Interstate Adoption


How does one adopt a baby or child from another state? If you are working with a national agency, chances are you will be traveling to another state to meet your birth mother and new baby. A large number of private adoptions also happen across state lines. Whether you are flying across the country, or driving twenty minutes to your neighboring state, you will need to comply with the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) before you may bring your new baby home.

ICPC is a legal agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands, enacted to ensure that children being adopted across state lines were going to safe and suitable homes. Adoption laws are widely variable from state to state. Because there is no federal law regulating adoption, an ICPC office is set up in each state to review specific paperwork for each non-relative, interstate adoption placement. The state where the birth mother resides is referred to as the “sending state”. The adoptive family’s state of residence is called the “receiving state”. ICPC administrators are tasked with making sure the laws and regulations in both states have been followed before they allow the adoptive parents to travel home with their new baby.

Your lawyer or agency will prepare a packet of documents for the ICPC administrators to review. The process is primarily the same in each state, but because the state laws differ there are occasionally variations in what the ICPC offices require. When you have an out of state adoption plan, you should always prepare to be out of state for at least two weeks once your baby is born. The ICPC process can take less than a week, up to two weeks, or even longer. There are many factors which influence the length of the ICPC process.

Generally, the steps in an across state lines adoption include the following:

1. The adoptive parents will travel to the sending state before, or once, the baby is born.

2. The baby is discharged from the hospital usually into the adoptive parent’s custody.

3. There may be a waiting period before the birth parents are legally allowed to consent to the adoption. A signed consent is mandatory for ICPC.

4. Your attorney, working in conjunction with the birth parent’s attorney, will submit the necessary ICPC paperwork and supporting documents to the sending state’s ICPC office. This paperwork includes the home study, certification as qualified adoptive parents, medical records on the baby, the birth parent’s consent, information on how the adoption plan was conceived and an accounting of fees or expenses paid by the adoptive parents.

5. The sending state approves the ICPC request and sends it to the receiving state, which then conducts a similar review.

6. Occasionally, one of the ICPC administrators will request additional information. For example, if the baby was born with a medical disability, or drugs in his system, ICPC will want to see an affidavit from the adoptive parents that they have been fully informed of the medical health of the child and attendant risks and that they accept the risks.

7. Once the sending state approves the ICPC request, the administrator will contact the adoptive family’s attorney, who then contacts the adoptive parents that they have been cleared to take their new baby home.

ICPC approval means a potential stay out of town with a newborn baby for a week, maybe longer. There are several factors that contribute to the period of time it takes to obtain ICPC approval. In some states, a birth mother must sign her relinquishment of rights in court in order for the consent to the adoption to be valid. In other states, such as New York, the birth mother may sign her consent as soon as the baby is born and while she has 45 days to revoke her consent, the ICPC paperwork may be filed as soon as she signs. It often takes a day or two to obtain medical records from the hospital where the baby was born. ICPC packets may not be filed without a complete set of the baby’s medical information. In addition, it generally takes a day or two for the attorney or adoption agency to complete the file and submit all necessary documents. Of course, there is always the variable in how fully staffed an ICPC office is and whether the baby is born on or around a government holiday or weekend.

Preparation is important! Adoptive parents are wise to find a comfortable extended stay hotel and bring an infant car seat with them when they travel to their baby’s birth state. If you have special medicines or dietary concerns, pack wisely and take what you would need for potentially 2-3 weeks. It is always everyone’s intention to get the new family home as quickly as possible, but it is wise to plan ahead.