Assessing a Petitioner(s) for an Independent Adoption

0200-507.15 | Revision Date: 09/14/20


This policy guide provides information on the procedures for assessing a petitioner(s) for an independent adoption.



Independent Adoption Petitions

DCFS Investigations


Assessing the Petitioner's Suitability as an Adoptive Parent

Adoption CSW Responsibilities

Completing the Assessment

Adoption CSW Responsibilities

Presenting the Child's Written Assessment to the Petitioner(s) Prior to Finalizing the Adoption

Adoption CSW Responsibilities


Helpful Links


Referenced Policy Guides


Version Summary

This policy guide was updated from the 07/01/14 version to add information about completing a Megan’s Law check. Also, the requirement to complete a CWS/CMS search was deleted to conform to the Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) Adoption User Manual requirements. Independent Adoption forms links were updated to ensure the most current form is used. Also, gender neutral terms were added.


Independent Adoption Petitions

After an independent adoption petition has been filed, an independent adoption agency must investigate the adoption and file a court report recommending whether or not to grant the petition. The following individuals can file a petition to adopt a child:


If two (2) separate agencies receive copies of petitions to adopt the same child, DCFS and the other agency must:


A petition to adopt a child must be filed by a petitioner:

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DCFS Investigations

Once an adoption petition is filed, the petitioner(s) or the petitioner's legal advisor sends an endorsed copy of the petition and related documents with fifty percent (50%) of the adoption fee, and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all parties to be interviewed to DCFS. DCFS then investigates the petition within one hundred and eighty (180) days. The Adoption Assistant (AA) enters the assignment into the Adoption Integrated Systems and sends the DCFS/AI 11, Letter to Petitioner(s), and attachments to the petitioner(s) to complete and return to the assigned CSW within seven (7) calendar days. The petitioner(s) must be interviewed as many times as necessary to complete the assessment.


During the investigation, DCFS must:


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Assessing the Petitioner's Suitability as an Adoptive Parent

Adoption CSW Responsibilities

  1. Conduct at least one (1) interview in the home of the petitioner(s) as soon as possible and no later than forty-five (45) business days or thirty (30) business days after the receipt of an endorsed copy of the adoption petition and 50% of the adoption investigation fee has been paid. (The thirty (30) business day requirement applies in cases where DCFS is completing the applicant assessment. The requirement does not apply to cases where the client has an approved applicant assessment and DCFS is conducting a post placement investigation). If there is more than one (1) petitioner, conduct separate interviews with each petitioner and a joint interview with both petitioners.
  1. Conduct interviews with all other adults in the home.
  1. Interview all children who live in the petitioner's home, if age appropriate.
  1. Make another contact with the petitioner(s) if the court report is submitted more than three (3) months after the last contact.


  1. Upon receipt of the completed AD 9, Independent Adoption Questionnaire, and AD 4324, Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) Questionnaire 1, from the petitioner(s), contacts the petitioner(s) to set a meeting date.
  1. If the petitioner(s) do not return the AD 9 and AD 4324, contact them to determine if they still want to proceed with the adoption.
  1. If they do not want to proceed, refer to Court Reports for an Independent Adoption.


  1. During the initial interview, discuss:


  1. Explain the following:


  1. Provide the petitioner(s), and any adult age eighteen (18) or older with the DCFS 5600 and direct the petitioner(s) to the location where their fingerprints will be taken.


  1. Ask the petitioner if they and/or any adult residing in the home have resided in a state other than California in the past five (5) years. If so:
  1. Contact the state(s) where the individual resided to determine if the individual is listed on that state's child abuse registry.
  1. If the state does not maintain a registry, document that fact in the Case Notes along with the date the state was contacted.
  1. If the state does maintain a registry, follow the procedures set forth by the state to obtain the individual's case record information.
  1. If information from another state's registry indicates a history of child abuse or neglect, review the facts of the case as part of the determination to approve the assessment.
  1. If the facts are not provided upon the initial request, contact the agency with the case record in that state for information about the circumstances of the abuse or neglect.
  1. Consult with the SCSW and/or the County Counsel regarding any concerns or potential barriers to approval.
  1. Interview applicant/adult(s) regarding child abuse or neglect history.
  1. Document the contact with the other state's child abuse central registry and/or the agency holding the case records in the Case Notes. Include the following:


  1. Explain to the petitioner(s) that the following certificates and documentation is needed by the next interview.  If they have obtained the service of a legal advisor, the legal advisor can help them obtain any of the following:


  1. If the petitioner(s) spouse does not choose to adopt the child, discuss the reasons for not adopting the child with the petitioner and spouse.
  1. Provide the spouse with the DCFS/A 6, Consent of Spouse, that needs to be signed before a Notary Public
  1. Include the reasons why the spouse did not choose to adopt in the court report when it is completed.


