What You Need to Know About the Requirements for Adopting a Child in California

Adoptive parents permanently receive parental rights and responsibilities when they complete the adoption process. Here’s everything you need to know about the requirements for adopting a child in California.

Prospective adoptive parents need not be of a specific financial standing, but there are eligibility requirements regarding their age and their level of preparedness to adopt a child. Regardless of whether an independent, international, private or public agency adoption is pursued, it is most important that the adoptive parents provide a loving and stable home for their new child.

Related: California Adoption Laws and Requirements

Initial Steps

Upon contacting a public or private adoption agency or the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), prospective adoptive parents will be acquainted with an agency representative who will orient them to the adoption process. Once the parents decide to move forward with adoption, they will fill out and submit their written application. Next, the adoptive parents will be matched up with a caseworker who will help facilitate the adoption. They will help the hopeful adoptive parents decide which child to adopt through the agency. An additional preliminary requirement include a family assessment, which consists of a scrutinous evaluation of medical, criminal, employment, and marital history of the adoptive parents in particular. At this time, the fitness of the parents to provide a stable, loving, and supportive environment for the adopted child is considered.

For reference, here is a comprehensive list of the Licensed California Adoption Agencies and the CDSS adoptions regional office.

Related: 10 Steps to the California Adoption Process

Age Requirements for Adoption in California

While there is no age limit to adopt in California, the adoptive parents need to be an adult (over the age of 18) and at least 10 years older than the child they intend to adopt. However, if the adoptive parent is already in the child’s life (such as a stepparent), exceptions can be made to this rule.

Relationship Status of the Adoptive Parent(s)

A person does not need to be married in order to adopt a child in California. However, if a prospective adoptive parent is married or in a registered domestic partnership, their partner will need to legally adopt the child as well. In short, both parents must be in agreement to jointly adopt a child. If a couple decides to adopt through a public or private adoption agency, there may be a requirement surrounding how long the couple has been in a legal relationship.

Emotional Readiness

Bringing a new child into a home can result in a wave of emotions. Whether the adopted child will have siblings or whether a single parent is adopting their first child, it may take time for the child to become acclimated with their new phase of life. The same may be true for the adoptive parents. Being patient and open to the adoption process in its entirety, and the lifelong commitment that adoption entails, requires emotional preparation. Adoptive parents may utilize whichever resources will help them best become ready to welcome a new addition to their family. Whether a single parent or a married couple are seeking to adopt, it is important to have the necessary conversation introspectively or with one another to discuss adoption options, and most of all, to make sure this is the right decision to make for themself, (their partner,) and their family.

FAQs About Requirements for Adopting a Child in California

What if the prospective adoptive parent has been convicted of a crime?

This is a large question, and whether or not a prospective parent’s eligibility to adopt is affected by a criminal record will depend on the severity and type of crime committed. If the crime involved any form of domestic violence, child abuse, assault, or harassment, the person will not be allowed to adopt a child. If the felony was of a different nature, social workers are available to talk through the felony’s context, and how the person has made progress since then. The social worker will then determine whether the person is in a suitable position to adopt a child.

How is a child adopted through the foster care system?

If prospective adoptive parents are looking to adopt through the foster care system, many of the requirements for adoption remain the same. Staff members with the CDSS will work with families who are seeking to adopt children who are in foster care. The same family and home life assessment will be required. This evaluation will analyze the same issues, including whether the adoptive parents can afford to adopt a child, can provide a clean and safe environment for the child, and ensure that any other members of the household are on board with the adoption.

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