California Independent Adoption
In an independent adoption, the party or parties adopting the child usually have no direct biological ties to the child being adopted. In some situations, the birth parent(s) may personally meet and select the adoptive parent(s). In all cases where a child is available for independent adoption, the process begins by filing a Petition for Adoption in the county where the adoptive parents reside. The court will give notice to the Department of Social Services who will complete an investigation. The Department of Social Services will create a report of their findings and provide it to the court. The court will then decide whether or not the adoption is in the best interests of the child and whether the Petition will be granted. The court may require the prospective adoptive parents to have medical examinations performed by a physician.
In an independent adoption, the timeline for the adoption process will vary based on when the prospective adoptive parents have been chosen by birth parents.
The law covering California independent adoptions is outlined in Family Code Sections 8800-8823.
The Nuts and Bolts of Independent Adoption in California
Each of the following must be true in order to consider a child placed for a California independent adoption:
- Each birth parent placing the child for adoption must have been advised of his or her rights and counseled, if desired.
- An Adoption Service Provider (ADP) must advise the birth parent placing the child for adoption of their rights, responsibilities, and options.
- Each prospective adoptive parent and each birth parent placing the child must sign an adoption placement agreement.
Before signing the agreement, each birth parent must be advised of their rights at least ten days prior, unless special circumstances exist. The agreement may not be signed by the birth parent(s) or by the prospective adoptive parent(s) until the birth mother has been discharged from the hospital.
If, however, the birth mother remains in the hospital for a longer period than the child, the agreement may be signed at the time of, or any time after, the child’s discharge from the hospital as long as the mother’s physician can testify that the mother’s medical condition and medications do not interfere with her competency to sign the agreement. The agreement must be signed by the birth parent(s) and the prospective adoptive parents(s) in the presence of the Adoption Service Provider.
Although the birth parent can revoke this agreement during the initial 30-day period after signing, after this 30-day period the document serves as an irrevocable consent to the adoption. The Adoption Service Provider keeps the original of the agreement and then forwards it, along with any other supporting documentation, to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) or the county adoption agency handling the case.
Within 40 days after filing the Adoption Request, the petitioner(s) must pay a nonrefundable fee to the department doing the home study investigation. This fee may be reduced if the petitioner(s) have a preexisting valid home study from a licensed California agency. Fees are set by law for public agencies. The maximum fee for agency adoptions is $500 and $2,950 for an independent adoption. This fee may be reduced or waived because of economic hardship. Private agencies charge varying fees, depending on the service provided.
Within 180 days after the filing of the petitioner, the CDSS or county adoption agency will conduct an investigation. After their investigation, they will prepare a report and issue a recommendation regarding the adoption. The court may grant the agency additional time to file the report, if necessary.
After the investigative agency’s report has been filed with the court, the adoption can be set for hearing. Both the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the child to be adopted must appear before the court. At the hearing, the Adoption Agreement, Adoption Order and Court Report of Adoption are submitted.