California – Adopting A Child

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DIFFICULTY: Legal help may be required

Initial Filing Fee: $20 per child

California adoption procedures differ depending on the specific type of adoption you are pursuing. There are stepparent/domestic partner adoptions, agency adoptions, international adoptions and adoptions of American Indian children. For any adoption, you must fill out 3 principle forms: the Adoption Request – informs the court and the child’s legal guardians of your intent to adopt, Adoption Agreement – signifies that the adopting parent, and their domestic partner if applicable, agree to take care of the child , and Adoption Order – signed by the judge to signify an approved adoption. Adoptions of children with Indian ancestry must also include an Indian Child Inquiry Attachment and Parental Notification of Indian Status forms. These forms are required to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Step 1: Fill out the Adoption Request, Adoption Agreement and Adoption Order.
Only sign your name on the Adoption Request form. Signatures of adopting parents on the Adoption Agreement and Adoption Order form must be made in the presence of a judge at your assigned adoption hearing. If you are adopting a child with Indian ancestry, you must also fill out the Indian Child Inquiry Attachment and the Parental Notification of Indian Status forms.

  • Adoption Request
  • Adoption Agreement
  • Adoption Order

Step 2: Bring your forms to your local courthouse or meet with your social worker.
If you are seeking a stepparent or domestic partner adoption, you can take your forms directly to the courthouse and you will be assigned a court date. For agency, international and independent adoptions, speak first with your social worker or agency representative. All adoption requests involve an investigation by a social worker to ensure that the adopted child’s future home is suitable. Their report is given to the judge along with your adoption forms. This is normally the longest part of the adoption request, taking anywhere from 6 months up to 1 year. International adoptions can take even longer, depending on the country of origin.

Step 3: Check for your assigned court date.
Once your forms and the social worker’s report are submitted, you will receive a court date for your adoption hearing.

Step 4: Attend your adoption hearing
Go to court along with the child you wish to adopt and copies of all your forms and reports. If the judge grants your adoption, you will then be asked to sign the Adoption Agreement form and the Adoption Order form.

Additional Resources

  • “Adoption FAQs”
  • Indian Child Inquiry Attachment
  • Parental Notification of Indian Status