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The most common questions about out-of-state adoption

Many families want to know how out-of-state adoption works. Here are a few common questions about out-of-state adoption.

Tyler Helbach avatar
Written by Tyler Helbach
Updated over a week ago

One of the most common questions families have is about how difficult it may be to adopt across state lines. At Northwest Adoption Exchange, we believe that while it's generally best to find placements for youth in their local communities, geography shouldn't be a barrier from finding permanency for youth. Here are some answers to the most common questions we hear from families related to out-of-state adoption.

Is it possible to adopt a child out-of-state?

Yes, lots of youth who have been featured on Northwest Adoption Exchange have been adopted by out-of-state families. Sometimes referred to as 'interstate adoption," out-of-state adoption is supported by the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC.)  While the ASFA requires states to consider interjurisdictional placements, most families who are selected for a child out-of-state become much more familiar with the ICPC process, which serves as a contract between the state where the child is located and the family's state of residence. Because the ICPC process requires additional collaboration and paperwork between participating states, the process can sometimes increase the time between family selection and placement.

From a practical and logistical standpoint, the process for out-of-state families to inquire on youth featured on Northwest Adoption Exchange is the same as that for in-state families. Unless explicitly stated that the youth would like to reside within their current location, families with a home study are encouraged to reach out regardless of where they live.

Do all agencies support out-of-state adoptions?

Not necessarily. While all states should participate in ICPC proceedings if your family is selected as a placement option, agencies can vary widely in their willingness to participate in the matching process for children in other states. In our experience, while most private agencies are willing to participate in the out-of-state inquiry process, some public child welfare agencies may have informal policies that require families to focus on local children who need permanency.

Before inquiring on children outside of your state of residence, we recommend talking with your agency to see if they have a policy around families adopting out-of-state. It may be that they prefer making inquiries on your behalf, or they may expect that you've exhausted local referrals before you look out-of-state. It's important that the relationship between you and your agency is built on trust and open lines of communication. It's best to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to considering out-of-state adoption.

How would a transition work if I was selected for a child in another state?

Transitions are an incredibly important aspect of adopting from foster care and it's true that geographical distance can complicate transition planning and execution. Families who are selected for children out-of-state can expect to collaborate on a transition plan with the child's social worker in many of the same ways an in-state family would. If you're curious about what that might look like for a specific child, the best option is to discuss with the child's social worker after you have made an inquiry. 

Each child is unique and each social worker may have a different approach to transitions with out-of-state families. Now more than ever, technology can serve as an important tool to aid in transitions, especially for out-of-state families. For example, while a local family might start with in-person visits with a youth, a social worker might ask an out-of-state family to start regular Skype calls with a youth. Ultimately, while technology can help in transitions and introductions, families should still anticipate that most out-of-state transitions will require in-person visits before placement.

If you have any additional questions about out-of-state adoption, feel free to reach out to us via live chat, by email, or by giving us a call.

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