The term “ICPC” strikes fear into the hearts of many. It is not so much the word that is scary, but the unknowns that come with it. ICPC, otherwise known as the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children is a compact agreed to by all 50 states that allows for the informed transfer of children from their home state to the home state of their adoptive or foster parents. ICPC is especially prevalent in infant adoption. After the child is born, the adoptive parents will have to wait with their child in the state the child was born until they are cleared to leave by the offices in each state that handle ICPC. This time can vary from a few days to a few weeks. The wait and the unknown timing of said wait are what often makes ICPC such a daunting experience. In our case, it was a nightmare.
This was our second time adopting, but the first time we would have to have an ICPC wait. I had laid all of the plans months ahead of his mid-March due date. My husband and I would stay at a wonderful Airbnb super close to the hospital with our 2-year-old daughter. The apartment had everything we needed. My husband and I had lots of time scheduled off work and were prepared for the wait. We were saving up money for all the necessities and had arranged childcare for the rest of our children. Now, all we had to do was wait. You know what they say about the best-laid plans, right?
I was the last week of February, about 9:00 p.m., that I got the call that my son’s mom was being induced the next morning due to high blood pressure. I was stopped in my tracks. I was nervous first about his and her health of course, but also unsure of how it would all play out. An early birth would very likely mean a NICU stay which would extend ICPC by an exponential amount of time. In spite of this, I told my husband, and we prepared to head two states away.
My mom was gracious enough to watch our two other children, though she was unable to watch them for more than a few days. We packed as fast and we could and informed our jobs. I was luckily able to get immediate time off work as we knew we had to be ready for some unknowns. My husband, however, was in the middle of a large project at work and would only be able to stay with me for a few days. We took what we could get and headed two states away with our 2-year-old daughter.
On the way to the hospital, I messaged the Airbnb host to see if we could come a few weeks early, thinking by her scheduling that there would be no issue. I sunk when I read her reply message that they were in the middle of replacing carpets and could no longer accommodate us. I do not recall what the event was, but due to some large local event at the time, there was not one single local Airbnb available. Our only choice for the first night was a seedy motel in a very unsettling neighborhood. We tried the best we could to get a good night’s sleep and planned to find something better in the morning.
Luckily, our son’s mom did fantastically, and he was born the next morning, perfectly healthy. It turned out that the doctors must have grossly miscalculated his due date and weight because he was over eight pounds and perfect. The hospital was luckily able to let me stay in a room at the hospital while my husband and daughter went to a different motel for the night. I continued to try to find an Airbnb with no luck.
After my son was discharged, we found a nicer motel with an available room, but we knew it was not sustainable financially for more than a few nights. As my husband had to return to work the following day, we made plans for him to get a rental car and drive my daughter home with him while the baby and I stayed back. With only one child and one adult, our Airbnb options would hopefully open up a little. The next day, we drove to the car rental place the next day to find out that they would not rent a car to someone out of state who did not have a credit card. My husband’s only option to get home in time was a bus. We decided the safest thing for my daughter was to stay behind with me and the baby.
And so, here I was, in a hotel I could not afford, with a 2-year-old and a baby, by myself, in a town I don’t know, with nothing to do but wait. Not knowing if our ICPC would go through slowly or quickly, I had to check out the hotel each day to avoid paying for another night. I would pack myself and the kids up EVERY MORNING. I had to carry myself, the baby, the 2-year-old, and all of our luggage to the car each morning because I did not have anyone to watch them. I got good at learning to pack light and only bring in what we needed after the first few days. I recall one of the days that I checked out and forgot the keys in our room. I almost snapped after that.
When we would check out each day, I would search for an Airbnb and drive around during nap time. We visited with my son’s mom a few times and went to eat, being sure to drag the meals out as much as possible. When we realized it was getting close to the end of the business day, and I had not heard from our attorney, I would find a new hotel to check into. I used to love hotels; however, it began to feel like a prison. I loved our new boy and loved the time I got to spend with my daughter. However, I missed my kids; I missed my husband, and there is only so much Doc McStuffins you can watch before a 2-year-old is no longer entertained.
I remember checking out of the hotel on Friday and holding back tears the entire day, knowing that if we did not hear anything today, we would be staying the weekend. I was out of money and patience. It was around noon, and I decided to walk take the kids to browse at the local Goodwill after eating lunch. We had been there about 30 minutes when my phone rang. I can remember how my heart jumped when my attorney shouted, “Pack your bags! You’re going home!”
All of the tears I had held in came flooding out. I was the crazy lady in the middle of Goodwill, holding a onesie with my newborn and 2-year-old, and suddenly bawling like a baby. I threw all of the items out of the cart and onto the closest shelf (Sorry Goodwill!), gathered the kids, and ran out of the store. I got them strapped into the car and made a beeline for the border. The weight that was lifted from me was tremendous. I remember getting to the border of the next state and bawling again.
The trip had its own share of trials, making a four-hour trip into a seven-hour one, but that is another story for another time. Describing our ICPC or hotel as a “prison” might feel a little heavy-handed, but there is little like being told that you cannot go home until someone else says you can. Having your life in the hands of a process, being told you cannot be with your family, not knowing when that would end, was indeed a nightmare. For any who might undergo an ICPC stay, please learn from my mistakes. Plan for an early or late delivery. It might seem like a great idea, but leave your other little ones at home if possible. Have backup plan upon backup plan for housing. Be financially ready to spend above and beyond what you think you will need. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. My attorney graciously reached out to the ICPC office for us only to find there was a paperwork error that she was able to quickly correct that sent us home! If for some reason you end up in my situation, ask for help and try to make the best of it!