The adoption process has been around for thousands of years, with roots extending to the ancient Roman Empire and beyond. This legal process establishes a parent-child relationship between adoptive parents and an adopted child. If your family is planning on becoming an adoptive family and you’re a resident of California rather than the Roman Empire, you may be wondering how independent adoption in California works.
This article covers the basic information you need to know about the adoption process in California. While we will cover several different types of adoption available under California adoption laws, we will put special emphasis on California Independent Adoption, which is one of the more popular and cost-effective options.
Adoption Processes in California
In California and other states, adoption laws dictate that after adoption, parental rights shift. The adoptive parent or parents legally become the “new” parents. Consequently, a previous parent-child relationship between the adopted child and any living biological parents ceases.
Both giving up a child for adoption and adopting a child are hard and life-changing decisions that cannot be taken lightly. Such a decision is hard for all parties involved, especially since this decision might affect the entire course of the adopted child’s future. Therefore, it is important that everyone fully understand not just the process, but also all the consequences that adoption creates once it is complete. If you are not sure and have doubts and questions, you may need assistance from adoption facilitators or advisors who can help you make the right decision.
Also, since child adoption is a process with high social sensitivity, all participants are subject to checking and verification from the courts. This may involve a social worker and any public adoption agency that handles the process.
Types of California Adoption Proceedings
California Family Code (CFC) provides the following types of adoption processes:
Stepparent Adoption, where after marrying a child’s biological parent, a stepparent can become a legal parent of the child.
Adult Adoption, or adoption of a person having at least 18 years of age. Here, the adopting parent must be at least ten years older than the adoptee.
Agency Adoption, where the California Department of Social Services or an adoption agency does the selection and matches the child to the adoptive parents.
Independent Adoption, where the biological and adoptive parents make a direct agreement to transfer parental rights via adoption. Here, the biological parents can decide to whom to adopt the child.
If you are interested in independently adopting a child or wish to give a child for adoption and already know with whom you want to do this, you should go with the independent adoption. Keep in mind as well that the advice in this article is about domestic adoption. International adoption can be much more expensive and might require the help of an adoption professional.
Legal Formalities and Fees for Independent Adoption in California
Independent adoption is also known as “private adoption.” As we mentioned above, it is the California adoption process where the biological parents can choose a hopeful parent to adopt their child. A biological parent, including an expectant mother, sometimes wants the ability to choose their biological child’s future caregivers.
Third parties (like a licensed adoption agency) only serve as intermediaries in the independent adoption process. However, the process is subject to complex rules and checks to prevent mistakes and adoption disruption.
Independent adoption is not a simple process. It must meet all legal prerequisites provided by CFC to be valid and to avoid any adoption issues. Here are some of the requirements your adoption plan will have to meet for the Adoption Placement Agreement (APA) to be valid.
Personal Knowledge of the Adoptive Parents
California Family Code (CFC) provides that the birth parents must make their selection decision based upon “personal knowledge of the adoptive parent/s”. Keep in mind that “personal knowledge” is not just a phrase or a formality. It is one of the legal requirements for this type of adoption to be admissible. It means the birth parents truly understand to whom they are giving up their baby for adoption (the adoptive parents’ family condition, criminal history, religion, race, financial position, etc.).
Advising for the Biological Parents
This process requires that both the adopting and adoptive parents are fully informed and give unconditional consent to the adoption. As a part of this process for American adoptions, birth parents placing the child for adoption must be advised of the consequences of the adoption hearing. For example, they have to understand that they won’t have parental rights over the child after adoption.
This has to be done at least 10 days before signing the Adoption Placement Agreement (APA). This is to ensure that the adoptive parents fully understand what the completion of this process will mean for them.
Competency to Sign Adoption Forms
For a domestic infant adoption, CFC also provides the birth mother must leave the hospital before signing the adoption paperwork. If she remains hospitalized for a period longer than the hospitalization of the child, however, there is an exception. If the attending physician and surgeon verify that the birth mother is competent to sign the adoption paperwork, she can do so when the child is discharged from the hospital.
If you are an adoptive parent interested in an independent adoption, you will have to pay independent adoption costs. The cost of adoption is lower for independent adoption than for closed adoption through domestic adoption agencies, but the entire adoption process can still add up. There is a nonrefundable fee to the department or to the delegated county adoption agency for the cost of investigating the adoption petition, for example. The fee amount varies depending on the circumstances from $500 to $4,500.
The Adoption Placement Agreement
The adoption process in California usually includes filling out an adoption request, adoption order, and adoption placement agreement. Because it is possible that your local courts have some specific requirements, you should check the California Courts website for the relevant papers and procedures for adoption.
Whatever county you reside in, prospective parents and biological parents must sign the APA. The APA is the cornerstone document that lays down the agreement between the biological and adoptive parents to make the adoption official. It’s cosigned by the adoption service provider, who must be present at the time of the contract signing.
There is a waiting period associated with an APA. The CFC dictates that on the 31st day after signing APA, it becomes a permanent and irrevocable consent to the adoption. At that point, your legal rights as the adoptive parent will be permanent.
The APA must, at least, include the following parts:
A statement that advisement is received. The birth parents (pregnant mothers or parents of a child that has already been born) must give this statement and thereby confirm that they were advised on this process prior to signing the APA.
Statement of adopting parents explaining that they understand that APA will become a permanent and irrevocable consent to the adoption.
“Personal knowledge” statement. The birth parents must confirm that they have knowledge of certain facts about the adoptive parents as provided by CFC. This includes the basic health and social history of the birth parents.
Consent to the Adoption. The parents must clearly specify that they agree to execute the adoption. Act of adoption must be made with clear intent. There can’t be any coercion or other circumstances that challenge the competence of any of the parents to make this decision on their own.
Further Independent Adoption Processes
After the APA is signed, the process isn’t over yet. In fact, CFC provides that the parents—both the current and future parents—must subject themselves to further processes to verify that the case is fit for the adoption opportunity. This includes court hearings and investigations by adoption agencies.
At the hearing, the court reviews the recommendations of the department or delegated county adoption agency. One of the key assignments of the court is to assess whether the consent given by the birth parents to the adoption of the child by the petitioners is legally valid. This means the birth or biological parents fully understand the meaning and consequences of the adoption.
Also, the adoptive parents are subject to investigation by the adoption advocates. Such officials may check to see if the proposed home is suitable for the child, which also includes interviews with all the persons that give consent to adoption. The agencies are obliged to submit their reports and findings to the court.
Do I Need an Adoption Lawyer?
Direct adoption processes are complex and highly sensitive. However, you don’t need to pay an expensive and experienced adoption lawyer to do the adoption papers and procedural steps for you in most cases. You simply need a proper online tool to help you with the documents so you don’t miss out on procedural details.
How to File for Independent Adoption in California with A People’s Choice
If you decide to represent yourself in the adoption process, you need a reliable online service to help you with the preparation of the papers. Make your life easier and try A People’s Choice online adoption Services. We are here to help make the process painless, quick, and much more affordable than a private adoption attorney.
To get started with us, you’ll fill out an our10-minute adoption questionnaire to give us an overview of your case and figure out which adoption paperwork you need. Our services cost $499 to $650 depending on your case and will help you get your adoption agreements comprehensively and correctly filled out. Check out our blog for more adoption info if you have adoption law questions, or contact us today to get started!