Overcoming Barriers to Interstate Adoption

INTRODUCTION – Two stories   “A mind is like a parachute – it functions only when open!”

THEN: JD, Fisher, Lilly, Renee, Trish and David were between the ages of 10 and 16 when they first became available for adoption, after spending 3 years in foster care. They were 6 African American teenagers with individual special needs. They lost the next 3 years of their childhood due to geographic barriers.

NOW: Michele was 11 when she came into the foster care system in one state. At age 13, she became legally free for adoption. After 9 months of recruitment a family came forward. The exchange of information began and 4 months later Michele was with her new family in another state.


  • Provisions Related to Geographic Barriers
    • Requires that states include in their IV-B plan a provision containing assurances the the state shall develop a plan for effective use of cross-jurisdictional resources.  Section 442(12) of SSA
    • Requires that, as a condition of receiving Title IV-E funds, that the state shall not “deny or delay the placement of a child for adoption when an approved family is available outside the jurisdiction with responsibility for handling the case of the child…” Section 474(e) of the SSA
  • Clarification of Reasonable Efforts
    • “Reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan, and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child.”  Section 471(15)(E)(ii) of the SSA
  • Documentation of Efforts for Adoption or Permanent Home
    • States must document in each case plan the steps the agency is taking to find an adoptive family or other permanent living arrangement.
    • At a minimum, it must include child specific recruitment efforts such as the use of state, regional, and national exchanges.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES? – Addressing the Clinical and Practical Concerns.

Adoption: It’s a balancing act. Good social work practice takes time. …. Children can’t wait.

  • Worker Fears and Concerns Lack of knowledge of the process
    • Fear of loss of control
    • Unfamiliar practice and policy
    • Lack of staff time
    • Unknown success rate
    • Finding appropriate families
    • Locating resources in remote jurisdictions
  • Familial Issues
    • Maintaining sibling contact
    • Transition from foster family
    • Openness, concurrent planning, maintaining all appropriate contacts
  • Supervising the Placement
    • Trust issues
    • Timeliness, formats of post-placement reports
    • Reports to any/all courts of jurisdiction
    • What happens when problems occur?
    • Obtaining appropriate resources
    • Legal issues and finalization procedures
  • Dealing with the Interstate Compact (ICPC)
    • Lack of knowledge about the ICPC
    • Incomplete ICPC referrals
    • Time involved in processing and waiting for ICPC approvals


  • Standards for approval of foster parents vs. adoptive parents
  • Education laws
  • Different state adoption laws
  • Laws regarding older children
  • Time to conduct criminal records checks


  • Home study – who pays?
  • Staff time
  • Lack of adoption assistance payments between placement and finalization
  • Differences in adoption assistance and non-recurring adoption costs between counties or states
  • Travel costs, visits, etc.
  • All post adoption needs including supervision, medical assistance, education


  • Financing placements
    • Assume the money IS there. Look to access both federal and state dollars.
    • Combine dollars from different pots, even different departments or agencies
    • Remember Title IV-E payments can be used to cover travel costs for visits and for placement
    • Think outside the box – be creative
  • Pre-placement visits
    • Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments for child care and travel costs associated with visits or placement are allowable
    • Reimbursement to family as “non-recurring expense”
    • “AdoptAir” program
    • Outside the box thinking
      • frequent flyer miles
      • service organizations
      • corporations
  • Adoption subsidy
    • All identified needs of a child as described in presentation packet should be addressed
    • Coverage/eligibility may vary from state to state (or county to county). Higher subsidy rate prevails
    • Review with family and agency at time of presentation
    • Review prior to any pre-placement visit or meeting of child and family
  • Post-adoption supervision and post legal support
    • Purchase-of-service contracts
    • Reciprocal service agreements
    • Promoting Safe and Stable Families (formerly Family Preservation Services)
    • Title XX (Social Services)
    • ILP (Independent Living Program) grant
    • Foster care respite money
    • Developmental disabilities councils, protection and advocacy agencies and university affiliated programs
    • Shriners’ hospitals
    • Medical Waiver program
    • Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program


  • In State
    • Other public agencies
    • Private agencies
    • Network, network, network! – foster families, friends, teachers, residential staff, churches, etc.
    • Develop partnerships with neighboring regions or districts
    • Recruitment activities
    • Media resources
    • State Adoption Exchange – NY Family Album and Internet site
  • Out of State
    • Network – conferences, colleagues, professional associations, newsletters
    • Regional and national exchanges
    • Internet – adoption and non-adoption sites (i.e. special needs)
    • National media recruitment


  • Exchange of initial/preliminary information
    • Confidential information released in stages
  • Addressing preliminary issues/concerns
  • Exchange of additional information
    • Gradual disclosure
    • Use of presentation packet – identification of support services past and future
      • Supervision
      • Therapy
      • Educational
      • Medical services
      • Other identified needs of child
  • Full disclosure
    • Review by family and agency
    • Joint discussion – opens communication – same message
    • Clarify information
    • Opportunity to address concerns/questions
    • Convey expectations
      • Visitation, post-placement contact: siblings, relatives, foster parents, etc.
    • Identify support service needs


  • All contracts and identified serves should be in place on date of placement
  • Regular telephone contact essential due to distance. Also consider video conferences with placing worker, child, family, and supervising worker
    • Address progress
    • Identify behavioral changes and/or new behaviors
  • Helps to alleviate anxiety of all parties involved
  • Reassurance to all that monitoring is occurring and assistance is available


  • All states participating in ICPC must approve placement of child across state lines
  • Assures appropriate placements and supportive services
  • Allow adequate time and submit all necessary information


  • Purchase of service contract with private agency
  • State/public agency
  • Be sure all expectations are clear
  • Share sample guidelines for report formats
  • Talk about how problems will be solved
  • Consider video conferences


  • Family and the family’s worker
  • ICPC and (in some states) ACAMA administrator
  • The Internet
  • Parent information centers


  • Be willing to be proactive and creative when recruiting families for your children. This includes recruiting outside of your jurisdiction, utilizing exchanges and being willing to consider all families who make inquiries on behalf of a child.
  • Be flexible and take risks when faced with issues that seem difficult. If distance appears to be an obstacle, travel logistics are challenging, or the child needs to remain in contact with siblings or others, be willing to think creatively and take bold steps to overcome these obstacles.
  • Don’t make assumptions about the quality or availability of resources in the family’s area. For example, many rural communities have excellent networks of medical or therapeutic resources, yet, there is often the assumption that a child with many needs must be placed in a large urban area to be near resources.
  • Be willing to shorten or telescope the time frame for pre-placement visits. There is nothing sacred about a particular time frame. Many experienced workers have actually found longer, protracted visiting periods to be more problematic than shorter visiting periods.
  • Even if you do not end up making a placement with the family that inquired about a child, keep the family’s home study and keep it in mind for other possible matches. Every family is a potential resources for a child on your caseload.


  • When in doubt – reach for the phone
  • Develop a “home study elements checklist”
  • Learn about subsidy, purchase of service, ICPC and ICAMA (where applicable), your own state medical program
  • Use exchanges effectively – register both children and families -state, regional, national


  • Continue to talk about the issue – look for solutions
  • Look at ourselves and see what role we play in creating barriers
  • Partner, partner, partner
  • Build relationships
  • Advocate for needed policy changes at both the state and federal level.
  • Think outside the box – be creative

Source: Coalition Conference worskhop presented by Sue Badeau, 2001

click to share to: