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Understanding interstate adoption

Illustration of a map of the United States

Illustration of a map of the United States

Placing a child in another state or, sometimes, even another county creates additional layers of paperwork and requires more communication. So why pursue it?

  • Because a child has relatives who are qualified to adopt them.
  • Because an approved family has inquired about a child after seeing them on a website or in social media.
  • Because it’s the law! Two federal laws—the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act—require states to consider interjurisdictional placements and can penalize agencies that do not comply.
  • Because the location of an approved family who is willing and capable to parent a child should not be the primary consideration when making a placement.
  • Because a child who has been waiting could get the love and permanency they deserve.

Adopting a child across state or county lines requires the same steps as any adoption—a family expresses interest in a child, workers identify the family as a good fit, visits are scheduled, a home study and paperwork are completed. If all goes well, an adoptive placement is made and finalized by a judge.

The difference, of course, is that placements across state lines are subject to the procedures outlined in the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children?

The Interstate Compact is essentially a contract that all 50 states, Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands have agreed to. It establishes procedures for ensuring the safety and stability of placements of children across state lines. Child Welfare Information Gateway provides summaries of state statutes for prospective parents considering the adoption of a child from another state, including issues related to child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption.

What are the steps involved in facilitating an interstate adoption?

The ICPC requires that families comply with the laws of their own state and of the sending state (where the child lives). To comply, the “sending state,” where the child lives, and the “receiving state,” where the family lives, must share a great deal of information. States exchange information through ICPC compact administrators, who also review the information for completeness and compliance with their state’s laws.

The steps involved in an interstate adoption are:

  1. The child’s agency initiates the process by requesting a home study and creating a packet that includes a form (ICPC 100-A) and information about the child’s needs.
  2. The agency sends the packet to the ICPC compact administrator in the child’s state. They review it and forward it to the compact administrator in the family’s state.
  3. The receiving state’s compact administrator reviews the information and forwards it to the family’s agency.
  4. The family’s agency conducts a home study and makes a recommendation about the suitability of the placement. The administrators in both states review the home study and recommendation.
  5. If the child is placed, the role of supervising the child’s placement and ensuring that their needs are met and services are received transfers to the family’s agency. They provide periodic reports to the child’s agency through the compact administrators.
  6. The sending state retains legal and financial responsibility for the child until they are legally adopted, reach the age of majority, or become self-supporting.

To learn more, read these frequently asked questions about the ICPC on the American Public Human Services Association website.

How are the child’s benefits affected by placement in another state?

Monthly adoption subsidies are usually paid for by the sending state at the rate of the receiving state for foster care and at the rate of the sending state for adoption. For example, if a child moves from California to Arizona for a foster placement, California pays the Arizona foster care reimbursement rate. But if the child is moving to Arizona to be adopted, then California will pay the California rate, even if the parents are foster parents at the time.

Health coverage is different. For children eligible for Title IV-E federal adoption benefits—all of the children featured on the AdoptUSKids photolisting—Medicaid coverage transfers to the state where the adoptive family lives. Coverage is granted automatically, but parents may need to complete a form.

When the child has special needs and qualifies for state- or federally funded adoption assistance, a second agreement, the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA), comes into play. It ensures seamless transfer of Medicaid and eliminates the need for new eligibility determinations when children move to a new state.

Learn more:

How long does the interstate adoption process usually take?

Federal law requires that interstate home studies are completed within 60 days. Placement of the child must be made within six months of approval. Electronic transfer of records and border agreements can reduce the amount of time it takes to accomplish an interstate placement.

National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE)

NEICE is a federal project facilitating electronic transfer of records. Participating states report a substantial saving of time and costs.

Read more and find a list of states using NEICE on the website of the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Resources for interstate collaboration

Border agreements

Border agreements are just that—contracts that are entered into among neighboring states to expedite placements while ensuring that children’s safety and access to resources they need. Agreement details vary by state. For example, a border agreement might allow workers to conduct home studies in another jurisdiction or families to complete pre-service training in another county or region.

You can find a list of border agreements for your state at the ICPC State Pages website.

State child abuse registries

We’ve compiled this listing of state child abuse registry contacts to help you conduct the background checks required by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.