parents with their newly adopted daughter in California

How to Adopt a Child in California

The adoption process can seem like an impossible and mysterious maze to navigate to the average person. As someone considering adoption, it’s natural to want to know exactly how you can get from starting point to getting the forever family you want.

Just like other states, California has its own set of laws, rules, and qualifications for adoption. Although it doesn’t require you to have a prestigious job or be supremely wealthy, the state needs to determine that you’ll be able to provide a safe and loving home for your adoptive child.

Every adoption journey is different, but there is still a common thread linking them all together such as what you need to consider as a prospective parent and what you need to do to kick-start your adoption process in California.

If you’re considering adopting a child in the Golden State and wondering how the process works, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the rocky waters of adoption and find a child to give the permanent and nurturing home that they deserve.

  • Decide on the type of adoption you want to pursue: Do you want to adopt a newborn or an older child? Would you prefer to adopt privately, through California’s foster care system or from a different state, or maybe even pursue an international adoption? You also need to check to see that you meet the minimum legal requirements for a California adoption.
  • Choose an adoption agency and complete your application: There are multiple avenues, organizations, and professionals you can use when trying to adopt in California. It’s important that you pick one that’s right for you, as well as willing and equipped to provide adequate support for you before, during, and after your adoption is completed. You’ll also be required to fill out forms and submit the necessary documents, and complete a home study to qualify as an adoptive parent.
  • Find an adoption opportunity and receive placement of the child: Once your application is completed, your caseworker or agent will get to work on finding a child that is right for you and your family situation. After all meetings, visits, and decisions have been made, the identified child will be placed in your home under supervision for six months before the adoption can be finalized.

Before you move forward with the California adoption process, it’s important to know what to expect so that you can be fully prepared to embark on your journey and successfully finalize it.

1. Decide on the type of adoption you want to pursue

Once you decide to adopt a child, you’ll have a variety of options to choose from. You may decide to pursue one of these three pathways to start or grow your family:

  • Independent or private adoption — This type of adoption is coordinated directly by the adopting parent and the birth family themselves usually without the involvement of an adoption agency or the California Department of Social Services. They determine terms of adoption and parental rights termination by themselves.
  • Agency or foster care adoption — According to the Adoption Exchange Association, there are about 2,000 California children in need of an adoptive family on any given day. Adopting from the California foster care system is easily the cheapest and least time-consuming adoption process you can undertake and it qualifies you to receive financial assistance to help with raising your child.
  • International adoption — This occurs when you choose to adopt a child who is a citizen of another country. This process differs depending on the particular country you’re looking to adopt from.

You need to also consider whether you’re willing to undertake an open adoption—where the birth parents or other biological family members are involved in the child’s life to some extent—or closed adoption, which generally precludes contact with the child’s existing biological relations.

Bear in mind that the State of California requires an adoptive parent to be at least 10 years older than the child they’re adopting unless they are a sibling, cousin, stepparent, aunt, or uncle to the child. Although you’re eligible to adopt as a single person, you’ll be required to adopt jointly with your spouse if you’re married.

Other minimum legal requirements to qualify as an adoptive parent include being able to show that you can provide and care for the child financially and emotionally, and maintain a suitable residence for them.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re completely committed to adoption because taking in a child and raising it as your own is not a decision to be taken lightly. Some of the issues to contemplate before starting your formal application for adoption are:

  •  If you’re struggling with infertility, make sure you’ve properly grieved and have dealt with your dreams of having a child biologically.
  • Figure out how to tell your loved ones and educate them about your decision to adopt.
  • Ensure that you and your spouse are on the same page about adopting.
  • Come to terms with the fact that there will be highs and lows along your adoption journey.

Once you feel confident in your decision to adopt, you’re ready to take the next steps to grow your family. The adoption process is not always going to be a walk in the park, but it’ll be completely worthwhile in the end.

2. Choose an adoption agency and complete your application

Your adoption agency will play a huge role in your adoption journey and impact the end goal so you need to make sure you’re working with the right one.

