A birth mother always puts the needs of her child above the wants of her heart.”


Have you ever wondered, “How does adoption in California work?” If you’ve found yourself in a situation where raising a baby is not doable right now, you are not alone.

Many times, expectant parents find they are not ready for this life-changing event, and that is okay. Sometimes, the pregnancy is unexpected and this leaves many expectant parents in a state of fear, confusion, and mixed emotions.

However, the deciding factor in an unplanned pregnancy is left up to you. Thankfully, there are options for you to consider if having a baby is part or not part of your plan right now.

If you are an expectant parent living in California, here you will find information about how adoption in California works. This information will assist you in determining if adoption is the right option for you.

What is Adoption?

Legally speaking, adoption is the establishment of a legally recognized, lifelong relationship between adoptive parents and adoptee(s). Children who are adopted are entitled to all benefits that a biological child would be entitled to as well, such as an inheritance. A finalized adoption is a permanent choice for birth parents.

Adoption is not a “one size fits all” solution. There are various types of adoptions out there to fit the needs of each family.

An adoption is an option for those seeking alternatives to raising a child. There are many questions that come with adoption and you may never feel like you have enough answers.

Who Can Be Adopted?

Adoption doesn’t always mean the placement of a child from one family to another. On the contrary, it could mean the legal unification of a child into a family or bridging a gap between a child and people who love and care for those children.

However, you choose to look at adoption, know that it is a life-changing event, and can lead to the very best life for all parties involved. So, who can be adopted?

Stepchildren or Relatives

Families who have grown in different directions often consider the option to legally adopt a child when a birth parent(s) no longer has parental rights to the child. This could be a step-parent situation or even grandparents legally adopting grandchildren.

Every family has a unique story and there is an adoption option for each circumstance.

International Adoptions

Hopeful parents looking to adopt a child into a home have the opportunity to choose international adoptions. International adoptions are adoptions that take place in another country. Specifically, a family from the United States can adopt a child from another country.

Domestic Adoptions

Domestic adoptions occur when the birth parents, child, and adoptive parents all reside within the United States. A domestic adoption may be something you are considering for your unborn child. With domestic adoptions, there are several options to consider as well.

Is an open adoption the best option for you? Would you be more comfortable with a closed adoption? Maybe you’d like a combination of both and prefer a semi-open adoption?

Whichever choice you may be considering, know that you are not alone in having to decide.

Foster Care Adoptions

Foster care adoptions occur after a child has been placed in a foster home. The foster parents are typically the ones who chose to adopt the child that they have been caring for and wish to complete a family through adoption.

Foster care adoption occurs when the birth parents have lost parental rights (non-voluntarily) by not complying with the terms set by the court to reunify with the child. Additionally, parental rights may be terminated on a voluntary basis should the birth parent choose to relinquish those rights.

Why Choose Adoption?

If you are struggling with determining if adoption is right for you, know that you are doing the right thing by researching adoption. Learning about the process beforehand shows that you have the best interest at heart for your child.

Choosing adoption gives you some control of how you would want your child to be raised if you cannot provide for the child at this time in your life. You get to work with an adoption agency and choose a family you can see your child being raised by.

With all of this to say, an adoption is a great option.

If this decision sounds good to you, explore the question, “How does adoption in California work?”

How Does Adoption in California Work?

In every state within the United States, adoption looks similar. However, each state has specific standards and requirements to meet in order to progress through the adoption process. So, how does adoption in California work?

If you are a birth or expectant parent living in California, you may wonder what the adoption process looks like for your home state. This post will break down the requirements each adoptive parent must meet in order to successfully adopt a child in California.

The more information you have about the process, the more comfortable you can feel with choosing adoption. Knowledge is power and the more you have, the better chances you have of making an informed, well-educated decision for your child.

Research Your Options

Finding yourself in an unplanned pregnancy can be scary. Birth mothers are flooded with a mix of emotions and dealing with the decisions for the outcome of the pregnancy. Oftentimes, you may feel alone and feel unable to consult anyone you are close to, like friends or family.

If this is you, consider researching crisis pregnancy centers in your area to seek assistance.

A crisis pregnancy center is an option to consider that will provide you with additional resources about your pregnancy. These centers can help you confirm your pregnancy and determine how far along you are in the pregnancy.

From there, you will be offered support, education, and non-judgmental encouragement. A crisis pregnancy center can point you in the right direction to adoption agencies in your area.

You can also find adoption agencies from the California Department of Social Services.

The First Step

The first step in seeking adoption in your child’s life is to talk to an adoption professional. These professionals are typically found in an adoption agency and can help provide you with information about your options.

You can also find assistance through the state of California Department of Social Services. Professionals employed through the department are well-versed in adoption laws and will have recommendations for private or public adoption agencies.

