Interstate Compact

What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, ICPC?

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, ICPC, is a statutory agreement among all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The agreement provides for the movement and safe placement of children between states. The compact ensures prospective placements are safe and suitable before approval and that the individual or entity placing the child remains legally and financially responsible after that placement.

How does the ICPC work?

To start an ICPC placement request, a caseworker or adoption entity (called the sending agency) in the state where the child lives (called the sending state) creates a packet that contains the child’s social, medical and educational history and the current status of any court case involving them. The packet will also contain information about the person who is being considered as the child’s placement resource in the receiving state so that state will know who to evaluate for the possible placement. The documentation requirements for each type of placement are in the Regulations of the ICPC (Regulation 2 for foster/parent placements, Regulation 4 for residential placements, and Regulation 12 for private/independent adoptions).

Once the placement request packet is created by the sending agency, it is sent to the appropriate ICPC office in the sending state (a link to ICPC state pages is located at the end of this document so you can find where the packet should be sent). The ICPC office reviews the packet and makes sure it includes all documents required by the compact and the sending state’s statutes and regulations. When the packet is complete the sending state ICPC office mails the packet to the receiving state’s ICPC office. Once it arrives the receiving state ICPC office reviews the packet again to make sure it includes all the required documents. When the packet is confirmed to be complete, the receiving state ICPC office will send it to the social services agency office in the local community where the prospective placement family lives, called the receiving agency. The receiving agency will then visit the home, meet with everyone in the home, do background screening and determine if the home should be approved for the child to come and live there.

A completed home study with a recommendation for approving or denying placement is then sent from the receiving agency to the receiving state ICPC office. The placement request is either approved or denied based on the recommendation of the home study by the receiving state ICPC office. The packet is then sent from the receiving state to the sending state ICPC office with the decision that placement may or may not be made. Finally, the sending agency is sent a copy of the completed home study along with documentation of the receiving state’s decision to either approve or deny the placement request. If the request was approved by the receiving state, the child can be placed in the chosen home.

While there is much more detail to the process in terms of the forms, financial arrangements for the child and licensing that may need to be put in place, this is a simple overview of each of the steps in the placement request process. The process ensures that when children are placed out of state, they are placed in a safe and nurturing environment that can meet their particular needs.

Why is the ICPC necessary?

The primary purpose of the ICPC is to ensure that children placed out-of-state are placed with caregivers who are safe, suitable and able to meet the child’s needs. The ICPC requires these factors be assessed before a child is moved out-of-state. This assessment is completed by the receiving agency in the receiving state, since the sending agency or state does not have the authority to do so within the receiving state. As a legally binding agreement among all states, the ICPC ensures that children, placement resources and agencies enjoy a uniform set of protections and benefits regardless of which state they are moving to or from.

Another critical function of the ICPC is to ensure that the sending agency retains legal and financial responsibility for the child after the placement. This directly benefits children by eliminating any question of who is ultimately responsible for their well-being and for meeting the child’s needs after placement. The ICPC protects the interests of states by ensuring that individual states do not take on the legal and financial burden of caring for children placed within their borders from other states. Further, since most agencies are not licensed to provide services in other states, the ICPC allows for cooperation between agencies in both states without causing either agency to provide unauthorized services in either state.

When does the ICPC apply and when doesn’t it apply?

The ICPC applies to these types of placements (see Article III of the ICPC):

  • When an agency causes the child to be moved into another state.
  • When a child is being placed into a residential treatment facility.
  • When a parent or guardian places the child with a person or agency not listed in the next paragraph.

Remember, a child does not have to be involved with a court for approval of a placement to be required through the ICPC. The ICPC does not apply to these types of placements (see Article VIII of the ICPC):

  • When a child is placed by the child’s parent, stepparent, grandparent, adult sibling, adult uncle, adult aunt or legal guardian with a relative or guardian located in another state.
  • A child placed into a medical facility, a psychiatric institution or a boarding school located in another state.

When does the ICPC apply in placing a child with the child’s parent or parents?
The ICPC does apply when a court or public child welfare agency seeks to move a child with a parent located out-of-state.

Does the ICPC apply to placements of children into residential treatment facilities located in another state?

Yes. Approval from the receiving state ICPC office is required for a child from a different state to be placed there. The ICPC applies regardless of whether the out-of-state residential placement is made by a public or private agency or by the child’s own family. Residential programs will typically guide families through the ICPC process when a family is placing a child from out-of-state into their program, as the ICPC process for residential placements varies somewhat from state to state.

When a person or entity seeks to place a child out-of-state through the ICPC process, how is the prospective placement evaluated for safety and suitability?

Regardless of the type of resource, their suitability as caregivers for a child or group of children is assessed by what is generally referred to as a home study. The home study is always completed under the statute and regulations of the receiving state, with the appropriate receiving agency making a recommendation for approval or denial. Only the receiving state ICPC office can fully approve or deny a placement (based on this recommendation).

If the sending agency is a public child welfare agency, they can request a home study be completed by the appropriate public agency in the receiving state (for free) or to contract with a private provider in the receiving state (at a rate determined in the contract). This is designated on the 100A form and is at the discretion of the sending public agency. If the receiving agency is a public agency, they may choose to have the home study completed by a private agency. This is done at the receiving public agency’s cost (not the sending), and the receiving public agency is still considered fully responsible for meeting all of the ICPC requirements.

Can a child in the custody of a county children and youth agency be placed with a family from another state through the SWAN initiative?

Yes. Adoptive families can be found both inside and outside the state. However, when considering a placement outside the state, agencies must comply with the ICPC requirements. Further, if the sending public agency chooses to have a public agency in the receiving state complete the home study (so they can receive the study for free), any private agency in the receiving state that the resource may have previously worked with may be excluded from the process.

Can a county children and youth agency refer requests for the ICPC adoption services to the SWAN contract?

No. The SWAN contract provides adoption services only for children who are in the custody of the Pennsylvania county children and youth agencies.

Must a county children and youth agency be responsible for adoption service requests made through the ICPC even though the county only uses SWAN contracted services?

Yes. A county children and youth agency can provide the services directly or they can contract with a vendor to provide the service. Either way, the county agency is responsible to provide the service without charge to the sending agency or the prospective adoptive family.

For additional details regarding regulations pertaining to Interstate Compact in Pennsylvania, refer to:

The Pennsylvania Interstate Compact Office is available to provide training for courts, public and private agencies within Pennsylvania. Please contact the director for more information.

Mailing Address:

PA Interstate Compact Unit
Department of Human Services
Office of Children, Youth & Families
Bureau of Policy, Programs, and Operations
Division of Operations
Willow Oak Building #43, Room 430
1006 Hemlock Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17105
(717) 772-5505

Useful websites: