1. Why should private and independent adoptions be regulated under the New ICPC if state regulation and licensing requirements already exist and state courts have the authority to ensure that laws are followed?
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State laws, licensing requirements and regulatory agencies do not adequately provide the necessary safeguards to address the needs of children placed across state lines largely due to jurisdictional limitations, hence the need for a cooperative document like a compact. The laws and licensing requirements for private and independent adoptions vary from state to state. While some states’ licensing laws and requirements are fixed and comprehensive, some are not. The purpose of the ICPC is to protect children placed across state lines for purposes of foster care and adoption. Most state regulatory agencies only provide periodic licensing checks and or audits annually, bi-annually or at some other interim timeframe. The New Compact gives each child placed in an interstate placement for foster care or adoption individualized attention and protection through case (child and prospective placement resource) assessments and certification of observance and compliance with applicable state and federal laws and their accompanying licensing requirements. Regulatory oversight at a macro level does not provide the necessary case-by-case attention which is critical to adoptive parents, birth parents and children to ensure that all parties are protected, and children are placed in safe and suitable placements.
Similarly, state courts and judges presiding in interstate cases and interstate adoptions are not positioned to provide the necessary safeguards that would be available under the New ICPC. In many states and counties, judges rotate their posts within the state court system and do not preside solely over adoption or child welfare cases. They are often unfamiliar with the necessary processes or intricacies of interstate cases. Absent the New ICPC, judges would need to know the state laws and licensing requirements in their state as well in any state from which they receive children or any state to which they send children. State adoption laws differ, procedures involving parental consent, relinquishment of children and legal and putative fathers differ as do many aspects of each State’s Code. The New Compact puts in place procedures and establishes accountability which ensures that children in interstate cases are protected despite state differences.
For example, it is not uncommon for birth parents to consent to an adoption in a state where such consent is valid but which is in violation of the laws of their own state. This creates an opportunity for the adoption to be reversed or eventually to disrupt.
Legal matters involving legally recognized fathers, fathers legally separated or divorced from birth mothers and living in another state also raise an array of legal and logistical problems which may further complicate the already complex process in interstate adoptions. The New Compact provides a mechanism for ensuring that the applicable laws of each state are followed.
Of paramount concern, whether processed as a public, private or independent adoption, is the possibility that an adoption may disrupt or dissolve. If disruption occurs prior to finalization or dissolution occurs after an adoption is finalized, and the private and/or independent adoption agency or attorney is no longer involved and acting on behalf of the birth mother/father or adoptive parent (s), the state child welfare agency is required to assume custody of the child. Clearly, this outcome is a negative one for the child, adoptive parent(s), and the state. The primary goal of the Compact is to ensure that all interstate adoptions have the greatest opportunity possible for success. One safeguard established by the New Compact is that the applicable laws of each state involved are observed and followed, so the interests of all parties involved are protected.