Adoption FAQ

What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process which permanently gives parental rights to adoptive parents. Adoption means taking a child into your home as a permanent family member. It means caring for and guiding children through their growing years and giving them the love and understanding they need to develop their full potential.

Is there financial assistance?

Many states and the federal government can sometimes provide financial assistance and some medical coverage for many of today's waiting foster children. This assistance may continue until the child is 18 or, in certain circumstances, age 21.

Both of us work. Will I have to quit my job if I want to adopt or be a foster parent?

No. Both parents can be working as long as appropriate childcare arrangements are made.

I don't own my own home or I live in an apartment. Can I adopt?

Yes. You don't have to own a house to give a home. You can rent or own as long as your home is safe and has enough room for family members. What is most important is the love, understanding and guidance you can offer a child.

Can single parents adopt?

Yes, single men and women can also adopt. In fact, approximately one-fourth of the children adopted from the public foster care system are adopted by single individuals.

Am I too old?

Not necessarily, As long as you are in good health and have the energy and desire to be a parent; age is not a decisive factor. A 50-or-55 year-old person or couple may be perfect for the adoption of an older child.

What ages of children are available--do you have any babies?

The age of children available for adoption varies. Persons wishing to adopt infants may expect to wait some time for their application to be selected, as most agencies have many homes already approved and waiting for the placement of infants.

How do I find a child, and how do I adopt a child?

Contact your local public adoption agency for their orientation schedule. After you complete the orientation and an application, the agency will assign an adoption caseworker to discuss the adoption process, the type of child you wish to adopt, and the children that are available through the public adoption agency. You must participate in a "family assessment" in which you provide the agency with your family background information and take part in a series of meetings with the social worker. You may also wish to consider adopting through a licensed private adoption agency. You will need to contact licensed private agencies in your area for information about their services, requirements and fees.

How much will it cost to adopt? Do we need an attorney?

Costs will vary by state and by the type of agency used for the adoption.  As an example, for public agency adoptions, at the time the licensed county adoption agency or the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) files a favorable court report recommending that the adoption petition be approved, the county adoption agency or CDSS may require the petitioners (applicants) to pay a fee of no more than $500. This fee may be deferred, waived or reduced under certain conditions. Please note that adoption fees charged by licensed private adoption agencies are not set by the State and will vary. You can also expect to pay for fingerprinting, medical examination, court filing and other adoption-related costs that usually total no more than $100-$300.

Adoptive parents may also qualify for a federal tax credit for certain expenses paid to adopt an eligible child with special needs and a State tax credit for adopting a child who was in the custody of a California public child welfare agency. For further information about the federal adoption tax benefit, contact the Internal Revenue Services at or 1-800-829-1040 and request Publication 968.

For independent adoptions, the adoptive parent(s) are sometimes required to pay a fee to the applicable state or county agency for the investigation of the independent adoption. This fee may be deferred, waived or reduced under certain, limited conditions. For example, the fee in California is $2,950 to CDSS.

Services of an attorney are generally not necessary in an agency adoption. Although independent adoptions can be done without the involvement of an attorney in some instances, the involvement and consultation of a legal professional is generally desirable to ensure all legal requirements are met and the rights of the parties to the adoption are protected.

If I find a child in another country, how can I adopt him/her?

Through the Intercountry Adoption Program, licensed private adoption agencies are specially licensed to assist persons in adopting eligible foreign-born orphans who are determined eligible for an entry visa by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service for the purposes of adoption. By federal law, a single person desiring to adopt through this program must be 25 years of age or older and must be a United States citizen. A couple applying to adopt must be married and one of the couple must be a United States citizen.

What are the differences between independent, agency and Intercountry adoptions?

Independent adoption is when a birth parent places a child directly with prospective adoptive parent(s) for the purpose of adoption.

Agency adoption is when a birth parent gives up and transfers his or her legal parental rights to a child to a licensed public or private adoption agency. The adoption agency becomes legally responsible for the care, custody and control of the child. The agency studies and approves adoptive applicants before placing a child in their home for adoption, then supervises the placement for six or more months before the court approves the adoption.

Intercountry adoption is the adoption of foreign-born children for whom federal law makes a special immigration entry visa available. The adoption does not confer U.S. citizenship to the foreign-born child, and additional steps are necessary to fulfill requirements of federal immigration and naturalization laws.

How long will it take to adopt a child?

The process of adoption can be lengthy but well worth the wait. Depending on the workload of the agency selected, it can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete an adoption family assessment. Most adoptive placements occur one to several months after the family assessment has been approved.

What is a stepparent adoption?

A stepparent adoption is when a stepparent petitions the court for adoption of his/her spouse's child (current spouse of stepparent) from a former marriage/relationship. Both the parent retaining custody and the other birth parent must consent to the adoption. Stepparent adoptions are generally much less complicated and are often handled by your local county government.

What is the difference between adoption and guardianship?

Adoption is the permanent legal assumption of all parental rights and responsibilities for a child. Adoptive parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities as parents whose children are born to them. Guardianship establishes responsibility, which is not permanent, for caring for and financially supporting a child and may be subject to ongoing supervision of the court.

Adopted from an article by the State of California.