Breaking child welfare barriers across state lines

Posted on March 21, 2014

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At the Foundation, we manage a robust national resource and information exchange, which allows us to respond to trends and recurring themes in the requests that come to us for help. The frustrations that surround interstate adoptions frequently rise to the top of challenges confronted by families adopting from foster care.

An important strategy in child welfare is to find local families for children near their schools and friends. Frequently, though, willing and qualified parents, including relatives, are not located in the same jurisdictions as the child. Federal law makes it clear that states are not allowed to use jurisdictional barriers as a justification for delaying or denying permanency for a child, and both the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997  and the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act of 2006 underscore states’ requirement to consider interjurisdictional placements.

To protect children and manage the child welfare procedures for those who are placed across state lines, there is an Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). Drafted and enacted more than 50 years ago, the ICPC is statutory law in all 50 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children.

According to the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), “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.”

This is where the clarity often ends and the frustration begins. Bureaucratic complexities, state financial disincentives, lack of uniform home studies, lack of training of professionals in the process and procedures of ICPC, delays in placements during processing, and a lack of uniform document and procedures between states and antiquated systems  all contribute to frustrations for parents waiting to adopt.

In 2005, and in response to these very issues, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption partnered with APHSA to shepherd a revised ICPC through the 50 state governments, and provide materials and technical assistance to state legislatures concerning the introduction and passage of the new Compact. Today, fewer than 20 states have passed the new Compact (35 are required). So inefficiencies and outdated systems remain in place.

There are passionate and skilled individuals in every state who want nothing more than to efficiently, effectively, and quickly place children where they will be loved and nurtured. Families must become dedicated and vocal advocates for children and work with judges, guardians ad litem, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers, and others entrusted with a child’s best interests. And the caseworkers assigned may have varying degrees of expertise, but ultimately should be your best advocate for information, barrier-breaking and assistance. Working together, children will have the families they deserve.

A detailed link to state ICPC contacts, websites, definitions and state codes can be found at .

And of course, the nearly 200 child-focused recruitment adoption professionals supported by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in every state, D.C., and throughout Canada stand ready to help assure that every child waiting to be adopted will be, regardless of borders.


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