Preparing to Travel for AdoptionFor some adoptive parents, thinking about traveling to a birth mother’s state for the delivery, hospital stay and ICPC wait is enough to induce a nervous sweat. Whether you’ve just received an adoption opportunity with a birth mother and have to travel on the spot, or have been looking forward to your baby’s birth for months since “the call,” we’ve got the do’s and don’ts on traveling, coping with ICPC and packing like a pro!


Though you probably want to prepare to travel to your new baby, it can be tough. The agency may call and require you to travel quickly because you receive an adoption opportunity with a birth mother who is due to deliver very soon– or  who has already had the baby! Even if you already have an adoption opportunity with a birth mother and know her due date, it’s still impossible to completely plan ahead since you won’t travel until she is in labor or scheduled to have a C-section/induction.

  • Don’t make travel arrangements based on a birth mother’s due date, since they aren’t always the best predictors of actual birth date.
  • Do wait for us to give you the go-ahead to travel, so that you don’t wait around for days or even weeks until your baby is born.
  • Do think about what airport to fly into or what route to drive if you already know where your birth mother lives.
  • Do let us advise you on when to arrive at the hospital so that we can respect and honor the birth parent(s) wishes.
  • Do travel ASAP, within 24 hours of the call, to show the birth mother that you’re there for the baby, that this is your #1 priority and that she can begin getting to know you better.
  • Do show your birth mother that her child will have two equally involved and supportive parents.
  • Do arrive with your spouse. Do let your adoption specialist and birth mother know, in advance, if there is a reason you won’t be able to travel or arrive together.


Documentation varies by adoption, but you will probably receive some form of placement paperwork from the attorney/adoption agency.

  • Don’t worry about a birth certificate at this time. You won’t likely receive a birth certificate, as the birth mother will complete it in the hospital and send it to the state. In an adoption, the birth mother completes a birth certificate, and then an amended birth certificate, naming you as parents, will be granted at the adoption finalization.
  • Do pay attention to any discharge instructions from the hospital.
  • Do collect keepsakes like a crib card, footprints or first photos if they are offered to you.
  • Do advocate for the birth mother to also receive copies of these things if she would like them.

Of course, you’d prefer to get home with your baby, but we cannot control the length of time you’ll be away. All adoption professionals follow ICPC when a family goes to another state to adopt a baby.

  • Do follow ICPC because it’s the law and because if you don’t, it makes your adoption less lawful and secure.
  • Do plan to be in the birth mother’s state for 7-10 business days, on average.
  • Do plan activities and enjoy quiet time with your spouse and baby. Things are sure to pick up when you get home!
  • Do buy the things you still need for your baby. Now, you can even do it with your baby boy or girl in mind!
  • Do plan to spend time at the hospital signing legal documents and taking custody of the baby. You may also attend court, depending on state procedures.
  • Do your best to go with the flow. ICPC can feel untimely and inefficient at times, but there is nothing that you or your Adoption Specialist can do to make the process move quicker.

The ICPC packet will be collected and sent to the state ICPC office, and the process will be out of your (and our) hands. After the ICPC packet is approved in the birth mother’s state, it will be forwarded to the state where you reside. It will be reviewed, and you’ll receive verbal approval to return home with your baby.


In general, a family needs only bring a few items with them to the hospital.

  • Do wait to get formula, diapers and other supplies since most hospitals will likely discharge the baby with at least a day’s supply.
  • Do heed your baby’s nurses’ and doctors’ recommendations on products to buy.
  • Do pack lightly! This couldn’t be more pertinent than for those traveling to adopt a child from a different area or state. You may find that the items you need for baby will occupy every inch of extra space in your luggage or vehicle.
  • Do look at this streamlined checklist of items you might need to get ahead of time or soon after your baby is born:

For Baby:

  • Disposable diapers (newborn size) and baby wipes (be sure they are for sensitive skin, as most newborns are sensitive to wipes containing fragrance, dyes or other products)
  • Bottle and nipples (buy formula from a nearby store after you learn what is being used by the hospital)
  • Burp cloths (you can use cloth diapers or small towels)
  • Diaper bag and portable changing pad
  • Baby shampoo, lotion, diaper rash cream, etc. (these may be supplied by the hospital, so you may wish to wait to buy these)
  • Baby blankets
  • 2-3 Onesies and baby booties or socks
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Infant carrier/car seat (the hospital won’t discharge the baby without one)
  • Pacifiers

For Mom and Dad:

  • A few basic clothing items that can be easily mixed and matched
  • Dress clothes for court (if your adoption requires a court appearance)
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Cell phone and charger (the easiest way for us to reach you during the process)
  • What to Expect the First Year by Arlene Eisenberg (a good reference for first-time parents who have questions at 1 a.m. or are too embarrassed to call someone)
  • A place for baby to sleep while awaiting ICPC approval (pack n’ play, travel baby bed or arrangements with the hotel for a crib)
  • Personal hygiene products (shampoo, shaving cream, mouthwash, deodorant, moisturizer, waterless hand-wash, etc.)
  • Snacks
  • Camera (and batteries or a charger)
  • Travel journal to document the experience
  • A good book
  • All travel, adoption and identification documents (the hospital will probably require this for you to visit the baby)

For Your Baby’s Birth Parents:

  • Flowers
  • Photo albums to fill during the hospital stay
  • A small gift or keepsake
  • Use the advice of your Adoption Specialist to decide what might be appropriate. You’ll have the opportunity discuss these details when you’re presented with an adoption opportunity.

Though no amount of preparation will fully prepare you for those first days with your baby, this should be a good start. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact your Adoption Specialists via email or at 1-800-ADOPTION.