Adoption is the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from a child’s birth parents to adoptive parents. Santa Barbara Department of Social Services offers adoption services and is able to facilitate adoptions of children in foster care as well as assist birth parents who are considering placing their child for adoption. If you are a birth parent who would like more information about the adoption process and available options, please call (866) 899-2649 or (800) 367-0166

Adopting a Child in Foster Care

The majority of foster children adopted through Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services enter foster care through no fault of their own; because of abuse, neglect or abandonment (have suffered some form of abuse or neglect). All children in foster care experience some form of trauma. In addition, many have experienced the difficult task of adjusting to new families, neighborhoods and schools while in foster care. They need people in their lives who will do whatever it takes to provide the nurturing and secure environment all children deserve to develop their full potential. Though it is possible to adopt an infant from foster care, the children who are in need of stable prospective adoptive homes vary in age. Generally, children in foster care range from toddlers to 21 with the median age of 8 years old.

Adopting a child from the child welfare system is a unique process that is most successful when prospective adoptive parents have the personal ability to support a child as the court assesses and makes the decisions to place the child for adoption. This ability doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with income, age, marital status, or any other type of concrete requirement. A child in the foster care system needs a resource family that is able to be patient, flexible, compassionate and loving. An important aspect of fostering, even while the foster family is being considered to adopt the child in their care, is that resource parents must actively support efforts to reunify children with their birth parents so long as reunification remains the child’s permanency plan.

Who Can Adopt?

Except for certain criminal convictions such as violent or sexual crimes against children, there are few circumstances that automatically disqualify an applicant from adoption. The following may help dispel some common myths about who can adopt:

  • Applicants may be single, married, partnered, divorced, widowed or legally separated
  • Home ownership is not necessary
  • There are no set income requirements—adoptive applicants need to show they can meet their new family’s basic needs
  • The adoptive applicant and the child do not have to be the same race, color, or of the same national origin
  • Age is generally not a barrier. As long as prospective parents are in good health and have the energy and desire to be a parent, age is not a deciding factor.

Adoption through Santa Barbara County DSS requires involvement with the dependency court and adherence to public child welfare regulations. As a child-focused agency, our primary responsibility is finding families for children.

Steps to Adoption

In order to adopt, interested individuals must first be approved as Resource Families in order to care for the child until the adoption is finalized. Relatives of children they wish to adopt, must also be approved as Resource Families. 

The steps to adoption include:

  1. Complete Online Resource Family Approval Orientation
  2. Complete the required Pre-Service Training and Paperwork
  3. Livescan Fingerprinting, TB Test and Medical Clearance
  4. Complete a psycho-social study
  5. CPR & First Aid Training
  6. Complete a Resource Family Home Visit
  7. Welcome a child in foster care into your family
  8. Finalize and Celebrate Your Child’s Adoption

For more information about becoming a Resource Parent, click here.

After a child is placed in your care and the courts have ruled that adoption is in the best interest of the child you will be assigned a social worker who specializes in the adoption process.  The adoption social worker will work with you to complete the adoption process and conduct an adoption child-parent suitability assessment with you.  

Adoption Assistance Program (AAP)

Financial assistance is available to cover all or most of the costs of adopting children from foster care and to fund their medical and mental health needs.

The Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) is an entitlement program to provide financial and medical coverage to facilitate the adoption of children who otherwise would remain in long-term foster care.

(was established by the federal and state governments to provide) The California State Legislature created the Adoption Assistance Program with the intent to provide the security and stability of a permanent home through adoption. (financial assistance to help families with the ongoing expenses of caring for a child adopted from Resource Family). 

AAP continues until the eligible child reaches 18 years of age, or in some cases until they reach 21 years of age.

The benefits available for AAP eligible children are as follows:

  • Monthly negotiated financial benefit based upon the special needs of the child and circumstances of the family.
  • Medical coverage (Medicaid/Medi-Cal).
  • Reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses (up to $400 per child per adoption).
  • Payment for an eligible out of home placement.
  • Payment for eligible Wraparound services.
  • Benefits may continue in a subsequent adoption.
  • Continues regardless of the adoptive family’s state or country of residence.
  • If specific criteria/conditions are met, benefits may continue to age 21.
  • A monthly financial benefit, medical insurance through Medi-Cal.
  • Payment for residential treatment or Wraparound services and continuation of AAP benefits in a re-adoption.
  • The amount of financial assistance is determined based upon the special needs of the child and circumstances of the family.
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