Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)

Any adoption or foster care placement that involves a child outside of your state is covered under a federal law called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are members of the Compact. To proceed with an adoption, please note that it is illegal to move a child across state lines without first complying with the ICPC requirements. This FAQ should help inform you about the ICPC’s role in the interstate adoption process.


Frequently Asked Questions About the ICPC

Q: What is a Compact?
A: Compacts are agreements between two or more states that have the force and effect of statutory law. States develop and enter into compacts to establish a formal, legal relationship to address a common concern that crosses state boundaries. Compacts obligate states to the provisions just as a contract would bind an individual or a corporation in a business deal.

Q: What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)?
A: The ICPC is a compact among all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The ICPC establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children. It provides safety and stability for all the parties involved in the interstate placement of children. Each state has codified the ICPC in its state statutes.

Q: To whom does the ICPC apply?
A: The Compact currently covers foster children being placed with a relative or another caregiver, children moving across state lines with their foster parents, children placed for adoption by a public or private agency or by a private attorney, children placed in residential treatment facilities by parents, parents placing children with non-relatives, and pregnant mothers going across state lines to give birth and place their children for adoption. The state where the child is currently residing is called the “sending” state and the state where the child will be placed is called the “receiving” state.

Q: What is the purpose of the ICPC?
A: The purpose of the ICPC is to ensure that if a child is moved across state lines, that child’s rights are protected as if they were in their home state and all legal requirements are observed. The ICPC is designed to: provide a monitoring mechanism during the transition and placement of the child in another state; ensure the child receives services; ensure compliance with the laws of each state; and provide the child with an alternative should the placement prove not to be in their best interest or if the need for out-of-state services ends.

Q: How do I comply with the ICPC?
A: The agency or adoption professional that you are working with should complete the necessary paperwork to comply with the ICPC. Each state has a Compact Administrator who oversees the process of interstate placements. Proof of ICPC compliance must be provided before an adoption can be finalized.

Q: What is involved in the ICPC process?
A: The sending state must provide the receiving state with notice of its intention to place a child across state lines. This requires the sending state to complete several forms and a case plan. These forms along with the case plan are forwarded to the receiving state’s Compact Administrator for review. Upon careful review and evaluation, the receiving state approves or denies the placement by sending notice of its decision to the sending state. If approved, procedures are initiated to place the child in the receiving state. Services for the child are to continue as if the child were still in his/her home state.

Q: Will complying with the ICPC lengthen my adoption wait time?
A: Due to the fact that adopting across state lines requires compliance with each state’s laws as well as the ICPC, adoption finalization may take longer than if you adopt a child within your home state. The recommended processing time for an approval or denial of placement is six weeks or 30 working days from the date the receiving state obtains the notice. This processing time may be longer or shorter depending on the number of requests pending and the completeness of the application.

Q: What are the responsibilities of the agencies under the ICPC?
A: The sending agency, although it no longer has physical custody of the child, still retains all legal and financial responsibility for the child. This means the sending agency retains the right to make all decisions regarding the care and custody of the child while the child is in the receiving state. The sending agency also must keep the receiving agency up-to-date on any changes regarding the child's status during the placement. The receiving agency is responsible for the maintenance and welfare of the child during the child’s stay in the receiving state.

Q: Are there safeguards offered under the ICPC?
A: There are safeguards in place for the child as well as the parties involved in the placement. The sending agency may request a home study and an evaluation of the proposed placement to ensure the child’s safety. The sending agency also retains jurisdiction during the child’s placement and is entitled to regular, ongoing progress reports. The child is guaranteed legal and financial protections by keeping this responsibility with the sending agency. The receiving state is safeguarded by allowing it to apply its own laws and policies to the placement as well as to supervise the placement.