What is ICPC and Why Do We Have It?

This key part of adopting a child from a different state can often seem confusing.

Candise Gilbert July 29, 2015
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The adoption experience brings with it all sorts of new words, phrases and, of course, acronyms. At any given point in the adoption process, one or all of them are crucial to know and understand.

There may come a time when ICPC, an acronym you may not fully understand now, has suddenly become a pivotal part of your adoption and the most pressing thing on your mind.

So, what is ICPC? What do you need to know? How does it apply to you?

I must provide a small disclaimer. This article is in no way meant to be an official reference on ICPC. You can find all the information you want—and more—by performing a simple search online. But I know very well from experience that those searches can be very overwhelming. It has been my experience on more than one occasion to read for hours and only be slightly more knowledgeable! I hope this will be an informative and personal snapshot of ICPC.

First, let’s deconstruct the acronym and learn a little more about its meaning. ICPC stands for Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.  A compact, as defined in the dictionary, is “a formal agreement between two or more parties.” In this case, the “parties” are states. ICPC is an agreement between all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the US Virgin Islands. This compact oversees the transfer of a child from one state to another in an adoption or foster situation.

The ICPC process can be brief and smooth, or long, drawn out, and even painful! The process is generally initiated by an adoption caseworker in the state where the child was born (in the case of an infant adoption) or currently resides (in the case of an older child). We’ll call this the “sending state”! The caseworker prepares a file for the child, which includes personal information about the child and information about the family intending to adopt the child. This may include your home study report, criminal history/background check, medical history, training records, etc. This packet of information is then sent to the ICPC in the sending state. Most states have a central ICPC office, which will most likely NOT be in the same town as the infant. Depending on their methods of communication and document transmission, there may be a number of days getting paperwork from the agency to the ICPC office even within the sending state.

Once the ICPC office in the sending state receives the documentation and deems it sufficient, it is sent it the ICPC office in the destination state. The destination, or “receiving state,” reviews the documentation, including a close examination of the hopeful adoptive couple. The central ICPC office then sends the documentation to the local agency used by the adoptive couple. This is usually the agency that has completed the home study for the prospective parents.

In short, the states need to communicate. One state, responsible for the safety and well-being of the child, needs to make sure that another state is aware that this child will soon be a resident. It is done with the protection and best interest of the child in mind, which is sometimes hard to remember when we are anxious to be home.

What does this look like in real life? I’ll share my personal experiences:

Our daughter was born 9 years ago. We lived in Idaho. She was born in Utah County, Utah. Paperwork was prepared there by the agency that had been assisting her birth mother and sent to Salt Lake City, UT, where the central ICPC office is. They communicated with the ICPC office in Boise, ID. Once Boise received our paperwork, it was sent to the agency that conducted our home study in Bonneville County, ID. The agency then reviewed the documentation to make sure it all checked out. And then the communication had to go back the way it came! Bonneville County, ID – Boise Central ICPC – Salt Lake City Central ICPC – Utah County, UT. Ten days later we were on the road, having been given permission to cross state lines with our new little one!  It was relatively smooth, and considering there were 2 weekends in those 10 days, I felt like the process had moved as quickly as it possibly could have.

Years later, we were pursuing an adoption through foster care in the State of Washington. When the Washington ICPC reviewed the documentation, they decided that they would not accept our home study compiled in Idaho by a private agency. In their contact with the state, they required that the State of Idaho conduct its own home study. The State of Idaho had a copy of our current home study and used parts and pieces of it, but we were still required to complete quite a bit of paperwork. They also required multiple home visits. Once the State of Idaho completed our home study, it was sent to the ICPC office in Washington. They were then satisfied and ICPC was cleared.  This process took considerably longer and, through a turn of events completely unrelated to the home study or ICPC, we were unable to adopt that child.

Our most recent adoption experience involved a baby born at the hospital two miles from our home! ICPC was completely unnecessary—it was great!

This process is not always quick. It is not always pleasant. It is, however, a necessary part of the adoption process! I can only hope that the process for you goes smoothly and that you enjoy whatever time you might have in a new and different city.

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Candise Gilbert

Candise is the mother of 2 darling girls and the wife of a fantastic husband. She became a mother through the miracle of adoption and parenting is her favorite job! She makes dinner every night, loves a good book, talks about adoption as often as she can, and tries to surround herself with fabulous people.


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