photos of our family.

Here's the day we took our little one home!

Here we are today!


About the Author

Dr. Jacqueline "Jax" Cheung, DrPH, MBA, is the Editor-In-Chief of Elk Grove Tribune and owner of the award winning Jax Chronicles Blog & Adoption Ministry. She was voted Sacramento Area A-List Best Local Blogger 2014, 2015, 2017 & 2018 and Best of Elk Grove Best Blogger 2016 & 2017. In 2019 Jax was recognized for Outstanding Service & Dedication to Elk Grove and also received an Award of Recognition from the California State Senate.

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