Naturally, we are partial to our own services at the Knotts Family Agency. At each step of your adoption journey, our agency will support you with orientation, training, and guidance to ensure that the process goes smoothly. 

We help applicants complete the entire California foster care resource approval process within 4-6 weeks. Keep in mind that this is the agency approval and the agency does not have any control over the county clearance or the matching process. 

Furthermore, our services do not end with the finalization of the adoption. We will continue to stay in touch to provide additional resources as needed and answer any questions you might have.

However, regardless of the adoption agency you settle on, you should carry out extensive research on them before making a final decision. Don’t just settle for browsing their website, go to their offices, and size them up in person.

Speak to their representatives, attend an orientation session, ask questions to discover the agency’s views on adoption, and how they regard all the parties involved.

Compare their fees to other agencies, ask for and speak to references who have used their adoption services in the past. Find out what their average wait time for the entire process is and how much it typically costs.

After choosing an agency, you’ll have to complete the necessary steps to become an active adoptive family in the state of California. These include:

  • Completing the three stages of a home study: documentation, family assessment interviews, and a home inspection.
  • Filling out an Adoption Planning Questionnaire, to help your agent to understand what you’re looking for in an adoption opportunity, and the kind of child that might fit the criteria—age, gender, special needs, etc.
  • Create an Adoptive Family Profile, which is basically information about your life to help your agent get to know you, understand your desire to adopt, and envision what a child’s life could look like if placed with you.

During a California adoption home study process, you should expect to:

  • Attend adoption training classes.
  • Submit your fingerprints and background checks from relevant law enforcement agencies.
  • Complete individual interviews with a social worker.
  • Provide documents such as proof of employment/income statements/tax returns, birth certificate, medical records, marriage and divorce certificates, driver’s license, proof of insurance, rental or house ownership records, and references.
  • Complete an in-house visit with all the members of the household present.

This assessment will evaluate whether you’re prepared to adopt, whether you can afford to care for a child, and your ability to provide a stable, safe, and nurturing home for a child. Once it’s been successfully completed, you’ll be eligible to pursue adoption opportunities in CA.

Keep in mind that your home study will not be approved if you or any adult living in your home has been convicted of:

  • A felony for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, crimes against a child such as child pornography, or a crime involving violence including homicide, sexual assault, or rape.
  • A felony that occurred within the last five years for battery, physical assault, or alcohol or drug-related offense.

3. Find an adoption opportunity and receive placement of the child

Once your home study has been approved, your agent or social worker will begin searching for waiting children and adoption photo-listings in California to find a child that would be a perfect fit for your family based on the information you’ve shared.

When they or you identify a child that seems like a good fit, the agency will submit your home study to the county social worker, who will then decide whether your family would be an adequate placement for the child.

This stage of the adoption process may include disclosure meetings and visits so you can see the child and learn more about him or her.

After decisions have been made and a child is placed in your home, you can expect a home visit from your agent and the county social worker at least once a month to ensure that the child is being properly taken care of and to provide you with any assistance you might need as your family adjusts.

The adoption can only be finalized after the child has spent a minimum of six months in your home and you’re deemed to have successfully completed the post-placement assessment. 

Your agency will prepare your finalization paperwork for you to review and sign before it is filed with the court. A finalization hearing date will then be fixed and if the judge finds everything to be ethical, legal, and in the best interests of the child, you’ll be granted full parental rights.

And just like that, the legal steps of your adoption are complete. You can return to your home from the courthouse and celebrate the newest member of your family.

Final Words

As a hopeful adoptive parent, you’ll be glad to know that adopting a child in California is not as complicated as it seems. 

You just need to have a little patience, pick a great agency to work with, and take it one step at a time. The process will be over before you know it.

Getting a child is the easier part, the real challenge is raising the child. Don’t hesitate to keep learning to better your parenting skills and ask for help from your agency should you need it.

If you have any questions about adopting a child in California, reach out to the Knotts Family Agency, and we’ll be glad to answer them and support you however we can.

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