California Adoption Laws and Policies

You have many adoption options, and this is the perfect place to begin exploring them. Below, you’ll find California adoption laws and policies and find adoption agencies and attorneys who work with families in California.

Golden Gate Bridge, representing California adoption laws

Each state maintains its own adoption policies, so the process can vary considerably for families in different states. As a California resident, you’ll want to work with an adoption agency or adoption attorney who is very familiar with California adoption laws and policies. Below, you’ll find adoption agencies and adoption lawyers offering services to California families. Scroll past the listings to learn all about the legal guidelines for families adopting in California, whether you’re adopting a newborn through domestic adoption, an infant or older child from U.S. foster care adoption, or a child through international adoption.



A child may be adopted by an adult who is at least 10 years older than the child. An exception to this requirement may be made if the adoptive parent is a stepparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or first cousin of the child and, if that person is married, is adopting jointly with his or her spouse.

Can LGBT families adopt? Yes, same-sex couples can petition for joint adoption.


Can adoptive parents advertise for birth parents? No.

Can out-of-state residents finalize an adoption? Yes, if placing birth mother resided in California at time of consent when petition is filed.

Can adopting parents use an adoption facilitator or another paid intermediary? Yes. Fees and expenses paid must be reported to the court.

What birth parent expenses may be paid, and in what time period? Medical, legal, counseling, living. No official guidelines. Payments in connection with placement for adoption or consent to adoption prohibited.

Is there a putative father registry? No.

When can consent to adoption be granted? Birth mother: After discharge from the hospital, unless child is already discharged; then any time after the child’s discharge if birth mother’s competency is verified.

 When does consent become irrevocable? If consent is revoked, is return to birth parent automatic?

  1. Private: 30 days after signing, unless birth parent waives the right to revoke, in which case irrevocable upon signing.
  2. Agency: After Department of Social Services’ acknowledgement of the relinquishment, which is deemed 10 business days after receipt, if not acknowledge earlier.

Are post-adoption contact agreements legally enforceable? Yes. Enforcement is under the jurisdiction of the court that granted the petition of adoption.


Is a foreign adoption decree automatically recognized by the state? A Hague adoption certificate is recognized as a final valid adoption for purposes of all state and local laws.

Can parents readopt in this state? Is it mandatory? Yes, a state resident who adopts a child through an intercountry adoption that is finalized in a foreign country may readopt the child in California. It is mandatory if it is required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

When will a U.S. birth certificate be issued? When the State Registrar receives a report of adoption from any court of record that has jurisdiction of the child inside or outside of the U.S. and a re-adoption order.


Are adoption subsidies available? When do they start and how long do they last? Yes, adoption subsidies are available for a special needs child as defined by one of the following: 3 years or older, adoption barrier from race, ethnicity, color, or language, member of a sibling group that should remain together, has mental, physical, emotional, or medical disability with proof from professional, and family history of medical/behavioral conditions that would adversely affect child’s development. The child must also be the subject of an agency adoption plus have one of the following: under supervision of the County Welfare Department, relinquished from a private/public adoption agency, or committed to the care of the California Department of Social Services. Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in California when the AAP Agreement is signed by all parties. This may be when the adoption decree is issued by the court or before.

Where can I learn more about the process of adopting a child from foster care in California?


Who may access non-identifying information?

  1. Adoptees age 18 or older.
  2. Adoptive parents if an adoptee is under age 18.

Who may access identifying information? 

  1. Adoptees age 21 or older.
  2. Adoptive parents if an adoptee is under age 21.
  3. Birth parents of an adult adoptee.

Can adoptees obtain their original birth certificates? Yes, but only by order of the court.


Saxon Turner
Department of Social Services
(408) 324-2112
[email protected]

Vaishali Singh-Sood
Children’s Residential, Licensing Program Analyst
(408) 314-1046
[email protected]


Program Manager: Richard Smith

744 P Street, MS 8-13-73
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-8089
Fax: (916) 651-8143
E-mail: [email protected]


DISCLAIMER: The state laws and policies outlined above are offered to readers only for general information and do not constitute legal advice. Furthermore, the state laws were accurate at the time of compilation, but Adoptive Families cannot guarantee that there have been no subsequent changes or revisions to the laws. Please do not rely on the information above without first consulting an adoption attorney licensed in your state. Updated in November 2014.

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