Waiting Out an ICPC
A little over 3 years ago, we were sitting in a hotel room in California waiting out the ICPC, Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, that would allow us to take our first son home across the country. We were first time parents and the situation of being with a newborn in a hotel room away from all of our friends and family was daunting and exhausting. Fast forward to this current moment as I’m writing this and waiting out a new ICPC much closer to our home but still feeling like it might as well be a million miles away. I still have that longing for home, but am calmer and more accepting this time around. Living with a newborn in a hotel room now is much more palatable than it was 3 years ago, but this time adding the toddler has created all new challenges and an extra, more difficult to control, stir crazy body. Here’s a few tips to consider to make the time spent awaiting ICPC clearance a smoother experience.
Be prepared to stay 2-3 weeks. In many situations, the ICPC will not take nearly this long but there are many factors which could delay your departure that are out of your control. The ICPC process cannot be started until the birthmother has signed appropriate paperwork after a state dependent mandatory waiting period. You also never know which piece of paperwork from your file will be missing or what may need to be resubmitted slowing down the process. The government offices do not work on weekends or holidays so these days will automatically delay your stay. If you are lucky to have your ICPC clear quickly, it will be a pleasant surprise and celebration in comparison to the defeat and frustration you may feel if you are only prepared to stay a few days.
Make sure your home study is up to date and that you have the needed materials for the states where you reside and where the baby will be born. Each state has some subtle differences in requirements for ICPC, so you may find that you have extra documents needed beyond what you had already presented for your homestudy. Also be prepared with phone numbers and contacts that you may need to help secure information if a surprise need is found while you are out of state.
Have a plan but be flexible. With each of our children, we had a general idea of the area we would stay in and researched hotels, vacation rentals, the location of stores, restaurants, etc prior to the birth. It’s helpful if you can find out ahead of time if the hospital will be providing you with a room to stay in while the baby is admitted, but unfortunately the hospital itself may not know until the moment you arrive. Think of how you will get to your destination and what kind of transportation you will need once you are there. If you have older children, have a plan as to where they will be during this time. Remember if you are taking them with you, they may not be able to visit or stay at the hospital. Lastly, start to look at Pediatricians in the area. Most of the time, you will need a newborn check prior to being allowed to travel home. The hospital is a great resource and can help you once you are there, but it’s nice to have a couple of names ahead of time if you need a quick, last minute follow-up appointment. While you can try to plan things a bit in advance, babies have a tendency to come whenever they want and not necessarily when expected so do not actually book any reservations.
Pick a location best for your family's anticipated needs. Try to think of what kind of
environment you would like to be in during your stay as well as what needs may arise during that time. While it may sound like a fairytale dream to rent a cottage in the woods, you may be surprised how many trips to the store for forgotten baby or adult supplies you may need over the upcoming days. Do you plan to cook or would it be helpful to have several restaurants nearby? If you have older children joining you, also consider an area that may have more entertainment or activities for them as kids have a tendency to get bored quickly.
Soak in that family time. There is something uniquely special for adoptive parents awaiting an ICPC clearance. Generally you are away from friends and family and so instead of visitors and well wishers stopping by to meet your new one, your family has the opportunity for extended time together to get to know each other. Bond with your baby by singing and telling them stories. Skin to skin contact is wonderful and reassuring to newborns. Cherish and enjoy that time. As soon as you get home, you may have a whirlwind of guests and a new type of chaos may ensue.
Get out. See the area. Remember this is where your child was born and is therefore part of
his or her identity. Explore a little and consider taking some pictures to tell him or her about it later. You can travel in their home state so consider doing some sight seeing. Even just get out for a nice walk around the park or take the older kids to a playground. Getting out of the room/rental will help everyone’s state of mind.
Connect with friends and family at home who are excited to see pictures and meet the baby. Be ready to email or virtual chat with everyone.
Spend time with the birthparents. If you have an open adoption, you may want to spend some time with the birthparents. This is a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better and help each other through this transitional time.
Be ready for some big emotions from the other little people in your life. If you have decided to wait out ICPC with your other children present, be prepared for some dramatics and challenges. Getting used to a new sibling is difficult. Getting used to a new sibling in a strange environment without all of your comforts of home can feel impossible to them. Be prepared to figure out a way to spend some quality time with your other children while still in the new environment. It’s okay to surprise them with a couple of new toys or crafts to try to keep them occupied during this time. Pizza for dinner and ice cream for dessert are fun treats that help make the time more bearable. Remember that as difficult as this may feel for you, it’s even harder for smaller people who are still learning how to control their emotions and develop coping mechanisms.
So many things in life are all about how we frame them in our minds and how we accept them and the ICPC is no different. Instead of seeing this as a hurdle that is keeping you and your new baby from your home, think of this as a special time that not everyone gets to experience and make the most of it. One day at a time.