Parental rights must be terminated as a precondition of adopting a child. Under California law, parental rights can be voluntarily or involuntarily terminated. There are two methods regarding the voluntary termination of parental rights and four methods for the involuntary termination of such rights.
Parental rights may be voluntarily terminated in the following ways:
Parental rights may be involuntarily terminated using the following methods:
For voluntary termination methods, the parents can either “relinquish” the child to an adoption agency or “consent” to an adoption.
Under California law, the termination of the parental rights of a child’s birth parents requires them to jointly relinquish the child to an adoption agency. The relinquish requirement seems to apply only to agency adoptions, while the consent requirement applies to independent adoptions.
An agency adoption involves the placement of a child for adoption with a licensed adoption agency. From there, the agency is responsible for matching the child with prospective adoptive parents. In contrast, independent adoptions involve the direct placement of a child by their birth parent with the prospective adoptive parents. Here, parents give their child directly to a specific person for adoption.
The relinquishment process in agency adoptions takes place when the child’s birth parents file a certified copy of the relinquishment with the California Department of Social Services (DSS), at which point their parental rights are terminated.
In cases involving independent adoptions, the child’s birth parent enters into an adoption placement agreement with the prospective adoptive parent or parents. As part of the adoption placement agreement, the child’s birth parent must sign a consent. Issuance of an adoption decree results in the termination of the consenting birth parent’s parental rights.
If the child’s birth parent changes their mind about giving their child up for adoption, they can revoke or rescind their relinquishment or consent. In agency adoptions, a birth parent can only effect a revocation of their relinquishment before it is filed with the DSS.
Revocation of relinquishment is accomplished by making an oral or written declaration with the DSS, and the adoption agency is required to immediately halt all preparations and adoptive planning for the placement of the child and provide a revocation form to the birth parent. The birth parent must then complete a written request for revocation by the date specified by the adoption agency.
Rescission of relinquishment involves an agreement between the parent and the adoption agency to cancel the relinquishment after it has been filed with the DSS. As soon as an adoption agency receives an oral or written request to rescind the relinquishment, it must stop adoptive planning and provide a rescission form in a process that mirrors a revocation request.
The agency must give the parent an opportunity to tell them the reason for rescission and present a plan for providing the appropriate care for the child.
In independent adoption situations, a birth parent has 30 days from date they signed their consent to adoption to effect a revocation of consent. The parent must sign and deliver a written statement of revocation, requesting the adoptive parents to return the child. If the birth parent timely revokes their consent, the adoptive parents must return the child immediately.
To promote certainty for adoption proceedings, an adoption agency or adoptive parents can negotiate for the birth parent to waive their revocation rights.
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