How to navigate state adoption laws

The law is the law….except it is different in every state!

For both adoptive parents and expectant moms, the path to adoption has many variables; How much does it cost to adopt? What is the process to adopt a baby? How long does it take to adopt? While all of those are primary variables, one of the biggest variables is bound to be adoption law – both the adoption laws associated in your State, and the State you’re adopting in.  

There to protect the child, expectant mother, and adoptive parents – adoption laws vary greatly from State to State in terms of who can adopt, home study requirements, what/if any living expenses can be paid to an expectant mom, how long do you have to stay in State after the baby is born, when a birth family can sign relinquishments, how long a birth mom has to change her mind, and more.

Given the individual “personality” of each of our States, and that many adoptions occur across states, getting your head around the laws that apply to your particular situation can be a bit overwhelming. So where to start? 

Adoption professionals (lawyers, agencies, etc.) are naturally a valuable resource and have experience navigating adoption laws of many, if not all states. 

That said, as an expectant mother or adoptive parent, having a basic understanding of the laws in your State arms you with important information you can use to ensure your adoption is ethical and equitable (two of PairTree’s core values)! 

So… what are the laws in my State?

Using PairTree’s user-friendly search by state feature, you can simply plug in your State (or the state of your expectant mom or adoptive family) and find a quick listing of that State’s adoption laws. For example:

  • Can I pay living expenses for our expectant mother?
  • What are the guidelines and restrictions on “advertising” yourself as adoptive parents?
  • How long does ICPC take?
  • How many home study post-placement reports are required?

Where do I find an Adoption Attorney near me?

On that same page, you can toggle to Adoption Professionals to find a handy list of adoption professionals by state.

All the professionals listed are vetted members of The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (“AAAA”)  –  a credentialed organization dedicated to the competent and ethical practice of adoption law (and suuuper highly regarded in the Industry).

What is ICPC? 

Beyond state laws, the other key set of adoption laws to ensure you’re familiar with, particularly if your adoption is occurring between states, is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Known as “ICPC”, these laws essentially allow for the legal transport of a child from one state to another in a foster or adoption placement. The basic premise of ICPC is when the adoptive parents have travelled to a different state to accept placement of the child, they will stay in that state with the child until both the “home state” and “destination state’s” courts have processed the proper paperwork. 

Unfortunately, the question, “how long does ICPC take in [blank state]?” can’t be answered with any level of specificity. Usually an adoption attorney will tell adoptive parents to be prepared to spend up to two weeks in the state you’re adopting from.

In actuality, this processing can be a few days, weeks, or even in some cases a month or more. (Our first adoption was from MI and ICPC took five days. Our second adoption was from TX, and ICPC took nine days).

Self matching adoption waiting for ICPC in Michigan
Day 3 of our ICPC wait in Michigan. The little house we rented will always have a special place in my heart.

On a side note, while we know and understand the desire to get home, having this time alone – bonding as a new family – can be precious time while you wait out the legal paperwork shuffling between states. Our recommendation is hunker down and enjoy it. You’ll – most likely – never get time like this again.

While ICPC is a little intimidating, any (accredited and credible) adoption professional you work with will  navigate the process for you of the ICPC, but the more you know, the better you will feel and be a proactive part of the process. 

Happy research and reading!!

More like this...

View All Insights