I am not a lawyer and this write-up is not intended as legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for any legal questions you may have concerning the ICPC.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) covers most interstate adoptions. It was written in the 1950s, although the regulations have been heavily edited since. The first state to adopt it was New York in 1960, and has since been enacted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It outlines the rules under which a child crosses state lines for adoption or placement (in foster care, for example). American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) publishes a Guide to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children which is very helpful, as it contains the text of the Compact, explanation, the regulations, and example forms.

The IPCP does not apply in all interstate placements or adoptions. In particular, it does not apply for:

  • Adoption by close relative, including parent, stepparent, grandparent, adult sibling, adult aunt or uncle, or his guardian.
  • Any adoption between two states that have a different compact between them.
  • Placement of a child in a medical facility, boarding school, or a mental health or mental retardation facility.
  • The compact does not seem to apply to dependent adults, as it defines child as someone requiring guardianship "by reason of minority".

Note that the compact does apply if you are privately adopting or putting up for adoption a child to a party in another state, so you should be aware of it in such cases.

The actual text of the compact is a little over three pages long, so it's a a quick read. However, it has 14 pages of regulations associated with it. The regulations focus mainly on logistics and bureaucracy, although it does contain specific definitions for key terms that help disambiguate the compact. Perhaps the most useful piece of data from APHSA's writeup is a time estimate: it is expected to take about six weeks to process requests under the ICPC. Besides the exemptions listed above, the key points I took from the compact are:

  • Before moving a child across state lines for placement or adoption, the receiving and sending states must be notified (III(b)). The notification should include specific information about who the child is and evidence that this is being done legally.
  • The child cannot be moved until the receiving state has agreed that the placement is ok in writing (III(d)).
  • The jurisdiction over the child is the originating state (V(a)) until the child is adopted, becomes an adult, or jurisdiction is given to the receiving state (this must be agreed to by the receiving state). Jurisdiction includes financial responsibility, but not crimes committed by the child within the receiving state.
  • If the child is delinquent, special rules apply (VI).
The compact says much more about the specifics of the process than the rules that govern it. However, these specifics are, quite frankly, boring (the notification must contain this, how to apply for priority placement, time limits, what exactly a "medical facility" is, etc.). The compact provides a framework under which interstate adoption is done. Specifics, such as form content and additional information required, vary between states.

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