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)

Resources provided by California Kids Connection:

Also see the California Department of Social Services website.


On this page:

Foster parent licensing requirements

The Resource Family Approval (RFA) Program is a family-friendly and child-centered approval process. Once caregivers are approved resource families, they will not have to undergo any additional approval or licensure if they choose to adopt or be appointed a guardian for a child in foster care.
Basic requirements and qualifications include applicant(s) being at least 18 years of age. The applicant(s) must attend an orientation, submit an application packet, followed by pre-approval training, and become certified in CPR and first aid. The RFA process will include a comprehensive psychosocial assessment and a home safety inspection. Upon meeting all those requirements, the applicant(s) will be approved as a resource family.
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 a bedroom 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

Find lists of California foster and adoption agencies by county on the California Kids Connection website.

Post-adoption support services

Locate post-adoption and guardianship support services in California, including parent support groups.

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.