California foster care and adoption guidelines

We're glad that you are considering fostering or adopting  a child from US foster care.

Contact information

Phone (teléfono): 888-336-8860
Email (correo electrónico): (email must have a subject line)
Información en español: frequentes preguntas sobre adopción

Resources provided by California Kids Connection:

Also see the California Department of Social Services website.


On this page:

Foster parent licensing requirements

A license is required to become a foster family in California. The process requires a licensing worker to visit your home and meet with you and other family members. Minimum personal, safety, and space requirements are required by law. Foster parents work with social services staff to determine the type of child best suited for their home (i.e., age, health issues, and gender). Much of the licensing process is the same as that of adoption licensing. More information is available from the California Department of Social Services.

Adoption licensing requirements

Adoptive parents complete forms on their criminal and employment backgrounds, among other paperwork. The home study process also includes an interview to ascertain whether the potential parents are prepared for adoption. Some of the issues covered in the home study include:

  • Is the house clean and safe?
  • Is there room for the child?
  • If the applicants are married, how long have they been married? (You don't have to be married to adopt.)
  • If people are adopting as a couple, are both people eager to adopt?
  • Do the applicants have any experience with children?
  • Can they afford to have the child?

The goal of the interview and examination process is not to make sure the applicants have a lot of money, a big house, or a great deal of education. Instead, the goal is to verify that adoption is the appropriate choice for the family. The home study is also an opportunity for the potential parents to obtain information from the agency worker and to have their questions answered. More information is available from the California Department of Social Services and also at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Costs to foster and adopt

Typically, there is no fee for families interested in adopting a child or sibling group from foster care. Licensed public adoption agencies (also known as California Department of Social Services adoptions district offices) may require that you pay a fee of no more than $500. This fee may be deferred, reduced, or waived under certain conditions. There are also many adoption agencies who do not require applicants to pay this fee.

You should also expect to pay for fingerprinting, medical examinations, court filing, and other adoption-related costs such as CPR classes or any necessary water safety classes. These requirements are usually no more than $100 to $300, and some of these expenses may be reimbursable after the adoption is finalized.

Agency contact and orientation information

List of California foster and adoption agencies by county:

Counties A-P in English (327 KB PDF)/Condado A-P en Español (403 KB PDF)
Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas

Counties R-Z in English (636 KB PDF)/ Condado R-Z en Español (758 KB PDF)
Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, Yuba

Directory of Licensed California Adoption Agencies (121 KB PDF)

Parent support group contacts

Find adoption and foster resources for California at Child Welfare Information Gateway's National Foster Care and Adoption Directory Search.


Information on children

There are more than 55,000 children in foster care in California, about 34 percent of whom are placed with relatives. The majority will return home to live with their family as soon as the problems that caused their entry into care are sufficiently resolved. About 5,500 children are adopted each year, and about 2,000 California children need an adoptive family every day.