Understanding the Impact of the ADOPT Act on Interstate Adoption

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interstate adoption

When adopting a child from another state, residents of North Carolina must be aware of the process known as interstate adoption. Unlike adopting within your state, interstate adoption mandates specific requirements. As noted in a previous blog, understanding ICPC regulations, adoption laws, and compliance requirements helps adoptive parents ensure a seamless and successful adoption journey.

In May 2023, Congresswoman Kuster (D-NH) and Congressman Lamborn (R-CO) joined forces in a bipartisan effort to criminalize unlawful adoption practices. Entitled the “Stop Unlawful Adoption Practices Act,” or the ADOPT (Adoption Deserves Oversight, Protection, and Transparency) Act, the bill seeks to amend Title 18, United States Code.

I received this information from AdoptMatch, a nonprofit organization founded in 2018 by adoption attorneys Celeste Liversidge and Jill Cucullu, in response to the myriad ethical problems in the domestic adoption industry, including predatory and illegal advertising practices, unlicensed adoption providers, exorbitant fees, and a lack of support for birth mothers and adoptees after adoption. AdoptMatch is a project of Ethical Family Building, a nonprofit organization working to safeguard domestic adoptions through education, transparency, and accountability.

This blog from an experienced and knowledgeable adoption attorney explains the impact of the ADOPT Act on interstate adoption. Continue reading to learn more, then call (919) 306-2899 to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.

What Is ICPC and Its Role in the Interstate Adoption Process?

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is crucial legislation that affects adoptions and interstate adoption agencies. Anyone seeking to adopt a child from another state must comply with the ICPC.

Initially established in the 1960s, the ICPC has a wide-reaching impact on interstate adoptions in every state. Its primary objective is to safeguard the well-being of adopted children by implementing standardized regulations to which all adopting families must adhere.

What Does ICPC Require of An Adoptive Parent?

The ICPC imposes additional obligations on adoptive parents prior to interstate travel with their newly adopted child. To proceed with an interstate adoption, obtaining consent from the adoptive parent’s state and the child’s state of residence is required.

To ensure the child’s welfare, you must submit the following details to the child’s current state:

  • A synopsis of your child’s care plan.
  • Your financial information.
  • Your home study report.
  • The child’s medical records.

You must also provide the following details:

  • 1. Reason for the move: Clearly state your motives for relocating the child.
  • 2. Child’s information:
    • Name: Provide the full name of the child.
    • Birthday: Share the child’s date of birth.
    • Birthplace: Specify the place where the child was born.
  • 3. Parent information:
    • Your name: Provide your full name.
    • Spouse’s name: Share the full name of your spouse.

Subsequently, the offices in both states will carefully assess the information to determine if moving is in the child’s best interest. Upon receiving approval from both states, your home state will promptly inform the adoption agency or adoption attorney with whom you are collaborating that you are authorized to welcome your new child into your state of residence.

Your adoption attorney will likely handle most of the steps involved in the ICPC process—such as completing the standardized forms—on your behalf.

How Does the ADOPT Act Impact Interstate Placement?

The ADOPT Act will impact interstate placements by prohibiting unlicensed entities from advertising or acting as adoption intermediaries and licensed entities from advertising outside of the state in which they are licensed. It will limit advertising and paying birth mother expenses to licensed agencies and lawyers and prohibit unlicensed entities from advertising or acting as adoption intermediaries and licensed entities from advertising outside of the state in which they are licensed.

How Does the ADOPT Act Affect Birth Parents, the Adoptive Family, and Children?

This legislation seeks to protect prospective birth mothers, hopeful parents seeking to adopt, and children by:

  • Preventing the commodification of children placed for adoption by unlicensed adoption intermediaries
  • Safeguarding women facing unintended pregnancies against exploitation and coercion by unlicensed adoption intermediaries
  • Protecting adoptive families from financial and emotional fraud by unlicensed adoption intermediaries
  • Ensuring licensed adoption providers are not advertising in states where they are not licensed.

What Problems Does the ADOPT Act Seek to Remedy with Interstate Adoptions?

Unlicensed Adoption Intermediaries

Business Practices 

Adoption brokers, also known as adoption advertisers or adoption facilitators, are unauthorized and unregulated profit-making entities or individuals who claim to connect pregnant women considering adoption and hopeful adoptive families. They charge a “matching fee” from $18,000 to $45,000. Unlike licensed adoption agencies and attorneys, adoption brokers are not licensed or certified in any state, which means they are not monitored or held accountable by any government or regulatory body.

