Interstate Adoption: ICPC and ICAMA

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Regulating Adoption Across State Lines,
Moving from one State to Another

Related Resources
Adoption Laws
Connecting with Adopting Parents
Connecting with Placing Parents
Glossary of Terms
Special Needs Adoption
Waiting Children

Elsewhere on the Web

The Internet has played a major role in the increased number of children adopted across state lines. Web-based waiting child photolistings and hopeful parent profiles online are just two ways in which the Internet brings children and families together who may be geographically distant.

Interstate adoptions are affected by two agreements between the "sending" and "receiving" states. These agreements carry the force of law:
  • The Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA), and
  • The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).
Children's and parents' adoption workers, agencies, or attorneys will generally prepare the necessary paperwork, but placing and adopting parents should be aware of the Compacts, their provisions, and whether one or both apply, and check to make sure all requirements are being met.


Currently, 42 states participate in the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance. ICAMA regulates and coordinates the payment of benefits to children with special needs, adopted pursuant to an adoption assistance agreement, when they are adopted from one state by a family in another state, or when the adoptive family moves from one state to another.

Benefits coordinated under ICAMA include Medicaid, Title IV-E and Title XX payments, state subsidies, and others.

The purpose of ICAMA is to assure that a "receiving" state is not encumbered with expenses for assistance negotiated in the "sending" state, while making sure that children continue to receive assistance and benefits without the necessity of submitting expenses incurred to the "sending" state for reimbursement. In participating states, the "sending" state (state where the assistance was originally determined) makes arrangements to pay the "receiving" state (state where the child is residing) for benefits paid to the child. For children covered by Medicaid, the "receiving" state may issue a new Medicaid card to the child.


The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is an agreement among all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is covered by legal statute in all states.

The Compact applies to placements of minor children made from one state to another by public and private agencies, the courts, independent placers (i.e., physicians and attorneys), and individuals. It is designed to:
  • transition and monitor the child's placement;
  • ensure agency services when a child is moved from one state to another for adoption, foster care, residential treatment, relative, or institutional care;
  • ensure compliance with states' adoption laws;
  • provide that children are returned to their original jurisdiction should the placement prove not to be in their best interest or should the need for out-of-state services cease.
In adoption, the purpose of the ICPC is to make sure that:
  • the adoption laws of the "sending" and "receiving" states' are observed,
  • the movement of children across state lines meets all legal requirements, and
  • the children are protected at all times.
At the court finalization hearing, proof of compliance with the ICPC is required.

Rarely, exceptions may be granted; however, generally, failure to comply with the ICPC can have a range of consequences, including loss of license for a licensed agency.

The ICPC is not without faults and both placing and adopting parents should be aware that while, in most cases, compliance with the Compact will be a smooth process, in others it could get sticky. In the event the laws of the "sending" and "receiving" states are different regarding a specific requirement of the Compact, the wording of the Compact appears to give precedence to the laws of the "receiving" state. However, according to "Reforming the ICPC", from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the Compact Administrator supports giving equal weight to both states' laws. Adoption professionals working with placing and adopting parents will ultimately be the ones to approach the ICPC administrators for the two states in order to find a solution.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as, or as a substitute for, legal advice.

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