You finally get the call — it’s time to travel to the hospital where your baby is being born. You pack your bags and rush to the birth mother’s state, excited to start your next chapter with the newest addition to your family. But before you take your new baby home, there’s just one more requirement you have to satisfy: the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC).

All interstate adoptions must comply with the ICPC, an agreement between all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands that regulates interstate adoption placements. The ICPC process might seem burdensome, but it’s a crucial part of the adoption process. If you are adopting across state lines, here are the top five things you need to understand about ICPC:

  1. Your ICPC paperwork must be approved before you can leave the state where the baby is born. When you travel to the hospital when the baby is born, your ICPC paperwork will be submitted to the baby’s state (or the “sending state”) ICPC office. Once the adoption is approved there, your ICPC paperwork will be sent to your home state (the “receiving state”) for approval. You will need to wait in the sending state with your child until you are notified that your ICPC paperwork has been approved by the receiving state. Once all of your ICPC paperwork has been approved, you are free to return home with your baby.
  2. ICPC can take 7–10 business days or longer to process. This means you should plan to stay in your baby’s birth state for at least two weeks while you wait to be approved to return home with your child. Make arrangements to be away from home for several weeks, and try to be flexible as you wait for approval.
  3. You should not contact the ICPC office during your wait. You will be eager to take your baby to his or her new home and will naturally want to check the status of your paperwork, but you should leave it to your adoption professional to coordinate contact with the ICPC offices. You will be notified immediately when you are approved to travel across state lines.
  4. Keeping your home study current can help ensure a smooth ICPC process. The process cannot begin until your home study is complete, so it’s important to have it done well in advance and be mindful of expiration dates. It is also important to note that your home study will need to meet requirements for both the sending and receiving states. Working with a national agency can help you ensure that your ICPC paperwork will be approved no matter what state you adopt from.
  5. ICPC is legally mandatory in every adoption that takes place outside of your home state. If you don’t comply with ICPC, or if you cross state lines prior to receiving ICPC approval, it could put the adoption in jeopardy.

ICPC may seem confusing, overwhelming or inconvenient as you wait to return home as a family. Your adoption specialist or adoption attorney will help you through the ICPC process and ensure you meet all the necessary requirements — so all you’ll need to worry about is spending time with your new baby while the paperwork is processed.