“Adoption was a bumpy ride- very bumpy. But God, was it worth the fight.” -Marishka Hargitay


Adoption in San Diego is a process for helping families. It is no secret that adoption can be a challenging process. There are many steps in the adoption process and many waiting games. Some days, it could seem like you’ll never complete the process of growing your family.

However, just like baking a cake, you have to have all the right ingredients first in order to have the perfect dessert. You can’t just mix whatever ingredients you have in the fridge and expect a perfect outcome. The ingredients have to be just right! The outcome of making a perfect family takes time, patience, and the right amount of ingredients (or paperwork).

Do you wonder, “How does adoption in San Diego work?”. Here, you can find answers to that question.

If you are considering adoption, this is the time to truly consider what comes with the responsibility of being a parent. Your patience will be tested during the application process just like your patience will be tested during each stage of your adopted child’s life.

The silver lining to the adoption process is how much you will learn about yourself during the process as well as your spouse (if applicable), and any other members of your household.

You’ll also have a new appreciation for how hard adoption agencies and adoption professionals work to make the best match possible for children to find their forever homes.

Adoption is a gift; it takes time to unwrap in order for you to see all the goodies that come inside. Find out how you can make a difference in a child’s life through adoption.

Support System

What many don’t consider when planning an adoption is the support they will need when going through the process. There are many steps and some might be easier than others. However, for those steps that present a challenge, it is important that you have a support system to lean on when you need an ear to listen to your frustrations.

Within that support system, it is highly encouraged that you find people in your life or in a support group setting who will listen to you instead of telling you what to do.

Who will be in your support system?

Why Choose Adoption?

Everyone has their own preferences and reasons for why they want to adopt a child. The short answer is you simply want to grow your family. A more in-depth response may be along the lines of wanting to make a difference in a child’s life.

Whatever your reason, make sure it stems from a place of love. 

Types of Adoption

There are several options when it comes to adoption. How do you know which option is right for you? Below are the options you can look into in order to determine which route of adoption you wish to proceed with.

Keep in mind that the requirements for each adoption type may vary from one another.

Open Adoption

An open adoption, in the past, was not always an option. Now that there has been more research and studies to show the benefits of open adoption, many consider this option for growing their family.

Open adoption is just as it sounds; it is open, meaning, the birth parents still can have ongoing contact with the child and adoptive family after birth. In a way, you gain extra family members through open adoption.

This option is often sought by mothers who are too young to care for a child or mothers who are not financially stable to provide for a child. In this way, the birth mother can ensure her child is raised in a loving, stable environment while she continues to mature. While her child grows up, she can still witness what a great human being she created and not worry about if the child will be well cared for.

On the adoptive parents’ side, it can be a great feeling to get to know the birth parents of their child so that they can better understand this child. Medical history, personality, and characteristics often come from the gene pool. Therefore, having a relationship with the birth parent(s) can prove to be beneficial for all parties involved.

Closed Adoption

Closed adoptions were more of the standard option in previous years. Birth mothers may have found it to be too painful to watch their child grow up with someone else. Additionally, there may be protective reasons why a child would need to be placed through a closed adoption.

A closed adoption means there is no contact with the birth parents before, during, or after the birth of the child. The birth parents would not have access to the child’s information and would not be able to communicate with the child at any point.

Once the child is legally adopted by you, the new identity of that child is not shared with the birth parents.

Semi-Open Adoption

With a semi-open adoption, the birth parents are still able to watch the child grow up through pictures and updates shared with them by the adoption agency. However, the birth parents are not privy to any kind of contact including phone calls, video chats, letters, emails, etc.

While the birth parents are still able to know the name and location of the child, there is still a barrier of contact between them and the child.

How Does Adoption in San Diego Work?

San Diego, CA is known for its sandy beaches, perfect waves, year-round summer weather, and perfect scenery. However, to children placed in out-of-home care, this place of paradise can be a place of hardship for these children as they seek to find a place where they feel at home.

So, how does adoption in San Diego work?

According to the County of San Diego website, at any given time, there are approximately 2,100 children in out-of-home placement and 30 children awaiting permanent placement. These children have had the unfortunate circumstances of being exposed to abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment.

Why should you choose to adopt from San Diego? In the most heartbreaking way, think about what these children have faced. If you have the resources, why not make a tremendous difference in their lives by offering them a safe, loving, and permanent home!

Deciding to Adopt

The decision to adopt a child is a life-changing decision. The decision for anyone wishing to expand their family is crucial, regardless of what that expansion looks like.