These adoption brokers deceive potential adoptive parents through unethical practices such as failing to perform proper background checks, intentionally withholding crucial information about the child and the birth mother’s medical and social history, engaging in double-matching, and having fee agreements that may contain unlawful non-disparagement clauses. They also demand immediate transfers of non-refundable funds as a prerequisite to being “matched” with a birth mother and adopting her child.


Beware of adoption brokers who resort to aggressive online advertising strategies. These brokers mislead pregnant women by exaggerating their services and making false promises of financial compensation, regardless of the legal requirements in each state. Unfortunately, pregnant women who work with these brokers are denied their right to make an informed decision about their pregnancy. They are also deprived of vital support services such as education on their options, counseling for mental health, and legal representation throughout the adoption process.

Applicable State Laws

Did you know that a majority of states in the US have laws in place to prohibit adoption brokers from operating and restrict their advertising? Surprisingly, many of these laws go unenforced. Almost all the remaining states have no laws at all addressing these issues. It is particularly concerning because approximately half of all private adoptions involve placing a child from one state with parents living in another state. Adoption brokers can exploit this loophole by engaging in forum shopping or by keeping vital information about their fees hidden, which is a direct violation of regulations put forth by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and state laws that require fee disclosure before a court-ordered adoption can take place.

Licensed Adoption Providers: Advertising Where Not Licensed

During the past decade, several licensed adoption agencies and attorneys have branded themselves as a “nationwide adoption service.” These entities use aggressive digital adoption advertising campaigns to intercept pregnant women seeking help with adoption in states where the out-of-state entity (an adoption agency or attorney) is not licensed to provide adoption services or practice law. When a pregnant mother responds to these advertisements and agrees to place her child for adoption, the out-of-state entity manages and directs the adoption without oversight or governance by the child welfare agency or state bar where the expectant mother resides or where her child is born. Consequently, in most cases, the expectant mother is deprived of timely support services from a local, licensed adoption provider knowledgeable about available support resources and of local legal counsel to advise her on applicable laws.

Frequently Asked Questions about the ADOPT Act

  1. Will the bill allow hopeful adoptive families to place their own adoption advertisements?
  2. Yes, subject to state laws. This bill does not address adoption advertising by adoptive parents or placing parents on their own behalf, but many states have laws that apply.

  1. Will we be penalized if our website appears in online search results?
  2. No. This law will only restrict licensed providers from purchasing paid advertisements and specifically request that the advertisements appear in states wherein the entity is not licensed to provide adoption services.

  1. Is this a legislation issue or an enforcement issue?
  2. This issue needs legislation and enforcement. Many states already have laws regarding this issue and should be taking steps to enforce their existing laws. Congress should also take action to ensure that every state’s protection and oversight over adoption agencies and attorneys is not thwarted by unlicensed actors or those working across state lines where they are not licensed to provide services.

  1. Will this law prevent unlicensed intermediaries such as clergy, physicians, or friends and family from introducing expectant mothers to prospective adoptive parents?
  2. No, as long as the intermediary is not charging a fee in exchange for the introduction, there would be no violation.

  1. Would this bill prohibit an expectant mother from placing her child through an out-of-state entity?
  2. No. This law does not impact an expectant parent’s right to place her child with an out-of-state family or through an out-of-state agency or attorney. The bill requires licensed agencies or attorneys to:

  • Refrain from running paid advertisements in states where they are not licensed to provide adoption services.
  • Ensure that any payments over $500 to or on behalf of a pregnant mother are made by an agency or attorney licensed in her state of residence.
  1. Will this law have an impact on intercountry adoption?
  2. No. This law only applies to the provision of domestic adoption services.

  1. Will this law implicate adoption consultants that only work with adoptive parents?
  2. The bill prohibits unlicensed entities from acting as a link between placing parents and prospective adoptive parents (or their representatives) in exchange for money or other valuable consideration. It would not affect entities whose activities are limited to educating adoptive parents or acting as a link between adoptive parents and licensed agencies or attorneys, without interaction with placing parents.

Contact Mills Adoption Law for Your Adoption in NC—Experience for What Matters Most: Family

Are you a North Carolina resident seeking an interstate adoption? Instead of relying on a law practice that offers adoption services on the side, consult a knowledgeable and experienced adoption attorney who focuses exclusively on adoption. Bobby Mills, an adoption attorney with over 35 years of experience, has represented all members of the adoption triad—adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees. He can provide the assurance and guidance you need to successfully navigate interstate adoption in North Carolina and fulfill your dream of starting a family. Schedule your free 15-minute consultation by calling (919) 306-2899 or completing our online form.

Copyright © 2023. Mills Adoption Law. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Mills Adoption Law
4600 Marriott Dr, Ste 350
Raleigh, NC 27612
(919) 306-2899

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