Adoptions/Legal Guardianship

What is Adoption?

Adoption is the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from a child’s biological parents to the adoptive parents. Adoption is intended to provide a child with a permanent family when they are unable to return to their birth families.

The Resource Family Approval Program is responsible for finding and preparing Resource Families for children who are dependents of Riverside County Juvenile Court due to neglect, abuse, or abandonment, and who cannot return to their birth families.

 What is a Legal Guardian?

A “Legal Guardian” is a person lawfully vested with the power and charged with the duty of providing the care and management of a minor child (child under age 18); a person appointed by the superior court pursuant to the provisions of Probate Code Section 1514, or appointed by the juvenile court pursuant to the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code Section 366.25 or .26.

The Riverside County Juvenile Court appoints relative or non-related legal guardians for dependent children. The Probate Court appoints legal guardians for non-dependent children. Once a legal guardianship is established, the child is referred to as a "ward" of the court. 

Who may become an  Adoptive Parent or Legal Guardian?

A legal guardian may be:

  • Relatives
  • Non-related adults

Single people can make excellent adoptive parents or guardians and provide the attention and nurturing children need. Age requirements are flexible as long as your health, energy, and desire are appropriate for placement.

Adoptive parents or guardians may reside in rented/leased properties and are not required to own their homes. Both parents may be working outside the home and still be adoptive parents or guardians. A large income is not a criterion for placement. Adoptive parents or guardians need only an income sufficient for basic family needs. The Adoption Assistance Program can provide monthly payments and medical coverage for many of California's adopted children. Relative Legal Guardians may receive CalWORKs and non-related legal guardians may receive foster care benefits and medical coverage to assist in providing for the care of the child.

Each year in Riverside County, hundreds of people from all walks of life adopt. You do not have to be married or own your own home to adopt. Many adoptive parents are single, married or reside with a domestic partner. You do have to have some source of income to adopt. In order to be a fully approved adoptive home with Riverside County Adoptions, you must reside in Riverside County. Per state law, you must also must be 10 years older than the child you are adopting.

How do you become an Adoptive Parent or Legal Guardian?

When the Juvenile Court has assumed care and custody of a child and the he/she has been placed in your home by the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), you will be asked if you would consider becoming the child’s adoptive parent or legal guardian if reunification efforts with the child’s parents fail. Note: A “concurrent plan", which is an alternate plan created in case the initial plan does not succeed, will include your response to this question at the beginning of the placement as a course of providing the most comprehensive plan for the child.

At a permanency planning hearing in the Juvenile Court, the Judicial Officer may:

  • terminate parental rights if prospective adoptive parents have been identified and rights if the birth parent has failed to, or
  • authorize County Counsel to file a petition for guardianship.

Legal Guardianship: County Counsel will mail guardian papers and request that you sign the guardianship papers. An envelope will be provided and these papers must be returned to the County Counsel’s Office. Counsel will file these papers in the Juvenile Court and the social worker will notify you of a hearing to establish the guardianship in the Juvenile Court.

You may also file in the Superior Court for appointment as legal guardian of a child by employing a private attorney to do so, or by filing in Pro Persona, i.e., acting as your own attorney. If the child is a ward of the Juvenile Court, this should not be pursued without first informing the Social Worker and the Juvenile Court. If the child has been placed with you voluntarily by the parent, either through the DPSS or as a private placement, the consent and cooperation of the birth parent should be sought.

Adoption: If it is determined that the child will not be able to reunify with his/her parents, and you have expressed an interest and willingness to adopt, you will be referred to an adoption worker. The adoption worker will meet with you and your family to complete a Parent Child Suitability assessment.

Once a preliminary adoption assessment has been submitted to court, parental rights were terminated, and all agency paperwork has been completed, a hearing will be scheduled to finalize the adoption.

The Adoption Process

To become an adoptive family you must be an approved Resource Family. In Riverside County, we have an urgent need for families who want to adopt older children, sibling sets, or children with special medical or developmental needs. Families willing to adopt these types of children will be given priority in the Resource Family Approval process.

If you would like to adopt a child, contact: Riverside County Department of Public Social Services 1-800-665-KIDS

Heart Gallery

The Heart Gallery is a traveling portrait exhibit of children who are in need of finding their forever family. These children need love, happiness and a sense of belonging. They need a home. It could be yours!

For more information click here.

Adoptions Assistance Payment Program

The Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) provides financial and medical assistance to families for children adopted from our agency who have special needs. Eligibility to AAP payments is determined by the adoptions Social Service Worker (SSW).

  • The amount of the AAP payment must be set through negotiation between the adoption agency and the adoptive family.
  • The payment amount cannot exceed the foster care maintenance payment that the child would have received had he or she remained in foster care.
  • AAP benefits may continue until the child reaches age 18, or age 21 if the child has a mental or physical condition which, upon social worker determination, warrants the continuation of assistance.
  • If no cash payment is required at the time of adoption in order for the adoptive family to meet the AAP eligible child’s needs, a deferred payment AAP agreement can be signed prior to finalization of the adoption. This ensures continued eligibility and the family’s ability to receive benefits in the future should the child’s needs or family circumstances change such that cash assistance is required to meet the child’s needs.

AAP Payment

  • AAP payments are received on the first of the month in the month of care. For example, June benefits are issued so that they are received by June 1st.


  • If a child is determined eligible for AAP he/she is also eligible to full scope Medi-Cal benefits.
  • The adoptive parents may enroll the child in a Medi-Cal Health Care Plan (HCP) such as IEHP or Molina, if they choose. Available HCPs vary from County to County.
  • If the family signs a deferred agreement, the child will receive full scope Medi-Cal benefits even if he or she receives no cash benefit.


  • Eligibility to AAP payments is reassessed at least once every two years.
  • AAP eligibility staff send form AAP 3 Reassessment Information - Adoption Assistance Program to the adoptive parent(s). The parent(s) return the form to Adoptions Services staff with updated information and any requested rate increase. An adoptions social worker determines the rate for the new certification period. Designated staff enter the rate, certification period and other updated information on form AAP 2 “Payment Instructions-Adoption Assistance Program.” Form AAP 2 is sent to AAP eligibility staff who update the payment system for the new certification period including any changes to the rate, address and phone number.

A youth who entered AAP on or after his or her 16th birthday maybe eligible to continue receiving AAP up to age 21 if disable or meets the criteria for extended foster care, per ACL 11-69

Contact the AAP Unit at (951) 358-5392 for additional information.