If adoption is the route you choose, adoption agencies will help you begin the process of placing your child for adoption. This process includes knowing how adoptive families are chosen, making a decision on the type of adoption you want, and starting your adoption plan.

While others may feel that adoptions take away your rights and choices, it really is the opposite. You are the one choosing the best life for your unborn child based on the information you have researched and received.

What Are the Requirements to Become Adoptive Parents in California?

The answer to, “How does adoption in California work?” and other aspects can be found on the California Department of Social Services website. There you will be directed to a web page dedicated to the most frequently asked questions regarding adoptions and how to proceed.

Know the Requirements

In order for a family to adopt a child in California, California regulates every part of the application process. This process for the adoptive family includes:

  • The adoptive parent is at least 10 years older than the adoptive child;
  • Completing a home study;
  • Paying fees;
  • Submitting criminal background and fingerprint checks; and
  • Completing the required training.

It can take anywhere from six months to a year for adoption to become finalized. Due to the workload of the adoption professionals, this timeline will vary with each adoption.

Application Process

While the state of California has policies and procedures set in place for legal adoptions, adoptive families must research their county’s laws specifically to find information for adoption.

As a birth mother, you may want to know the steps your county takes to finalize an adoption that is in addition to the state’s requirements.

Apply and pay fees

Prior to an adoptive family’s application submission, the couple must pay a fee of no more than $500 initially. The application will not be processed unless this fee is paid.

Before considering applying to adopt a child in California, it is highly encouraged for the adoptive parents to attend an informal meeting that will provide the couple with information about the application process and answer questions the couple might have, such as how does adoption in California work.

Complete Required Training

Training requirements for adoptive parents to complete the adoption process includes:

  • Completion of Trauma Informed Pre-Service (TIPS) training; and
  • First Aid/CPR training.

The Trauma Informed Pre-Service training is a combination of information given by the National Trauma and Stress Network. The training is broken into sections to help adoptive parents understand the trauma that can be associated with an adoptive child’s history.

First aid/CPR training is essential for each adoptive family to obtain for a number of reasons, which is why it is required training.

Provide References

Adoptive parents must provide character references when applying to adopt a child. These references can be provided by co-workers, church members, neighbors, friends, etc.

This information gives the adoption professionals an overall picture and looks into the adoptive family’s life and background.

Pass Background Checks

Background checks are equally important to character references. These checks complete the full picture of a person’s history. It shows the person’s criminal history, if any, as well as where the individuals have lived or worked in the past.

Just like applying for a job, the employer will run a thorough check on the prospective employee before offering a position within the company. The same goes for the application of adoption.

Pass Home Study

Maybe the most extensive part of an adoption application is the home study process. In order for a child to be placed in a safe, loving environment, adoption professionals complete a home study evaluation on the adoptive parents’ home.

A home study includes:

  • Individual interviews with each adoptive parent and other residents (including children) living in the home;
  • A home visit and walk through;
  • Review of fingerprint and background check results;
  • Physical exams for all members of the family;
  • Documentation providing information regarding income and expenses, health, employment, and more;
  • Birth certificates, marriage certificate, or divorce decree (if applicable).

This extensive research into an adoptive family’s home cannot be bypassed. If a family was to fail a home study, it is most likely due to an adult living in the home having a felony regarding a crime of abuse, sexual assault, physical assault, battery, or drug-related incidents.

Emotional Support During an Adoption

Deciding on adoption is not a decision that is made lightly. As a birth parent, there are many emotions that play into this decision. These emotions can take a toll on your mental and physical health.

In order to help you through this decision, the adoption professional you are consulting will have various resources, including support groups, you can take advantage of. These resources often include counseling and/or meetings with other birth parents sharing in the same feelings and experiences you are going through.

Additionally, you can research on Adoptionsbygladney.com for support. You can also use the resources on Adoption.com and Adoption.ORG. The services are free, confidential, and are a way for you to share your feelings with someone who is not directly involved with you to give unbiased support.


Adoption is not an easy decision to make. The information found here regarding “How Does Adoption in California Work?” can be overwhelming to take in all at once. However, this information is to show you how an adoptive family is selected to give you peace of mind that the family you select will be the best fit for your child.

Adoptive parents looking to grow a family by adoption jump through hoops to complete the application process. These families’ commitment to the finish line shows dedication to having a child in the home.

Are you considering adoption? What questions do you have about the adoption process in California?


Samantha Flores is the mom journaling the comical chaos of motherhood on Her Journal. She is a first-time parent to an incredible little boy. Her little family (three humans + three furbabies) lives in Northern California. Life is very busy! Samantha holds her Master of Arts degree in Education. In addition, she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She has many years of experience working in early childhood education as well as being a regulator of foster placement facilities such as foster homes, shelters, residential centers, group homes, and foster-to-adopt homes. Samantha’s mission is to provide helpful information to parents looking for answers to their parenting questions.