Adopting a child from another state requires strict adherence to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) guidelines. The stress and added expense of adopting from another state can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, there are ways you can plan ahead so that an interstate adoption is less stressful and less expensive.
One of the biggest mistakes made by adoptive parents concerns the home study. Below are some important tips to remember when going through the interstate adoption process:
- Make sure your home study complies with the state you are receiving the baby from. Example: Some states (such as North Carolina) allow home studies to be valid for 18 months. However, many states require a home study to be updated every 12 months. Ask the attorney you have retained in the birth mother’s state to read your home study before the child’s birth to help determine if anything needs to be updated or added.
- Travel with an electronic copy and a hard copy of your home study. Make sure there is a clear understanding about whether the supporting documents are needed by ICPC and whether those documents have to be original or if copies will be sufficient.
- Expect the attorney in the birth mother’s state and in your home state to require you sign a contract before any work is done. You can have the attorney send you the contract before you need to sign. You can ask about refund policies if the birth mother decides not to sign the adoption documents or if she signs and then revokes her consent. Keep in mind that most attorneys prepare documents ahead of the child’s birth. You should also fill out a client information form so all vital information is known – contact information, dates of birth, etc.
- Before you hire an adoption attorney for an out-of-state adoption, you should ask some basic questions: How long they have practiced law, how many adoptions have they done, and particularly how many interstate adoptions. Ask if they have ever handled an interstate adoption in the state where your birth mother is located.
- Know the rules about where you can travel with the child. Until you are cleared by ICPC, the baby cannot leave the state, although one or both parents can. You do not have to stay in the same city, but you do have to stay in the same state. Some adoptive parents invite grandparents out for part of the time to help cope.
- Give the attorneys in both states your cell phone number and take an iPad or laptop with you. Also give the identity and contact information for the hotel or friends you are staying with.
- Expect to wait. If you start out by planning to wait at least a week you will feel less stressed when you get out quicker. Note that holidays and staffing issues at the ICPC and your attorney’s office can make the wait longer. Plan to roll with it.
- Plan for the cost. Because you may have to have a lawyer in both states and because you have travel and food and lodging costs, an adoption out of state is generally about a third more expensive than an adoption in your home state. If you have relatives in other states, you might prioritize your out-of-state search for birth mothers so that they are in the states where you have free lodging with relatives.
Caring for Your Baby While Awaiting ICPC Approval
The ICPC process usually takes up to a week, but may last even longer. This means that adoptive parents will have the additional challenge of caring for a newborn while being away from home. The following are practical tips on caring for a baby during the wait for ICPC approval in the birth mother’s state:
- Pack baby’s separate clothing and supplies, such as onsies, blankets, a thermometer, bottles, burp cloths, diapers, baby soap, etc., in one separate suitcase that you can grab and take it with you;
- Check with the hotel before you check in to make sure they provide a baby bed or portable crib;
- Consider taking an umbrella stroller with head support for ease in transporting baby in airport;
- Take a car seat and practice using it before you travel; plan to check the car seat at the airport;
- Pick a local pediatrician before you go to pick up the baby and plan to call the pediatrician while you are out of state to arrange for the newborn check when you return;
- At the hospital where baby is born, ask if the pediatrician will allow you to bring the baby in if needed during the first week if you are still waiting for approval to go back to your home state;
- Do not buy formula and fly with it because the hospital will give you a supply upon checkout and you can buy locally while waiting for interstate approval;
- Try to do some sight-seeing in the area; plan an outing each day, even if it is just walking through a mall;
- Take photos and journal so you can tell your child about their first week in the world; and
- Remember to breathe; this is a very exciting yet emotional and stressful time…but you can do this.
If you are considering adopting out of state, you will need the help of an adoption attorney experienced in interstate adoption laws and processes. To discuss your individual situation or begin your interstate adoption, please call us today at 919-821-1860 or contact us online.