One of the best things about adopting through Nightlight is that families have the opportunity to be selected by an expectant parent in any one of our ten offices across the country. To think that you live in OK and might be considered as an adoptive family in South Carolina is an exciting thought, and brings hope of expanded possibilities. Some families might say it’s also one of the hardest things. Why? Not because they hesitate one second to travel to get that precious baby or taking off work a bit longer, but the wait to come home….that long, no specific time period, sit in a hotel room in an unknown city process known as ICPC. Maybe taking a more focused look at the process will help make it more understandable--and therefore, tolerated a bit easier when the time comes.
The ICPC (short for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) has been around since 1950’s when it became evident that moving children from one state to another for the purpose of foster care or adoption, needed some safeguards. Its goal was to shut down improper, illegal or incomplete processes that left children in new states without proper support, permanency plans or legal parents. By 1990, every state and the Virgin Islands had passed laws creating ICPC regulations. So, technically, it is a compact between the states, not a federal law. It applies to children sent out of state for adoption, foster care, treatment or residential centers. Every state has a Compact Administrator (generally a staff in the state office) who oversees the coming and going of children between states, and assures that the legal work is done properly and the documents are in place to assure the placement is being done legally and in the best interest of the child.
Now, back to the “waiting to go home” process. Because of the need for each state to approve the move of a child from one state to another, it is required that the child not leave his state of residence until that work has been done. Let’s a couple lives in Kentucky and they are chosen to adopt a child in Missouri. They travel to Missouri and are able to be there for the birth of their daughter. What a wonderful experience to see that birth and be able to take her home from the hospital. They return to their hotel room, very happy and longing to go home where they can see their family, who eagerly awaits their return. But things are now at work in the background that will determine when they can go home. The agency will have prepared some paperwork as before the baby’s birth, including the home study and all supporting documents. But, we have to wait other documents, such as medical records. The last documents to be completed are the legal consent forms by the birth mother. Once all the paperwork is collected, it is sent to the ICPC office of the sending state (where the child currently resides). They review it and approve. Sometimes they have questions, or ask for additional documents. Once approval is given, they send it on to the receiving state, where the child will be residing. That office does the same thing—reviews to make sure all documents are in order. The agency knows when each step is taken. We are notified when the sending state approves, and also when the receiving state approves. We’ve learned over the years of doing ICPC, that anxious adoptive parents making calls to check on the progress, or complain because it’s taking too long, is just not successful and actually interferes with the process. ICPC offices are frequently handling many cases at one time, and they need to focus on their reviews. We know from our experience that these workers are diligent and very aware that the families are in hotels waiting to leave. They work even harder when big holidays are coming and families are really anxious to leave. These are the reasons we can’t tell you exactly how long it will take—there are several things we can’t control after the placement, but we do our part of submitting the paperwork as quickly as we can. As soon approval is given by both states, families are free to leave immediately.
In the meantime, the families that plan ahead to be in their “temporary home” for several days fare the best. So, make the best of it!
Here are some ideas for how to get through:
- Plan to focus and enjoy just being together with your new little family member, whether you’re in a hotel or sitting in the hospital. These times can enhance bonding and allow for lots of attention and nurturing for the baby.
- Learn some things about the city you’re in, and explore as much as you can, especially if you arrive before delivery day. This will help pass the time and can become a part of the birth story you will have to tell your child.
- Bring books or computers or things to do in those quiet moments when the baby is sleeping (if you’re not asleep yourself!) It’s a good time to reflect on the journey that you’ve been on and the life ahead of you. Take lots of pictures and videos, send them out so family can see what you’re doing each day.
- Never hesitate to ask the staff of the office where you are about anything you need--locations of grocery stores, baby stores, restaurants, parks, places to go, and attractions unique to that city.
- Once you are home, life will get very busy and we hope the memories of your entire experience will be a positive one, especially those days and moments created by waiting through the ICPC process.
written by Debbie Nomura, LCSW | Executive Director – OK Office