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ICPC in Adoption: What It Is & How It Works

Most adoptive parents work with a national agency or professional to make their family-building dreams come true. That means, more often than not, adoptive parents have to adopt a baby from another state after being selected by a prospective birth mother. On top of the traveling and different state laws involved, there’s another important aspect: ICPC.

But, what is ICPC? And why is it such an important part of the domestic adoption process?

We’ll answer those questions in detail below, but don’t forget: You can always call 1-800-ADOPTION or contact us online to connect with a specialist who can answer all of these questions — and more.

What is the Meaning of ICPC?

As you research your private domestic infant adoption options, you’ll probably hear “ICPC” thrown around a lot by professionals and other adoptive families.

But, what does ICPC stand for — and what does it do?

ICPC stands for “Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.” It’s one of the few federal laws regulating adoption in the United States. No matter which state you live in and which state you adopt from, you will need to meet ICPC regulations and requirements for an interstate adoption.

ICPC was originally enacted to protect children moving across state borders for adoption purposes (mainly foster care). But, as private domestic infant adoption became a more national process, it quickly became an important part of that type of adoption, too.

ICPC regulations provide a clear process for both sending and receiving states in interstate adoptions to ensure the placement follows both states’ adoption laws. Adoptive parents’ requirement to stay in the sending state until clearance has been received further ensures a child travels only when it is 100 percent safe for him or her to do so.

ICPC law can seem confusing, especially to new adoptive parents, but rest assured that your adoption professional will help you prepare for and meet the requirements set forth by this step.

The ICPC Process

Because the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is a federal adoption statute, the process looks the same across all interstate adoption journeys. While ICPC does apply to out-of-state foster care adoptions, we’ll focus here on the process involved when adopting an infant across state borders.

Here’s what the ICPC adoption process typically looks like:

  • Step 1: The adoptive family travels to the prospective birth mother’s state, either while she is in labor or after the baby is born.
  • Step 2: After the required waiting period, the birth parents give their consent for the adoption.
  • Step 3: The baby is discharged into the adoptive parents’ custody.
  • Step 4: American Adoptions or the attorney will gather the appropriate paperwork and submit it to the sending state (the birth mother’s state) ICPC office. These documents often include the home study, the child’s health information, proof that the birth parents have consented, and more.
  • Step 5: The sending state will review the paperwork. They may request additional information or approve the documentation.
  • Step 6: The ICPC paperwork is then sent to the adoptive parent’s state of residence (the receiving state).
  • Step 7: The ICPC office there reviews the paperwork, asking for any additional information necessary.
  • Step 8: The receiving state notifies the sending state of its approval.
  • Step 9: The sending state contacts American Adoptions or the attorney who submitted the paperwork.
  • Step 10: Adoptive parents are then notified that the ICPC process is complete and they can return home with their new addition!

After paperwork is received by the sending state, it can be tough to know which step of the ICPC process you’re at. Rest assured that your American Adoptions specialist will keep you updated as best they can.

How Long Does ICPC Take?

After birth parents have given their consent and your child is placed in your arms, you’ll want nothing more than to rush home with your little bundle and adjust to your new normal. Unfortunately, if you’re adopting across state lines, that’s going to have a wait a little longer.

We know how frustrating the ICPC process timeline can be, especially for families who have waited a long time for an adoption opportunity. While there are certainly families who experience a shorter or longer wait for ICPC clearance, we’ve found that the majority of adoptive families’ ICPC process takes about 10 to 14 business days after the ICPC forms are first submitted.

Spending an unknown amount of time anywhere can cause anxiety — but even more so when you’re caring for a newborn baby. It’s not uncommon for adoptive families awaiting clearance to ask how to speed up the ICPC process. Unfortunately, the ICPC adoption timeline is a practice in patience, because there’s nothing you or we can do to make it go faster.

ICPC offices in the sending and receiving state are wholly responsible for the ICPC process timeline. They are working as hard as they can to process ICPC paperwork for many adoptions at the same time. Trust in their ability, and try to enjoy this uninterrupted family bonding time.

Whatever you do, do not reach out to the ICPC offices in either state. It will not speed up the process and can even serve to slow down your ICPC clearance. Know that they are doing all they can, and that American Adoptions is providing any additional paperwork or support they may need while you wait.

It’s no secret that the ICPC process can be tough, so try to prepare as much as possible. Plan adventures in the state where your child will be born, or just focus on the bonding time you have now. You won’t get an opportunity like it again!

And, remember: Your adoption specialist will always be there to answer your questions about the post-placement process as you go through it, offering whatever support and guidance you may need.

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