How to Adopt in California

California isn't just home to beautiful beaches, Disneyland, and the Golden Gate Bridge; it's also home to families seeking adoption opportunities and resources to begin their journey. Whether you are looking to adopt, looking to place your child for adoption, or searching for information about home studies and where to begin the process, the following information will be your guide to all things adoption in California.

What you need to know about adopting a baby in California

To get started on your adoption journey, it is important to understand some of the fundamental aspects and frequently asked question about the process. Here are a few things to know when considering adoption in California.

What are the laws and requirements for adopting a baby in California?

Any adult, regardless of marital status, can adopt a child in California if they are at least 10 years older than the adoptee. Exceptions can be made if the Prospective Adoptive Parent is a stepparent or relative of the child and the court approves. All children ages 12 and older must also give their consent in the adoption process.

Adoptive Parents are required to complete a home study which includes interviews with members of the Adoptive Family, medical reports, child abuse and criminal clearances, proof of income, and Adoptive Parent education.

How much does it cost to adopt a baby in California?

Expenses related to adoption in California range widely depending on the type of adoption you decide to pursue. Are you looking to adopt internationally or domestically? Through a private agency or the foster care system? Depending on what you decide, Adoptive Parents may be asked to cover Birth Mother expenses such as:

  • Medical costs of the Birth Mother and child
  • Travel expenses
  • Counseling services
  • Rent
  • Legal representation
  • Fees from an adoption agency or professional

All Birth Mother expenses must be approved by a California court. It also recognizes that payments to Birth Mother should not go beyond the necessary medical and living expenses accumulated during the adoption process.

How do you become a foster parent in California?

All foster parents in California are required to obtain a license before they can legally foster a child. To obtain a license, you and your family will be interviewed and your home will be visited to ensure the safety requirements enforced by California law. A social service worker will help with this evaluation and assist in determining the placement of a child into your home.

Can you finalize an international adoption in California?

In California, adopting a child internationally is permitted as long as the child is from a Hague Convention country. The Hague Convention is an international agreement put in place to safeguard intercountry adoptions.

Rights to enter the U.S. are not granted automatically with foreign adoption, so Adoptive Parents in California may have to go through a readoption process required by the Department of Homeland Security. Readoption is when the foreign adoption is reviewed and legitimized in a state court and the process usually includes:

  • At least one postplacement home visit
  • An adoption petition
  • The intercountry adoption report
  • A home study
  • The final adoption order

After finalizing the readoption, the child can then receive their California birth certificate.

What is a facilitator and is it legal to use their services for adoption in California?

An adoption facilitator specializes in matching prospective Adoptive Families with expectant mothers; however, they are usually unlicensed and unregulated. In California, it is legal to go through the adoption process with the help of a facilitator, if the facilitator:

  • Provides written information about their services
  • Verbally explains all contracts to both the Prospective Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents
  • Reports all fees and expenses in court
  • Provides, in writing, all available information about the Birth Parents and child

It is important to remember that facilitators only help with the advertising and matching of their clients. Once a Prospective Adoptive Family and Birth Mother have been matched, the facilitator will refer their clients to adoption professionals who will then help with the remaining process.

Click here to read about the difference between adoption agencies, attorneys, and facilitators.

What you need to know about placing your baby for adoption in California

If you are considering placing your child for adoption, understanding how the adoption process works as well as knowing your rights may relieve some of your worry. Here are a few things to know when considering adoption for your child in California.

Who must consent to an adoption in California?

Consent for adoption in California is required by the following:

  • Birth Parents
  • The parent having custody if the other parent:
    • Fails to communicate with and support the child
    • Fails to respond to notice of adoption
  • The spouse of the Adopting Parents, if the adopting parent is married
  • The child being adopted if they are at least 12 years old

When is consent not necessary for adoption in California?

The consent of a presumed father is not required for the child’s adoption unless he became a presumed father before the mother’s relinquishment, before consent becomes irrevocable, or before the mother’s parental rights have been terminated.

The consent of a birth parent is not necessary when he or she has:

  • Been judicially deprived of the custody and control of the child
  • Voluntarily surrendered the right to the custody and control of the child
  • Deserted the child without provision for identification of the child
  • Relinquished the child for adoption to a licensed or authorized child placing agency in another jurisdiction

You're Not Giving Up

For many women facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering adoption they often hear the words she’s “giving up” her baby for adoption. These words can be wounding as it implies a lack of love, when in reality, she is searching for the perfect family who can provide her baby with the life that she is not able to give due to current circumstances. Rather than thinking you are “giving up” your baby, try to recognize what your decision truly means to you and your baby.

How and when can Birth Parents consent to adoption in California?

For direct placements, a Birth Mother can give consent after the child is born and she is discharged from the hospital. Consent must take place in the presence of an Adoption Service Provider or other delegated agent who has advised the parents of their rights.

For adoptions through an agency, Birth Parents can give consent any time after the child is born. The adoption consent form must be signed before two witnesses and acknowledged by an official of the agency.

Consent to adoption given by an Indian child's parent is not valid unless both of the following occur:

  • The consent is given in writing at least 10 days after the child’s birth and recorded by a judge
  • The judge certifies that the terms and consequences of the consent were fully explained in English and understood, or that they were interpreted into the language that the Birth Parent understood.

