Understanding Adoption Law

Our adoption attorneys will guide you through the complicated legal process of adopting a child.

Below are two laws you should be aware of as you plan your adoption. Please note these descriptions are not a complete explanation of the laws.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)

The ICPC regulates the transportation and placement of children across state lines. It is a uniform regulation that has been enacted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia with the purpose of coordinating and supervising interstate adoptions.

If a child is taken across state lines to be placed in a non-relative setting for placement in foster care or as a preliminary to a possible adoption, then the placement must be approved by the ICPC. Both the sending and receiving states must be notified and each of their requirements met. Approval from the ICPC in both the sending and receiving states is required before the child is taken across state lines.

The requirements and procedures for processing ICPC requests and placements differ by state. Enforcement is taken seriously and if the ICPC is violated, parties may be subject to penalties in either or both states under their respective laws.

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

The ICWA applies to child custody proceedings (including pre-adoption placements, adoption placements, foster care placements, and termination of parental rights) in which the child is an “Indian Child.” An “Indian Child” is defined by the Act as “an unmarried person who is under the age of eighteen, and is either a) a member of an Indian tribe or b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe.” 25 USCS § 1903(4)

In order to determine if the child you are adopting is a member of an Indian tribe or eligible for membership, your attorney must contact the tribe(s). Membership is not necessarily based on blood quantum; some tribes have other criteria. A list of tribes is published annually in the Federal Register. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also has some membership information.

If you believe there is a question of Indian heritage, you should discuss it with your attorney immediately. There are very specific procedures that must be followed in adoptions of an “Indian Child.”