Interested in Adopting a Child?
There are several different methods for adopting minor children in California. Each method uses the underlying principle that people who want to adopt must be screened, and the adoption approved by the court. Adoptions typically cost between $5,000 and $10,000; however, some are as low as $3,000 while still others may be as much as $25,000, or more.
In every adoption, both birth parents must consent to the adoption, unless one of them has died or the court is willing to terminate the parental rights of a parent who will not consent or cannot be found. Consent to an independent adoption may be withdrawn within 90 days after signature, and consent may not be given until the child is born.
Termination of parental rights is not available in every situation. Issues revolving around birth parent consent and termination are extremely important and vary depending upon the unique facts and individual circumstances in each case. It is important that this part of the case be evaluated and handled by an experienced adoption attorney.
Most adoptions may be processed through either an adoption agency, or as an independent adoption through the state Department of Social Services. International adoptions must be processed through a licensed adoption agency with the approval of the I.N.S.
All adoptions require a “home study,” which includes a background check (for the adoptive parents and all residents of the home), home visits, fingerprint clearance, employment verification, references, and physicals. The minimum “home study” fee is $4,500, and it may range up to $6,000. Of course, the fees that will be incurred during an independent adoption vary by case; however, the following is a list of some of the fees that can be expected during a typical independent adoption:
Depending upon eligibility, families who adopt eligible children may be reimbursed certain non-recurring expenses through the state’s Adoption Expense Program. The program reimburses families for adoption related expenses that are incurred during the adoption process. The amount of reimbursement is limited to $400 per child. Adoptive parents may 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 Service. Information about state tax benefits can be obtained from the California Franchise Tax Board.
After the investigation, the department or agency files a report with the court. The report will either recommend the adoption or not. If the adoption is recommended and the court agrees, the court will enter a decree of adoption, and order a new birth certificate for the child—at the final court hearing. The final court hearing is conducted privately in the judge’s chambers.
The new birth certificate will arrive six months to a year later, and it will list the adoptive parents, as the child’s parents. At that point, the old birth certificate is also sealed from public view.
The length of time that it takes to adopt a child varies depending upon the type of adoption as well as the child’s individual circumstances. For an independent adoption, the department or agency must investigate the proposed adoption within 180 days after they receive a copy of the filed petition and 50 percent of the adoption fee; however, the court may extend this time with acceptable justification. The process will likely be more lengthy in an agency adoption. An agency adoption may take six months to a year to complete the adoptive family assessment—depending upon the agency’s workload and resources. Placement, in an agency adoption, can occur within one month—to as long as several months—after the family assessment has been approved.
There are many details to be handled during each adoption, and many different issues that arise in different types of placements. Adoptive parents are advised to contact an experienced adoption attorney prior to making any adoption plans. Even a short consultation may save a lot of time, money, and heartache. The Law Office of Kenneth R. Hedberg can assist you with the joyful process of building your family through adoption while ensuring the proper handling of the legal details.
- Family Code §8810. Under section (c) of this statute, the department or agency may reduce the fee to no less than five hundred dollars ($500) when the prospective adoptive parents are lower income, according to the income limits published by the Department of Housing and Community Development, and when making the required payment would be detrimental to the welfare of an adopted child. ↩
- Must qualify for the Adoption Assistance Program under the Non-recurring Adoption Expense Program. ↩
- Alternately, contact the IRS at 1–800–829–1040; reference may also be made to Publication 968 as well as the 2013 Instructions for Form 8839. ↩
- Alternately, contact the state Franchise Tax Board at 1–800–852–5711 and reference the Credit for Child Adoption Costs—Tax Credit Code 197. ↩