The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children - ABA YLD 101 Practice Series

By Gloria M. Bruzzano

The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) is perhaps one of the most important areas for a new attorney to be familiar with yet receives little to no coverage in a typical law school family law class. My first exposure to the ICPC was early on in my first year of practice, prior to that I had never heard of it. It is important for the young lawyer to understand the basics of the ICPC because placing children out of state without an ICPC can result in illegal placements and effect permanency for our children, returning them to the foster care system. The purpose of this 101 is to explain what the ICPC is and when it is necessary to move forward on this contract between states.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is statutory law in all 52 member jurisdictions and a binding contract between member jurisdictions. The ICPC establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children. Each child who requires placement out of their home state should receive the maximum opportunity to be placed in a suitable environment and with persons/institutions that have appropriate qualifications and facilities to provide the necessary/desirable degree and type of care that said child requires. In addition, the ICPC assures that legal and financial responsibilities are assigned for supporting the placement prior to making the placement. 

The following checklist will help you remember when an ICPC is necessary and should be completed. Sending agencies that send, bring, or cause a child to be sent or brought from one party jurisdiction to another must use the ICPC. Sending agencies include the following:

  • A state party to the ICPC or any officer or employee of a party state;
  • A subdivision, such as a county or a city, or any officer or employee of the subdivision;
  • A court of a party state; or
  • Any person (including parents and relatives in some instances), corporation, association, or charitable agency of a party state.

Generally placements preliminary to a possible adoption or foster care are subject to the ICPC, including:

  • Placements with Parents: birth parent reunification in another state whenever a court has jurisdiction over a child who is being placed;
  • Kinship Care: kinship care by a relative in another state whenever a court has jurisdiction over a child who is being placed;
  • Foster Family Care/Foster Group Homes: placements unrelated to the child;
  • Residential Care: placement in a residential facility.
  • Domestic Adoption: by a public agency or private child-placing agency;
  • International Adoption: when not finalized in the foreign country.

Placements exempt from the ICPC:

  • Placements between relatives: sending or bringing of a child into a receiving state by his parent, step-parent, grandparent, adult aunt or uncle, or his/her guardian and leaving the child with any such relative or non-agency guardian in the receiving state
  • Placements made under other compacts: i.e., the Interstate Compact on Juveniles
  • Placements into certain types of institutions. i.e., boarding schools, hospitals, Job Corps, etc.
  • Placements made pursuant to Divorce: divorce, custody investigations involving home studies
  • Visits

A visit is defined under regulation #9 and does not require ICPC approval to wit. A visit is defined as a stay for 30 days or less, unless it takes place entirely within a child's academic summer vacation. The visit is to provide a child with a social or cultural experience and cannot be extended or renewed to exceed the presumed visit time frames.

Placements with Non-custodial Parents - Regulation No. 3
The Compact does not apply whenever a court transfers the child to the non-custodial parent and the court:

  • Does not have evidence before it that such parent is unfit
  • Does not seek such evidence
  • Does not retain jurisdiction over the child after the court transfers the child
This basic overview should illustrate when, as a young lawyer, you need to alert all parties that an ICPC needs to be processed and work with a receiving state to ensure a legal out of state placement. It is important to note that more specific information from each state jurisdiction is available through individual Interstate Compact Offices.


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About the Author

Gloria M. Bruzzano, Esq., serves as the 2006-2007 American Bar Association, Young Lawyer's Division Children and the Law Chair and as the 2006-2007 ABA, YLD representative to the Coordinating Council of Unified Family Courts. She has worked on over 200 child abuse and neglect cases as Special Assistant Corporation Counsel for the Commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services(ACS) in the South Bronx and in Manhattan. After two and a half years working for ACS, Ms. Bruzzano will be leading as child protection attorney for the nonprofit Sanctuary for Families, also in Manhattan, specializing in child welfare cases involving mothers who are victims of domestic violence. She currently serves on the NYC Mayor's Child Abuse Task Force, The Commercially and Sexually Exploited Children's Workgroup and is admitted to practice in both New York, New Jersey and Federal District Court of New Jersey.

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