What you should know about private adoptions in California

A private adoption in California works a little differently from agency adoptions, though there are still laws that govern the process.

According to Statistic Brain, which pulls its data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Survey of Adoptive Parents, there are approximately 677,000 private adoptions in the United States each year. People in California wishing to adopt privately, as opposed to going through an agency, should have a good understanding of what the process may entail.

Why do people choose private adoptions over agency adoptions?

Every family may have its own path to expanding. For some, that route is to go through an adoption agency. For others, it is to bypass the agency and conduct a private or independent adoption. A private adoption could mean that wait times are shorter, though there could be a higher cost involved.

In an independent adoption process, the adoptive parents have the ability meet the birth mother and keep an open relationship, though it could still be closed if the parties wish it that way. There are so many variables with each course of action, which is why exploring each option thoroughly is a must.

Are there laws that govern private adoptions in California?

Yes. According to The Superior Court of California, the child in question must be at least 10 years younger than the people wishing to adopt. Additionally, the law enables birth parents to give a child that has already been born to the adoptive parents while the proceedings are taking place.

Is there a home study?

Yes. A social worker visits the adoptive family's home at least twice. He or she gathers information regarding the parents' health and criminal history (or lack thereof). The home study typically requires letters of reference as well.

What is the process like?

The actual adoption process may look a little different for everyone. A private adoption may occur because the birth parents have already found an adoptive family. Or, the birth mother and/or father may work with an adoption attorney or other professional to get connected to a family.

Once that happens and the child is placed with the family, the birth parents and the adoptive parents must sign an adoption placement agreement. This agreement gives birth parents the flexibility to change their minds up to 30 days after signing the document. However, the birth parents are able to sign a waiver giving up their rights to reclaim the child.

After signing the agreement, the adoptive parents must file a petition to adopt at their county's superior court. Various documents may be required, such as a marriage certificate and the child's birth certificate.

Once the home study is complete, the social worker issues a final report that requests the judge to approve the petition. This takes place at least six months after the petition has been filed. There is then a hearing to finalize the adoption.

Who is involved in a private adoption?

Though there is no adoption agency involved, there are still a number of professionals who may play a role, such as the following:

  • A home services provider
  • A counselor for the birth mother and/or the adoptive parents
  • An adoption attorney

Here, the California Department of Social Services provides a list of adoption service providers who go over the process with the people involved.

No matter what route a family chooses, it is important to get the details right. People who have questions about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in California.