Can a Birth Parent revoke their consent to adoption in California?

In a direct placement, after consent has been given, the parents have 30 days to submit a signed revocation and request the return of the child or sign a waiver of the right to revoke consent.

In an agency adoption, consent is final and may only be rescinded by mutual consent unless the birth parent has specified an adoptive parent and that placement is not finalized; then the parent has 30 days to rescind.

After the final adoption of an Indian child, the child's parent may withdraw consent to the adoption upon the grounds that consent was obtained through fraud or duress and may petition the court to vacate such decree; however, parental consent can only be revoked up to two years after the adoption was finalized.

What rights do Birth Fathers have in the adoption process in California?

In California, parental rights are given to the presumed father of the child if:

  • He and the child's mother are or were married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage ended.
  • Before the birth of the child, he and the child’s mother attempted to marry, and the marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated.
  • He gave his consent to be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • He has acknowledged his paternity in writing.
  • He is obligated to support the child, either by voluntary agreement or court order.

The following reasons are grounds for termination of a Birth Father or Mothers parental rights:

  • If the presumed father cannot be located for six months
  • If he has failed to visit or contact the child for six months
  • he has been convicted of a felony indicating parental unfitness

Home study and Post Placement Requirements in California

Prospective Adoptive Parents in California are required to complete a home study before beginning the adoption process and a postplacement assessment after the adoption takes place. Both will assess your ability to provide a safe and stable environment for the child you wish to adopt.

What is a home study and what happens during the process?

The home study is a critical component to the adoption process. While it is to ensure your home will provide a child with stability, safety, and support, it is also a resource for Prospective Adoptive Parents to asks questions and prepare for the adoption. A home study also helps the social worker determine the types of adoptions that are appropriate for a family.

During your home study, you should expect to:

  • Submit finger prints and obtain criminal records
  • Complete individual interviews with a social worker
  • Attend adoption training classes
  • Complete an in-home visit with all members of the household present facilitated a social worker
  • Provide documents such as birth certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, and medical records
  • Provide proof of income and employment

Who oversees a home study in California and who is included in it?

In California, a home study will be performed by a social worker from the Department of Social Services and each person in the household will be included in the process.

Is a home study different for stepparent or relative adoptions in California?

In California, if the Prospective Adoptive Parent of a child is a relative caregiver who has had an ongoing and significant relationship with the child, an assessment or home study may require only the following:

  • Criminal records check
  • A determination that:
    • the relative caregiver or foster parent has sufficient financial stability to support the child
    • the relative caregiver has not abused or neglected the child while the child has been in his or her care
    • there is not a likelihood that the relative caregiver will abuse or neglect the child in the future
    • the relative caregiver can address racial and cultural issues that may affect the child’s well-being
  • An interview with the relative caregiver, each individual residing in the home, and the adopted child

Unless ordered by the court, no home study may be required of the petitioner's home in a stepparent adoption.

Why would my home study not be approved in California?

A home study in California may not be approved for the following reasons:

  • If the Prospective Adoptive Parent or any other adult living in the home has been convicted of a felony for:
    • child abuse or neglect
    • crimes against a child including child pornography
    • spousal abuse
    • any crime involving violence, such as rape, sexual assault or homicide
  • Any felony that occurred within the last five years for:
    • battery
    • physical assualt
    • drug- or alcohol-related offense

What are the home study requirements for adopting a baby from another state?

A child who is born in California but placed for adoption with a person who is not a resident of this state is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

For California residents pursuing interstate adoption, a county child welfare agency must complete a home study and return the results to the requesting state within 60 days of the receipt of request.

What is a post placement requirement and what happens during the process?

After a child has been placed in a home, a six-month post placement study will take place to ensure the child is adjusting well before the adoption is finalized.

In California, the post placement study consists of an in-home interview with the Adoptive Parent and Child, and up to three visits either in or outside of the home. During the post placement period, social workers can provide resources and recommend services to the Adoptive Family in order to meet the needs of the child and provide family support.

What are the requirements for a Foster to Adopt placement in California?

For Foster Parents hoping to adopt a child who has been in their care for at least six months, the home study process will be same as that of a relative care giver.

California Adoption Agencies and Professionals

California is home to some amazing adoption professionals who are ready to get your journey started. Whether you are interested in adopting a child or seeking resources to place your child for adoption, these professionals will guide you through the legal pathways and offer you support throughout your journey:

Adoption Network Law Center


Family Connections Christian Adoptions


Things to do in California

If your adoption journey leads you to the beautiful west coast, be sure to visit some of California’s most treasured hot spots:

Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim

Walk of Fame and Universal Studios in Hollywood

San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld in San Diego

Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

A Note from Adoption Network Law Center

No matter your decision, we appreciate the time you have taken to read about how to adopt in California. Adoption Network Law Center wishes you the best of luck and is available to answer any further questions you may have about the adoption process. Call 1-866-602-9541 to speak with one of our amazing team members or visit to read more about our services. Whether you’re a soon-to-be Birth Parent or Prospective Adoptive Parent, ANLC wishes you the best on your adoption journey.