adoption manual 11

Adoption Self Help Manual
Chapter 11 
A look at International Adoptions

Interstate Compact Act

You live in New Jersey. There is a baby you have found in Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Illinois. The adoption placement goes ahead smoothly with no problems.

Many months go by. You and the baby have bonded. The baby has become an integral part of your life and family.

You seek to have the adoption finalized. Suddenly, you are told that you cannot finalize the adoption. The whole placement is in jeopardy.


The authorities inform you that what you have done so far violates the law.

What law?

The Interstate Compact Act. (Official name: Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children).

You see, whenever you bring a baby across state lines with the intention of adopting that baby, three sets of rules must be followed. The laws of the state where you live, also the laws of the state where the baby is coming from, and the procedures of the "Interstate Compact Act"

This discussion will get heavier in a minute, but what you need to know, basically, is this: The compact says that when there is an adoption involving two states, both must cooperate and approve of the placement. This is done so that the protection of all the laws will be guaranteed to everyone involved. Remember, the government is responsible for providing protection for all of its citizens!

All U.S. states and jurisdictions have incorporated the Interstate Compact Act onto their books. And while it is not usually a big problem, it can jeopardize the entire adoption and tie up a lot of your time. You must not overlook it.

You're thinking to yourself, "There he goes again. Some bizarre little quirk in the law I don't really need to bother about."

Not so.

Just recently, I was involved in a private adoption case that I'll tell you about.

A Pennsylvania adopting family, after a few years of searching, had found a baby in a neighboring state. They went to pick up the baby and return to their home in Pennsylvania.

On the very day they went to pick up the baby, somehow they learned about the Interstate Compact Act. It was really just a fluke they stumbled on it. Their attorney didn't even know about the Act.

This spells trouble with a capital T.

They could not take the baby back to Pennsylvania with them, unless they wanted to break the law. Their adoption could fail!

I was able to help them out of this tough spot. A home study was completed and all the necessary paper work was done.

But they had to stay and live in a neighboring state for six weeks before they were able to move back home again. All this, just to satisfy the Interstate Compact Act.

At least, in this case, the story ended happily. They were able to keep the child. But there have been other cases where this was not so. Adoptions have fallen through.

Perhaps this is a good place to give you some of the specifics of the law. I hope you won't find this too hard to get through.

The Interstate Compactbetween states applies when:
An agency, court, or person in one state wants to place a child under its care or custody

  • into a boarding or foster home in another state;
  • into the home of a specific pre-adoptive family in another state; or,
  • into a child-caring institution in another state.

It does get complicated and it is important. The actual steps are spelled out in the Compact Administration Manual, Volume 1.

Certainly you don't need to be expert in the Compact, but you should be sure your agency, attorney or intermediary knows about the Compact and is taking all the necessary steps to comply with its requirements.

There is another area where the Interstate Compact Act may enter your life. Suppose you are in the process of adopting a child and you move from your present state into a new state before the adoption is finalized.

You will have to consider the laws and regulations of the state into which you are moving, too.

Remember, this Compact Act, like all the other laws, is not there to make things difficult for you. It is designed to protect everybody's rights. It is designed to establish some uniformity throughout the United States.

The Interstate Compact Act applies to foreign-born children placed from one Compact state into another. The actual national origin of the child does not matter. And the Act applies to international adoption agencies headquartered in a Compact state as well.

The Interstate Compact is administered by your state's Child Welfare Agency or other state authority. (Don't be confused. These are government agencies, NOT adoption agencies).

As with everything else, each state has its own ways of interpreting and applying the provisions of the law. You will need to be clear on the appropriate provisions as they relate to your particular circumstances because different states treat these problems somewhat differently.

The point I have made all along is that you should at least know that these laws exist. Re-read this section. Get some kind of handle on this Interstate Compact matter. Then, you will at least know enough to ask some of the right questions.

You will be able to tell if the people you are working with know what's going on. Do they know enough to protect you from problems if and when they arise?

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