The Parentage Opportunity Program Expands Services to  Include California’s Diverse Families 

“Through the Parentage Opportunity Program, millions of parents have voluntarily established legal parentage for their children, giving them access to the benefits that they deserve,” said Michelle Santiago, Program Manager, California Parentage Opportunity Program. “Now, with the expanded services to parents within the LGBTQ+ community, families of all shapes and sizes have access to our free services.”

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: The Parentage Opportunity Program honors the validity and value of LGBTQ+ parenting with more supportive services and accessibility to parents of all sexual orientation and gender identities who wish to take responsibility for their children. Legal parentage benefits children throughout their lives in many ways, including confirming eligibility for military benefits, life and medical insurance benefits, social security benefits, and inheritance rights.

HOW WE GOT HERE: Authored by former California Legislator, Richard Bloom, AB 2684 (2018), known as the Uniform Parentage Act, made significant revisions to the process of establishing legal parentage, expanding eligibility from unmarried birth parents and biological non-birth parents to include married or unmarried same-sex birth parents and parents who have children using assisted reproductive technology, with some exceptions.

At the time of the legislation change, Legislator Bloom stated, “although California has already taken many steps to amend the Family Code to ensure its equal application to same-sex couples, there are still gaps in protection for families.” With the implementation of AB 2684, some of those gaps were reduced to allow same-sex couples meeting specific criteria to establish legal parentage through the Parentage Opportunity Program rather than going through the complicated and costly process of adoption. Eligible couples can sign and have witnessed a “Voluntary Declaration of Parentage,” offered through hospitals, birthing centers, and Vital Records offices throughout the state. The process is completely free of charge and establishes legal parentage with the force of a court order.

Since its inception, the Parentage Opportunity Program has taken great strides to be more inclusive of families of all shapes and sizes. To support LGBTQ+ parents and those that identify as non-binary or transgender, the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage now includes expanded categories of parents and lists “parentage” instead of “paternity”; “birth parent” instead of “mother”; “other parent” instead of “father”; and updated pronouns to support gender inclusiveness.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: In 2021, nearly 40% of babies born in California were born to unmarried mothers, out of a total of approximately 420,000 births. Contrary to standard belief, a birth certificate does not establish a legal parent-child relationship. In order to establish legal parentage in California, parents must complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage with the Parentage Opportunity Program or obtain a judgement in Court. Since the formation of the Parentage Opportunity Program, over 4,000,000 parents in California have voluntarily established legal parentage for free, without going to court, saving time and money.

BACKGROUND: Begun in 1995 as a path to legal paternity through the federal Administration for Children and Families, the establishment of legal parentage is administered in California under the auspices of the Department of Child Support Services by the Parentage Opportunity Program.