Interstate Adoption and Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC)

Interstate adoptions are governed by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. This compact is often referred to as the “ICPC”. The ICPC is the law in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

There are several key terms used when talking about an interstate placement. A prospective adoptive parent should be familiar with these terms, including:

1. Sending State - the home state of the child.
2. Receiving State - the home state of the prospective adoptive parent(s).
3. Compact Administrator or Specialist - the person in each state charged with overseeing compliance with the Compact.

In general, adoptive families must comply with the ICPC if the prospective adoptive parent(s) reside in a different state than the home state of the child. To legally place a child with residents of another state, both the laws of the sending and receiving states must be complied with. A prospective adoptive parent cannot leave the child’s home state with the child unless approval from both the “sending” and the “receiving” states has been granted.

To obtain approval, a packet of documents is prepared and delivered by the attorney in the sending state to the Compact Administrator. The packet may contain, among other things, specific forms which include identifying information about the child and birth parents, a certified copy of the adoptive family’s home study, health information on the child, a statement about the applicability of the Indian Child Welfare Act, proof that the birth parents have or will consent to the placement, and proof that the child is or will be legally free for adoption.

ICPC approval occurs only when both states have reviewed the submitted packet and found the information contained in compliance with state law. Approval is communicated to the attorneys for the birth mother and adoptive parents, respectively.

There are a few exceptions to the ICPC. Specifically, ICPC does not apply to the sending or bringing of a child into a state by the child’s parent, stepparent or other relative. The term “relative” is specifically defined by the ICPC. As such, anyone making an interstate placement under the relative exception must confirm that his/her relationship to the child is covered by the language of the exception. In addition, while guardianship actions usually fall outside the ICPC, when a guardianship is a preliminary step to adoption, the placement of a child through an interstate guardianship should be reviewed and approved by the ICPC.

The purpose of the Compact is to protect children by ensuring that the proposed placement is in a suitable environment with adults who are able to meet the child’s needs and to foster some level of uniformity in making adoptive placements.