There are many reasons why someone chooses to expand their family and there are many reasons why someone chooses to adopt. Whatever your reason is for choosing to adopt, let that decision be made from the heart.

Research Your Options

When considering the question, “How does adoption in San Diego work?”, your first step in the process is deciding that you want to adopt. Then, your own research into San Diego’s adoptions can commence.

Within San Diego County, there are three forms of adoption:

  1. Independent Adoption: This process is completed through The San Diego County Adoption Program. This kind of adoption case is initiated by the adoption agency’s receipt of a confirmed copy of the petition that has been filed with the Juvenile Court.
  2. Voluntary: This process begins when the birth parents voluntarily give up their parental rights and request an adoptive family for the child. This is also known as “relinquishment.” The birth parents are able to choose a family from a list of approved adoptive families.
  3. Involuntary: If a child is needing out-of-home placement, a kinship placement, and resource family team up to care for the child until reunification can happen with the birth parents. If reunification is not possible, the resource family may become the child’s permanent placement through adoption.

This information and additional information about the adoption types can be found on adoption.com.

Learn the Requirements

Requirements may differ from state to state. In order to understand the requirements, make sure you are viewing requirements specific to the state you are choosing to adopt.

For California, applicants must:

  • Be 18 years old or older;
  • Be financially stable;
  • Have a home conducive to the health and safety of the child;
  • Complete the application process (which includes passing background checks).

Applying to Adopt in San Diego

The steps to applying to become an adoptive family in San Diego include:

  • Attend a Resource Family Approval (RFA) orientation meeting;
  • Complete and submit RFA application forms and supporting documents;
  • Pass Background Assessment and Home Environment Assessment;
  • Complete 12 hours of Trauma Informed Pre-Service (TIPS);
  • Complete Fingerprinting and Clearances for all persons 18 years old or older;
  • Completion of Comprehensive Permanency Assessment and Family Evaluation;
  • Receive approval and written reports.

Additional Documents

Other documentation you may be asked to provide during the application process include:

  • At least two references;
  • Employment and financial verification;
  • Health and screening for all adult applicants;
  • TB test for all persons in the home 18+ years old;
  • Medical report on all children in the home;
  • Certificate of Completion of TIPS training;
  • Adoption Specialty classes (if applicable);
  • CPR/First Aid Training;
  • School verification authorization form for all children in the home;
  • Resource Family Background Questionnaire for each applicant;
  • Marriage and/or Registered Domestic Partnership certificate (if applicable);
  • Divorce decree (if applicable).

This and more information can be found on The County of San Diego Foster & Adoptive Resource Family Services website.

Home Environment Assessment

A home environment assessment is part of the application process in order to proceed with an adoption in San Diego. This is also known as a “home study.” This assessment will be conducted by an agency professional who will come to visit your home.

Home Study Guidelines/Process

The home study guidelines assessment will help the adoption professional ascertain whether the potential parents are prepared for adoption. The following are requirements that will be looked into for the home study and will include an interview with individuals living in the home as well.

  • Is the house clean and safe?
  • Is there room for the child?
  • If the applicants are married, how long have they been married?
  • If people are adopting as a couple, are both people eager to adopt?
  • Do the applicants have experience with children?
  • Can they afford to have the child?

The goal of a home study is to verify that the adoption will benefit the applicants and the child(ren) being adopted. The mission is to provide a stable, loving home for a child to live in. This is obtained through an in-depth review of the applicants on paper and in person.

How Long Does an Adoption Take in San Diego?

There are many factors to consider when questioning how long the adoption process will take. Additionally, the workload of the agency plays a role in how quickly an application can be processed. Typically, it will take anywhere from six months to a year to complete an adoption family assessment.

The main point to understand is that an adoption is a life-changing event for both the adoptive parents and the child. Therefore, time, dedication, and research into finding the right match for each child and family are imperative to the child’s future. The process may seem long, but the wait is worth it.


If you have pondered the question, “How does adoption work in San Diego?” then you are on the right track to growing your family! Now you have an understanding of the requirements, documentation, application process, and the length of time you can expect to complete the adoption process in full.

Are you ready to take the leap into growing your family through adoption in San Diego? Great! Sign up for an orientation where you will be provided with even more information and ask the questions you have about the adoption process.

Additionally, you can complete the approval process through one of the nine Foster Family Agencies (FFA’s) who partner with San Diego County who can facilitate and provide child placement services.

Which step will you take to grow your family? Have you or anyone you know had to experience with the adoption process?

“If you have the heart for adoption, don’t let fear stand in the way.” –Doug Chapman.

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.