Most adoptions in California are the adoption of domestically born children. There are two basic types of domestic adoption: independent adoptions and agency adoptions. Adoptions are governed by the California Family Code.
California Agency Adoption
There are two types of agency adoptions: private and public county adoptions. A private agency handles adoptions must be licensed by the State of California. The California State Department of Social Services has a website that lists the licensed agencies. Agency adoptions first require that the adoptive parent have a home study completed prior to the placement of the child. The agency then takes the signed relinquishment of the child from the birth mother (and father). For six months following the adoptive placement, the agency supervises the placement, and then can write to the court to approve the adoption. Home studies include criminal background checks, letters of reference, proof of marriage if applicable, a health and social history, acceptability of space for the child in the home, and ability to provide a loving home for the child. The court grants the adoption in a simple court hearing in which both the adoptive parents and the child appear.
California Independent Adoption
An independent adoption in California requires that the birth mother select the adoptive parents. The birth parents and the adoptive parents make an agreement that the adoption should take place. It is not required that the adoptive parents have a pre-placement home study (unless the adoption is interstate). There is no adoption agency involved, but the State or the County has Adoption Service Providers that will handle the post-placement Home Study, which is the basis for approval of the adoption. As with the agency adoption, this six-month home study involves criminal background checks, letters of reference, health and social history, residence evaluation, and extensive interviews with each prospective parent. In most counties the home study is done by the California Department of Social Services. In some counties however, including Los Angeles County, a county office performs the service. Either way, the fee is the same.
There is no preplacement home study required in a step-parent adoption, but a six month evaluation is required before the adoption can be finalized. This is done by a county employee. Both the parent who will be retaining their rights and the parent giving up their rights must consent to the new parent assuming parental control and responsibilities.
If you are interested in further information about a California adoption, please do contact our office for a low-cost consultation.