By Genie Miller Gillespie
In 1993, I helped my first family join together through the process of adoption. It was a joyful and life-affirming experience. I decided then that this was what I wanted to do with my life. For more than 24 years, I have been helping children and parents build and grow their families through adoptions of all types.
If you are considering a domestic adoption, you may be thinking about casting your net as wide as possible and looking for a potential situation in another state. It may seem daunting, but in today’s mobile society, it is definitely worth exploring this option.
The best place to start when considering an interstate adoption is with an adoption attorney or agency in your home state to see if they have an interstate program, or can recommend another agency or program for you to explore. There are also several attorneys and agencies across the country which support interstate adoptions. Calling around to find the right agencies can feel like a full time job, so it may be beneficial to engage the services of an adoption consultant, given their large networks and experience with interstate adoptions.
You can work with an agency anywhere to help locate a match, but be aware that you will still need to engage an agency in your home state to complete your home study and post-placement supervision. Since the adoption process can feel somewhat invasive, and since every agency has a “personality” of its own, it is also important to speak with several agencies to determine where you feel most comfortable and who can best meet your criteria.
There are several things to consider when looking into interstate adoptions. For starters, an interstate adoption can be a bit more expensive than an in-state adoption since you may need to work with adoption professionals in both states. There are a lot of variables involved in this type of adoption, so please contact adoption professionals (attorneys and/or agencies) in both states to get as much information as possible before moving forward.
Adoption laws vary from state to state, so it is important to learn as much as possible about the laws of each state to determine the best way to proceed. The Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys [AAAA] is a great resource for finding qualified adoption professionals in every state.
The internet can also be a great resource when pursuing an interstate adoption; however, always proceed with caution. There are scammers online who sometimes prey upon vulnerable prospective parents. In addition to scammers, you can find yourself going in circles sometimes with all the information online. Given how emotional a process adoption is, there are many people with very strong opinions, who like to share them online. Finding a professional you trust to help guide you is a great idea.
Once you locate a situation in another state and have lined up professionals in either or both states depending on the circumstances, what happens next? First, depending on when the baby is due to be born, there may be a request from the expectant parent for expenses during the pregnancy. The laws on expectant parent expenses vary from state to state, so it is very important to contact an attorney as early as possible in the process to discuss the legalities of paying these expenses (most agencies work with an attorney who will handle this for you). Proceed VERY carefully when considering payment of expectant parent expenses – in most states, including Illinois, the payment of “reasonable living expenses” for some period of time is allowed (either through an agency or with prior court approval), but it must be done correctly since, as everyone knows, it is illegal to buy and sell children.
When is the best time to engage an attorney in the process? The best time to reach out to an attorney for consultation is as early in the process as possible, primarily for advice and an explanation of how the adoption will work, as well as a discussion of the proper way to handle any requests for expectant parent expenses.
The typical process is as follows:
- Baby is born.
- Birth parent(s) sign consents, surrenders or relinquishments at the appropriate time (pursuant to the laws of either state, after discussion with attorneys/agencies in both states as to what makes the most sense for everyone involved).
- Adoptive parents and the child then stay in the other state until there is approval from the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children [ICPC] in both states allowing you to return home with the baby. This process typically takes 1-2 weeks. It is hard to imagine having to stay in a hotel room in another state for an extended period of time, away from your home and support system, while someone else decides when you will get to go home; however, it is also important to make sure that all adoptions are done properly so the rules must be followed.
- Post-placement visits.
- Finalization – this is the court process to confirm your adoption; the process and number of required court appearance vary from state to state.
It is also possible to do a “private” interstate adoption (a situation or “match” you find on your own), but you will still need an agency in your home state to complete a home study and post-placement supervision, and an attorney in the state where the baby will be born, and will still need to comply with the ICPC. If you are considering “going it alone” please contact an attorney as early in the process as possible.
Pursuing an interstate adoption may feel overwhelming, but all of those feelings will disappear the minute you are holding your new child in your arms.