Best Practices - Importance of following ICPC
There are several situations when a child lingering in the foster care system may appear to be better served by working around the requirements of the ICPC. However, when a child is placed out-of-state without following the ICPC, home assessments are not completed and follow-up supports and services are not provided. This can result in a child not receiving adequate services. This not only harms the child, but it could result in the loss of a placement that could have been a permanent home if proper services were provided.
Following the ICPC can be a time-consuming process. As a result of delays or impatience, some courts and agencies ignore the compact and follow illegal activities to try to work around the ICPC. A court that places a child out-of-state without the receiving states permission is violating the ICPC. Most of these illegal activities fall within the following three categories:
- Illegal placements
The main issues which create illegal placements are cases where some part of the ICPC process has not been followed. For instance, be a sending agency did not make formal written notification of the proposed placement to the receiving state. Or a sending state did not wait to receive written verification from the receiving state that a placement has been determined to be in the child's best interest. An illegal placement could also be caused by a court dismissing its jurisdiction unilaterally once the child is out-of-state, or the sending state not retaining financial responsibility to support the child during the placement period.
Visitations have been used as a pretense to mask an actual intent to place a child out-of-state. Visits are not governed by the ICPC and so are not overseen by the ICPC offices. Unfortunately, these cases tend to turn up later when some sort of trouble arises or the child requires services. By using the visitation ploy, agencies are placing the child at-risk by not completing a home study or arranging for services prior to the child's arrival. Under the ICPC there is no "extended visit" concept.
Interstate placements with guardians can be exempted from the ICPC in certain cases. As a result of this exemption, there have been cases where prospective adoptive parents have been named guardians of the child they wish to adopt. The purpose of this guardianship is to evade compliance with the ICPC. Unfortunately, these parents end up being guardians only in name. Prospective adoptive parents have an inherent conflict of interest and are improper guardians for a child. A guardian's duties are supposed to include independent surveillance and protector for the child. Prospective parents have a vested interest in how they interact with the child and may place their own goals above the best interests of the child. It is important to note, however, that guardians who later wish to petition to adopt a child they are overseeing may be exempt from the ICPC guidelines.
Consequences of Illegal Placements
Illegal placements can carry certain consequences. Unfortunately, the most serious consequences directly impact the child who was supposed to be helped by the illegal placement. Several actions that can impact the child in an illegal placement are:
- Without a home study, the child may be placed in a physically or emotionally damaging environment with no one supervising the placement. If the ICPC was followed the receiving state would be obligated to provide supervision after certifying the home study.
- Illegally placed children may have problems enrolling in school and receiving publicly funded medical care. Proper services for the child are not arranged. Lack of services may lead to a strain in the placement, disruption, and even removal.
- Receiving states who discover an illegally placed child may:
- Make immediate arrangements to return the child to the sending state;
- Block pending adoption;
- Remove the child from the placement and place into foster care in order to develop their own permanency options;
- Notify the sending state that a home study shall be completed and bring the placement into compliance.
- A legal appeal can be filed in the sending state to overturn the illegal placement made by the lower court, delaying permanency longer than ICPC could have.
Other parties can also suffer for making illegal placements. Lawyers risk corrective action from their state's Bar Association. Judges risk Judicial Review Committee action against them for violating state laws. All parties could even face liability action if the child is harmed due to the placement.
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