  1. Obtain the names and addresses of three (3) references who know the petitioner(s) and mail the AD 10, Request for Reference, to them.
  1. Face-to-face interviews with individuals can be substituted for the letter of reference.
  1. Document interviews in the adoption case record.


  1. Provide the petitioner(s) with the AD 524, Physician's Examination of Adoption/Petitioner, to sign and give to their primary physician to complete and return to you.
  1. Explain that the AD524 must be signed by a licensed physician or a nurse practitioner who practices under a licensed physician and must have been conducted no earlier than six months prior to the filing of the petition.
  1. Explain that the petitioner(s) and each adult, age eighteen (18) and older residing in the home must have a certificate that documents that they are free from communicable tuberculosis.


  1. Provide the petitioner(s) with a copy of the AD 4310, Adoption Programs Notice Required by Information Practices Act, and explain that the provisions of the Practice Act of 1977 are described on this form.


  1. Provide the petitioner(s) with the ADM 36, Medical Reporting Regarding Child to be Adopted, to complete Section A, and submit to the child's physician to complete Section B.


  1. Provide the petitioner(s) with a DCFS/A I 19, Independent Adoption Fee Agreement, to complete and sign.
  1. Explain that the remaining balance of the agreed upon fee amount must be paid to the DCFS at the address shown on the DCFS/A I 19 prior to the filing of the final adoption report.
  1. Explain that payments can be made in increments, as needed.
  1. Collect the fee from the petitioner(s) and the signed and completed DCFS/A I 19.
  1. Immediately stamp "For Deposit only County of Los Angeles" on the back of the check.
  1. Inform the petitioner(s) that the Finance Department will mail them a receipt.
  1. File a copy of the check and the DCFS/A I 19 in the case file.
  1. Forward the check and the original copy of the DCFS/A I 19 to the Finance Department.
  1. Explain to the petitioner(s) that the Department is not required to submit the final report to the court until all fees have been paid.
  1. If the petitioner(s) have made a valid request for a fee reduction, complete the DCFS/A I 43, Request for an Independent Adoption Fee Waiver Reduction or Deferral, and submit the request to the SCSW for approval.


  1. Explain to the petitioner(s) that they may file an appeal if:


  1. Complete the AD 100, Authorization for Release of Information, for the release of medical, financial, and employment information, if necessary. Obtain the petitioner's signature authorizing approval.


  1. Provide the petitioner(s) with a copy of the Questionnaire II, to complete during the interview.


  1. Review the information contained in the AD 9, AD 918, and AD 4324 with the petitioner(s) and begin the assessment of the petitioner(s) in the following areas:
  1. General characteristics for the petitioner(s) and any children or other adults residing in the home including:
  1. Feelings and attitudes the petitioner(s) has that may impact the adoption, including:
  1. Social background of the petitioner(s), including:
  1. Educational backgrounds, financial stability, work adjustment of the petitioner(s)
  1. Adequacy of housing, which may include evaluation of the following conditions:


  1. Following the initial interview, complete a Megan's Law registered sex offender check on the petitioner(s) and any adults residing in the home to determine if they are a registered sex offender, as soon as possible.
  1. If there is hit, consult with SCSW on how to proceed.


  1. Complete a JAI Clearance for any child age fourteen (14) or older who resides in the home.


  1. Review the Live-Scan clearances.
  1. Obtain a copy of any arrest by contacting the arresting agency, if applicable.
  1. Assess the effects of the arrest on the ability of the applicant(s) to provide adequate and proper care and guidance to the child.
  1. Review the list of non-approvable crimes.
  1. If the arrest/conviction is a non-approvable crime, inform the SCSW.
  1. If the arrest and/or conviction does not meet the criteria of a non-approvable crime, document contacts and information regarding the arrest in the case file and consult with the SCSW.


