Adopting a Child from Another State: Navigating and Understanding the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

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The Internet and social media are playing a greater role in connecting children with families, leading to an increase in out-of-home care placements occurring across state lines. Web-based child photo listings and parent profiles are two ways that families are brought together using the Internet.

When looking to accept a placement of a child from another state, you may be wondering, “How is this process different from when taking placement of a child from Wisconsin? Will it take longer to finalize an adoption if I choose adopt a child from outside of Wisconsin?”

When families accept placements of children from other states, they must go through an additional process, which is called an Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC.

The benefit and purpose of the ICPC, first and foremost, is that it helps to ensure safe placements for children and youth. Another benefit, is that it widens the scope for children to be matched with a family or relative that can best meet their needs no matter what state they live in. This leads to better permanency outcomes for children and youth in out-of-home care.

The ICPC also ensures that the person or agency that places a child out of state retains legal and financial responsibility for the child after the placement occurs.

The Roles of ICPC
The ICPC is a federal law that establishes uniform procedures when children are placed out of state and sets the requirements that must be met before a child can be placed out of state.

Children placed out of state need to be assured of the same protections and services that they would be provided had the child remained in their own state. The ICPC also allows for a child to return to their home state if there becomes a problem with a placement. Not complying with the ICPC laws and moving a child across state lines is illegal.

Protecting Children’s Rights
The purpose of the ICPC is to ensure the rights of children are protected when they move from one state to another. To do that, social workers use ICPC in the following ways: 

  • Monitoring the case during the transition and placement of the child in another state.
  • Ensuring the child receives required services. 
  • Ensuring all laws in both states are met.

ICPC also offers safeguards for everyone. Some of these include: 

  • Requiring a home study of the placement family and an evaluation of the interstate placement. 
  • Ensuring that the sending state’s (the state where the child resides) laws and policies are being followed.
  • Requiring that the sending agency pay for medical insurance and payment for the family prior to an adoption being finalized. The sending agency also monitors the placement of the child based on reports from the social worker in Wisconsin. 
  • Allowing the receiving state staff—in this case, Wisconsin—the opportunity to consent to or deny the placement.
  • Providing continual supervision in the receiving state and making sure that regular reports are sent back to the sending state.
  • Ensuring the sending state continues to have legal jurisdiction of the child after the child moves to Wisconsin (or the receiving state).

Things to Remember
Once the paperwork has been approved, it’s up to the sending state to determine when the child will move. This can take time, since court approval is often needed before a child can be placed. Here are some things to keep in mind during this process: 

  • Understand that it may take some time for paperwork to be processed and finalized; therefore, children may not be able to travel immediately. 
  • Wait patiently to receive information from the ICPC staff and your worker—they will contact you when they have additional information to share.
  • Be mindful that every situation is different, and time lines vary based on the courts and other systems. 
  • It is beneficial to let your agency worker know how and where to reach you at all times. 

These are just a few examples of what to expect while you wait during the processing of paperwork and placement. Check with your agency for more information on this process. You can also learn more about Wisconsin’s ICPC process, here.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children process can be a bit confusing and time consuming, but we’re here to help! Contact us at the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families at 800-762-8063 or


Wisconsin Department of Children and Families


Association of Administrators for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

Family and Youth Law Center

North American Council on Adoptable Children


Copyright © 2018 Coalition for Children | Youth | Families, formerly Adoption Resources of WI