Understanding the Infamous ICPC


            The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (“ICPC” or the “Compact”) is a statutory agreement between all 50 states and the District of Columbia which regulates and ensures uniformity in the process of placing children living in one state into another state. Since the 1950s, the ICPC has been adopted in every U.S. jurisdiction, including the State of Georgia. Before the law became universally adopted, each individual state’s ability to ensure the best interests of a child adopted beyond its borders was geographically limited. A patchwork of conflicting rules and regulations prevented a state from having any oversight of how a child’s well-being was provided for once the child was sent beyond the state’s borders. This was a double-edged sword for states, which could neither help children placed in bad adoption situations or get children into good out-of-state homes.

            According to the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (AAICPC), the Compact exists for the sole purpose of “ensuring that children placed out of state are placed with caregivers who are safe, suitable, and able to meet the child’s needs.” The ICPC mandates a process for adoption that requires two states to work in concert.  To accomplish this aim, the Compact stipulates that certain steps be fastidiously followed before releasing a child to an out-of-state placement. Here is a brief overview of the ICPC process:

(1)  In the sending state, an adoption caseworker or attorney initiates a placement request process in the state where the child was born (for infants) or where the child currently lives (for older children) by putting together a packet of important information and documentation. The packet contains background information on the child, to include, medical, educational and social history, and details about the individuals who wish to adopt the child in the receiving state.

(2) The sending state ICPC office receives the packet of information, reviews it, and mails it to the ICPC office in the receiving state or the state where the adoptive parents reside.

(3) The receiving state ICPC office reviews the packet and approves or denies the placement request.

(4) The packet and recommendation are sent back to the sending state ICPC office, which reviews the decision.

(5) If the placement request has been approved by the receiving state, the child can move into his or her new home in the new state.

Through these carefully-controlled procedures, the sending agency retains legal and financial responsibility for the child, and must make all decisions in the best interest of the child.

However, there are a few exceptions in which it is not necessary to comply with the Compact. The Compact does not apply to placements made in medical or mental health facilities, in boarding schools, or in “any institution primarily educational in character.” It does not cover placements with a parent, stepparent, grandparents, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or the child’s guardian if that person leaves the child with such relative or non-agency guardian in the receiving state. 

Many adoptive parents do not understand that the Compact must be complied with at the onset of the adoption process, and before the child is released to an out-of-state placement.  Otherwise, if not complied with, there are harsh penalties.  Penalties for violating the Compact can be assessed by either the sending jurisdiction or receiving jurisdiction, in accordance with the jurisdiction’s laws. In Georgia, any violation automatically constitutes grounds for suspension or revocation of any license, permit or other legal authorization by the sending agency which empowers or allows it to place or care for children. Significantly, a violator may have the child removed from his or her care and lose the ability to try to adopt again.

As can be seen from this brief overview, the ICPC imposes strict requirements which raise questions of multiple state laws and agency protocols. Therefore, if you are considering adopting a child from out of state, it is recommended that you speak with an attorney who has experience in ICPC adoptions.