  1. Review all obtained documents and the case record. If needed, meet with the petitioner(s) to gather any missing documents or information needed to complete the assessment.


  1. Complete the assessment of the petitioner(s).

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Completing the Assessment

Adoption CSW Responsibilities

The assessment can be completed once the birth parent(s) have been interviewed and all known medical and psychosocial information about the child and parent(s) has been received.


  1. Meet with the child to determine the child's readiness for adoption, willingness to be adopted, and the child's adjustment in the home of the petitioner(s).


  1. Complete the AD 512, Psychosocial and Medical History of Child, and any other supporting documents that include the following information:


  1. Attach the written assessment, AD 67, Information about the Birth Mother, AD 67A, Information about the Birth Father, and all obtained medical, psychological, and school reports to the AD 512.


  1. File a copy in the adoptions case record.

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Presenting the Child's Written Assessment to the Petitioner(s) Prior to Finalizing the Adoption

Adoption CSW Responsibilities

  1. Meet with the petitioner(s) to review the AD 512, Psychosocial and Medical History of Child, and its attachments.
  1. Disclose to the petitioner(s) all available medical and family background information about the child and their birth parent(s).
  1. Provide the petitioner(s) with a copy of all reports and attachments listed on the AD 512.
  1. Advise the petitioner(s) that, upon receipt of the medical report, the petitioner(s) should consult their physician or mental health professional for further evaluation or interpretation, particularly if the report contains sensitive material.
  1. Advise the petitioner(s) that the child may need further psychological evaluations from a mental health professional if the child's background or health history indicates the need for such an evaluation.


  1. Obtain the petitioner(s) signature in the space provided on the AD 512 and on the bottom of the written assessment acknowledging receipt of all listed reports, documents, and information.


  1. Document in the adoption case record and final adoption court report the name of any report, document, or information that DCFS was unable to obtain and the reason the information was not available.


  1. Prior to the finalization of the adoption, if any new information is received after the AD 512 has been signed:
  1. Update the AD 512 and provide this information to the petitioner(s) upon receipt of the information.
  1. Include in the adoption case record a description of the manner in which the new information was released and the date on which the information was released.


  1. If the petitioner(s) choose to proceed with the adoption, refer to Court Reports for an Independent Adoption.


  1. If the petitioner(s) do not choose to proceed with the adoption, immediately submit a report to the court, informing the court of their decision.

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SCSW Approval



LA Kids

AAP 5, Adoption Assistance Program Independent Adoption Program

AD 67, Information about the Birth Mother (Spanish)

AD 67A, Information about the Birth Father (Spanish)

DCFS/A 6, Consent of Spouse

DCFS 5600, Live-Scan Criminal History Request

AD 100, Authorization for Release of Information

LIC 198B, Out-of-State Child Abuse/Neglect Report Request / Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006

Hard Copy

AD 9, Independent Adoption Questionnaire

AD 100, Authorization for Release of Information

AD 512, Psychosocial and Medical History of Child

AD 524, Physician's Examination of Adoption/Petitioner

AD 4310, Adoption Programs Notice Required by Information Practices Act

ADM 36, Medical Report Regarding Child to be Adopted

DCFS/A I 43, Request for an Independent Adoption Fee Waiver Reduction or Deferral

Referenced Policy Guides

0050-501.10, Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA)

0070-559.10, Clearances

0200-506.10, Applicant Assessment for Adoption of Children

0200-507.30, Court Reports for an Independent Adoption

0900-511.20, Adoption Fees

1200-500.05, Adopting and Serving Children Under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)


California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Adoptions Manual 35083 – Summarizes the requirements for conducting interviews during the adoption assessment.


CDSS Adoptions Manual 35089 – Summarized the information needed for an assessment of the petitioner(s).


Family Code (FAM) Section 8524 – States that an independent adoption means the adoption of a child in which neither the department nor an agency licensed by DCFS is a party to, or joins in, the adoption petition.


