What You Need to Know About Private Adoption in California

An independent adoption, also known as a private adoption, occurs when the birth parents and adoptive parents work together to reach an adoption agreement without an adoption agency. Here’s everything you need to know about private adoption in California.

In a private adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents have the opportunity to meet with each other. This typically occurs when the child is born, and at this point, everyone involved can make the decision of whether the biological parents can keep in touch with their child once they are adopted. If the child is already born, standard private adoption proceedings will take place, where the biological and adoptive parents will negotiate the terms and details of the adoption. This time frame typically lasts 6 months.

Related: Adoption Laws in California: The Basics

How does private adoption work in California?

Once the adoptive parents have reached the decision that they would like to adopt, they will need to get in touch with an adoption service provider and connect with the biological parents of the child. The adoption services coordinator will be responsible for going through all of the necessary legal procedures, documents, and forms relevant to the adoption.

Is private adoption legal in California?

Private adoptions are legal in California. Once a child has been placed with their adoptive parents, and it has been 10 days since the initial meeting with the adoption services coordinator, the Adoption Placement Agreement can be completed and signed. Once the Adoption Placement Agreement is signed, the biological parents have 30 days to change their mind about the adoption. In the incident that the adoption falls through within the 30 days, the child will rightfully be returned to their biological parents. Birth parents also have the option to waive their rights to reclaim their child within the 30-day period. In order to do this, the birth parents will need to contact the CDSS and sign the waiver with a social worker present. Once it has been 31 days or longer, the adoption is permanent.

In private adoptions, the choice of adoptive parents rests solely on the birth parents. Interstate requirements must be fulfilled if the adoptive parents live outside of the child’s birth state. For more information on specific rights held by birth parents, click here.

Related: Private Adoption in California: Is It Right For Me?

Next Steps in the Private Adoption Process

Once the Adoption Placement Agreement has been signed and submitted, the adoptive parents will need to complete a Petition for Adoption (Adopt-200) and file it with their county’s Superior Court. The original copy of this document should be paired with a copy of the Adoption Placement Agreement. There may be a fee associated with this filing. Reference this fee schedule in the family laws section for more information.

The Adoption Petition should also be sent to the California Department of Social Services. The CDSS will confirm their receipt of the documents. The CDSS can be reached at:

California Department of Social Services
1515 Clay Street, Suite 308
Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 622-2650

Additional Documents Checklist

The CDSS will also require the following documents:

  • Copy of the child’s official birth certificate,
  • Certified copy of the marriage license, and/or
  • Certified copy of a divorce decree (if applicable)

Parents will be notified of any other specific forms that the CDSS requests.

What to Expect of a Home Study

A home study, conducted by a social worker, is required of private adoptions. Here’s what parents can expect for this stage of the adoption process:

  • 2 home visits between all parents and the child,
  • Letters of reference for the adoptive parents,
  • A doctor’s note to confirm that the adoptive parents are in good health and fitness to bring a child into their home (no terminal or life-threatening illnesses),
  • Current occupational status and income,
  • Confirmation of marriage if applicable, and
  • Fingerprinting to confirm the identity of the adoptive parents and to ensure they have not committed any crimes of child abuse. If this is the case, the birth parents must be notified of this information.

The CDSS will inform parents of the fees necessary for a home evaluation.

FAQs About Private Adoption in California: the Basics

Do I need a lawyer for private adoption?

A lawyer is not required for private adoptions due to the role of adoption service coordinators and social workers, however, adoption attorneys are commonly used during this process.

After filling out the paperwork and completing the home study, what comes next?

Six months after the Adoption Petition is filed, the social worker will submit a final report. At the conclusion of this report, the social worker will hopefully recommend that the judge grant approval of the adoption. The social worker will email a copy of this report to all of the parents, and then the Probate Calendar Clerk will set a hearing date to finalize the adoption.

How do I prepare for the hearing?

Submit the following documents at least 10 days before the scheduled hearing date:

Tip: Provide the clerk at the court with two copies of these forms.

What happens before and after the hearing?

All parties should arrive early to the hearing and the child must be in attendance. The hearing will be private between the parties and the judge, and all will sign the Adoption Order and Adoption Expense forms.

After the hearing, the Probate Department at the county Superior Court will file the paperwork. It is important to request additional copies of the Order of Adoption document for personal records and for the social worker’s records.

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If you have any more questions on private adoption in California, contact us. Get your free consultation with one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys today!