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California Adoption: Overview of the Law

Last updated 11/12/2019

Adopting a child is a big decision and can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a family. Nevertheless, opening one's life to a child via adoption can bring its share of challenges too. It comes with a process that can be bureaucratic, tiring at times, and no doubt, emotionally, the process can be taxing as well. The California adoption process can be eased by having a good understanding of available adoption options and by using resources such as reputable adoption agencies or attorneys. See California Adoption Laws to learn more.

Domestic Adoptions through an Agency

There are several ways to adopt a child. Prospective parents can adopt domestically (through an agency or independently), or internationally. Using an adoption agency (whether public or private) has the benefit of being regulated and licensed by the state. Public agencies often handle children who are wards of the state, either due to being orphaned or abused. Private agencies, on the other hand, often handle children who have been placed in their care by parents or expectant parents who wish to give their child up for adoption. Private agencies may be run by either a charity or a social service organization. It is a good idea to thoroughly research the adoption agency prior to proceeding.

Independent Adoptions

Another way to adopt domestically is to do so independently. This means that the adoptive parents and the birth parents arrange the adoption directly. Independent adoption is highly regulated so may be a good idea to consult an attorney before engaging in an independent adoption. This will ensure that all state laws and requirements have been complied with and that the adoption can go through as the parties all wish.

Some people choose to adopt through identification. This is a process that combines the use of an agency but in ways is also more like an independent adoption. With adoption through identification, the adoptive parents find a mother who wishes to put her child up for adoption. Then, both sets of parents ask an adoption agency to handle the remainder of the process. The advantages to this type of adoption is that adoptive parents do not have to be put on a waiting list for a child and they tend to have more control over which child they are able to adopt. The adoptive parents can still benefit from the services (such as professional counseling) that are offered by the adoption agency.

International Adoptions

Perhaps the most difficult and complicated way to adopt a child is to do an international adoption. Adopting children from other countries has become more common in California and elsewhere in recent years.

The reason for the added difficult with international adoption is that adoptive parents must satisfy the laws of the state domestically as well as the laws of the country from which the child is being adopted. Additionally, the adoptive parents will need to consider the fact that they will have to obtain an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States.

As of April 1, 2008, international adoptions have been regulated by the Hague Adoption Convention, which was designed to protect adoptive children, parents and biological parents from unethical adoption practices (i.e. child abduction, adoption scams). Due to the highly technical nature of many international adoptions, the best way to go about it would be to use a U.S. adoption agency that specializes in international adoptions. These adoption agencies are certified by the State Department and are familiar with the processes for international adoptions. They can ensure that appropriate measures are taken with each adoption so as to comply with all necessary laws and regulations.

Same-Sex Adoptions, Adopting an Adult, and More Adoption Topics

California does not have any explicit special restrictions on who may adopt. Adoptions can take place by relatives, stepparents, and same-sex couples. If over the age of 12, California adoption law requires that the child must consent to the adoption and that the birth parents (if alive or available) must consent as well. It is important to note that after an adoption has taken place, the birth parents lose all parental rights to the child and these rights are now held by the adoptive parents.

California also allows adult adoptions. This is a much simpler process than child adoptions as no birth parents need to be involved and no home study needs to be done by adoptive parents. Instead, it is merely one adult consenting to be the lawful child of another.

Want to learn more about California adotion law and procedures or need legal help? Contact a California adoption lawyer for more information. 

California Adoption: Statute

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