FAM Section 8706 – States, in part, that an agency cannot place a child for adoption unless a written report on the child's medical background, and if available, the medical background of the child's biological parents, has been submitted to the prospective adoptive parent(s) and they have acknowledged in writing that receipt of the report.


FAM Section 8712 – States, in part, that under no circumstances shall DCFS or a licensed adoption agency give final approval for an adoptive placement in any home where the prospective adoptive parent(s) or any adult living in the home has either a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, crimes against a child, crimes involving violence, or a felony conviction within the last five (5) years for physical assault, battery, or a drug or alcohol related offense.


FAM Section 8801.5 – States, in part, that each birth parent placing a child for adoption must be advised of their rights by an adoption service provider (ASP), including their rights in a face-to-face meeting in which the birth parent may ask questions and have questions answered. States that DCFS prescribes the format and process for advising the birth parent(s) of their rights, including the content that should be included, and alternatives to adoption.


FAM Section 8802 – States, in part, that any of the following who desire to adopt a child may file a petition in the county in which the petitioner resides, or if the petitioner is not a resident of California, in the county in which the placing birth parent(s) resided when the adoption placement agreement was signed, or the county in which the placing birth parent(s) resided when the petition was filed:

An adult who is related to the child or the child's half sibling by blood or affinity, including all relatives whose status is preceded by the words "step", "great", "great-great", or "grand", or the spouse of any of those persons, even if the marriage was terminated by death or dissolution, or a person named in the will of a deceased parent as an intended adoptive parent where the child has no other parent, or a person with whom a child has been placed for adoption, or a legal guardian who has been the child's legal guardian for more than one (1) year.


FAM Section 8804(a) – States, in part, that the selection of a prospective adoptive parent(s) must be personally made by the child's birth parent(s) and cannot be delegated to an agent. The act of selection by the birth parent(s) must be based on their personal knowledge of the prospective adoptive parent(s).


FAM Section 8807 – States that within one hundred and eighty days (180) days after receiving fifty percent (50%) of the adoption fee, DCFS or a delegated county adoption agency must investigate the proposed independent adoption and, after the remaining balance of the fee is paid, submit to the court a full report of the facts disclosed by its inquiry with a recommendation regarding the granting of the petition.


FAM Section 8808 – States, in part, that DCFS or a delegated county adoption agency must interview the petitioner(s) within forty-five (45) working days, excluding legal holidays, after the filing of the adoption petition. They must interview all persons from whom consent is required and whose addresses are known as soon as fifty percent (50%) of the adoption fee has been paid to them.


FAM Section 8810 – States that, except as otherwise provided in this section, whenever a petition is filed under this chapter for the adoption of a child, the petition must pay a nonrefundable fee to the department or to the delegate county adoption agency for the cost of investigating the adoption petition. Fifty percent (50%) of the payment must be made when the adoption petition is filed and the remaining balance must be paid no later than the date determined by DCFS or a delegated adoption agency. The investigation fee is:

$4,500 for the filing of the petition.

For petitioner(s) who have a valid pre-placement evaluation at the time of filing a petition, the fee is $1,550 for the post-placement evaluation.


FAM Section 8811.5 – States that a licensed private or public adoption agency of the state of the petitioner(s) residency can certify prospective adoptive parent(s) by a pre-placement evaluation that contains a finding that an individual is suited to be an adoptive parent. The pre-placement evaluation must include an investigation pursuant to standards included in the regulations governing independent adoption investigations established by DCFS.


FAM Section 8820 – Summarized when a birth parent(s) or petitioner(s) may appeal.


Health and Safety Code Section 1522.1(b) – States that if any prospective licensed or certified foster parent or adoptive parent, or any person over the age of eighteen (10) residing in the home, has lived in another state in the preceding five (5) years, the licensing agency or licensed adoption agency must check that state's child abuse and neglect registry.


Penal Code (PEN) Section 280 – States that any person who willfully causes of permits the removal or concealment of any child in violation of FAM Sections 8713, 8803, or 8910 will be subject to imprisonment.


Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 16120 – States that a child is eligible for Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) benefits if the child received AAP benefits in a prior adoption and the child is again available for adoption because the prior adoption was dissolved and the parental rights of the adoptive parent(s) were terminated or because the child's adoptive parent(s) died.

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