The Impact of Federal Law on Adoption

I've heard that the rules on adoption vary from state to state. If adoptions are governed by the law of individual states, why do I need to even consider federal law?

ANSWER: Although the nitty-gritty of the termination of parental rights and finalization of domestic adoptions are determined by state law, many domestic adoptions are impacted by federal law, including any domestic adoptions where the baby is born in one state and the adoptive parents are residents of another state. This federal framework to protect children who are born in one state and will go to an adoptive family in another state is called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). The ICPC government offices of both states must approve the placement before the child can leave his/her state of birth.

My adoption agency has told me the offices that determine whether I can finally take my child home are state government agencies, not the federal government.

ANSWER: The ICPC is federal law administered by state government agencies. There are uniform sets of regulations that govern interstate placements in all fifty states. The latest regulation is called Regulation 12, here is the website link:

I want to adopt internationally. How will federal laws affect my adoption?

ANSWER: Many federal laws and regulations will be important. Some key offices are USCIS (immigration document submission and approval), the Department of State, Office of Consular Affairs (issuance of Visa for child) and The Hague Convention on Adoption (treaty with other countries that was ratified by the United States in 2008, and determines the very definite steps required of both countries to allow a child to be adopted by a family who are residents of another country). Here is a link to more detailed information: Adoption professionals, adoptive families and adopted children are working with Members of Congress to make changes to the intercountry adoption process. A Bill has been introduced in both the Senate and the House that would make much needed reforms to the intercountry adoption process. The Bill is called Children in Families First (known as CHIFF). Here is a link to the Senate Bill: The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is proud to be a key promoter of the Bill.

I've read a lot about the Adoption Tax Credit on the internet. It seems complicated. Is that a federal law? Is it permanent or temporary?

ANSWER: The Adoption Tax Credit is a section of the Internal Revenue Code that allows most American adoptive parents to take a tax credit on their federal income tax return in the year they finalize the adoption of their child. Here is a link to more detailed information about the Adoption Tax Credit: Thanks to the advocacy of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and others, the credit is now made "permanent", meaning it will extend automatically from year to year without Congress renewing it every few years. Congress would have to pass a new provision in the law for the Adoption Tax Credit to cease to be available to adoptive families.

Are there any brand new federal laws affecting adopted children and their families?
ANSWER: Yes! The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys received reports from lawyers in all fifty states about a hardship affecting some children who were brought home to the United States from other countries The Academy took action! The Accuracy for Adoptees Act will remedy the problem and is a brand new law, passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by President Obama in January of 2014. In some situations, the date of birth provided to adoptive families for their child who was born in another country is not correct. Not every country has reliable good record keeping. The child would come home and after a period of months or years, medical doctors and dentists would determine the child's age on the Birth Certificate issued in the child's country of origin was sometimes off by years. Families filed Petitions in their home state and Judges there would listen to evidence and often change the child's date and year of birth. This resulted in a revised state birth certificate from the Office of Vital Records. The hitch: certain federal government agencies REFUSED to acknowledge the state Judge's Order. Since the new law has passed, federal agencies are REQUIRED to honor the state court Order and hundreds of children who are now United States citizens will have accurate birth certificates based on medical evidence.