Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Adopting from Ukraine

I think it goes without saying that I stink at this! Or maybe I should just admit that I might have gotten in a little over my head when promising a new post every day (I also stink at admitting when I am unable to do something)! I have been working on this post for the past three days, a post that I should be able to just breeze through since I have actually adopted from Ukraine and been through that process, but there has been no breezing through this one! Every time I sit down at my computer someone or something suddenly needs my immediate attention. Not that this isn't the case on a regular basis, it is probably just more notable now that I have committed to sitting down at my computer to blog each day! That being said, here is my next installment. . .

Those of you who frequent my blog know that today's topic is one that I am particularly passionate about. The country, the people, the culture and, especially, the children of Ukraine are very near and dear to my heart and for good reason. It just so happens that I have the privilege of spending a good part of each day with the sweetest, smartest, most handsome Ukrainian angel on the face of this earth. . . .my Evan!

In 2007, Ukraine was the seventh largest sending country in international adoption with 606 immigrant visas issued to Ukrainian orphans adopted by US citizens. Ukraine recently reopened it's doors to international adoption in January 2007 after closing down in 2006, citing concern for the more than 500 post-placement reports (required of adoptive parents by the Ukrainian government) that had not been filed since 1996. Prior to the shut-down of Ukrainian international adoption, the central adoption authority in Ukraine was the National Adoption Center (NAC). When Ukraine reopened it's doors in 2007, the new (and current) central adoption authority was the State Department for Adoption and the Protection of the Rights of a Child (SDAPRC), more commonly referred to in the adoption community as the SDA.

When adopting from Ukraine, prospective adoptive parents have the option of working with an agency and their facilitation team in Ukraine or working directly with a Ukrainian facilitator independently. There is generally a slight cost advantage in doing an independent adoption because you will not be paying agency fees, however, many find the assistance of an agency in preparing their documents and walking them through the process to be worth the extra cost. Currently, the average cost of adopting from Ukraine is between $20,000-$30,000.

In April of 2008, the requirements for families wishing to adopt from Ukraine changed. Prior to April 2008, married couples and singles were permitted to adopt from Ukraine. The requirements now state that only married couples are permitted to adopt (this does not apply to Ukrainian citizens). An age requirement has also been included in the amended adoption laws stating that, adoptive parents can be no more than 45 years older than the child they wish to adopt. There are currently no stated income requirements or restrictions on the number of children already residing in the home.

The process of adopting from Ukraine can be a bit more complicated and time consuming than many of the other countries with international adoption programs. Unlike most countries with international adoption programs, Ukraine is a "blind referral" country (Kazakhstan also operates on a blind referral system). This means that adoptive parents are not given a referral prior to travel. Instead, prospective adoptive parents must submit their completed dossier to the SDA which includes a petition to adopt. In that petition adoptive parents state their specifications (for example, a girl between the ages of 1-6 with minor, correctable special needs). Upon reviewing and accepting the adoptive couple's dossier, the SDA will then issue the adoptive parents an appointment date. The parents will then travel to Ukraine to meet with the SDA at their appointed date and time. During this meeting, prospective adoptive parents will be shown the files of available children matching the description given in the adoption petition and homestudy. Included in the files are generally a picture of the child, their medical history and information regarding their orphan status. Once the parent's have reviewed the information and selected the child they wish to visit, the SDA will grant them permission to visit the child's orphanage and meet the child. The parents will then travel to the city where the child resides.

Prior to meeting the child, parents must first meet with a social worker and the director of the orphanage where they will receive additional information regarding the child's health and well-being. Parent's will then meet their prospective child. If the parent's decide that they would like to adopt the child, they will then sign the required paperwork stating that they would like to adopt the child. They are also required to get the signature (or approval) of the orphanage director and social worker. Once the official papers have been signed and notarized they are sent back to Kiev where the formal referral is put together, sent back to the region the child is in and submitted to the local court. Parents will then be given a court date. During this time, the parent's are usually able to visit with their child at the orphanage 1-2 times per day. After court, there is a mandatory 10-day waiting period (which is very seldom waived, even in cases of children with special needs). After the 10-day waiting period, parents will then apply for the new birth certificate and the child's passport and pick their child up from the orphanage. Once they have the birth certificate and passport, they will travel back to Kiev for the child's medical exam (a US requirement for all children adopted abroad) and to apply for the visa at the US Embassy. Once the visa has been issued, families may travel home with their child. Upon entering the US, the child automatically becomes a US citizen (they will retain dual citizenship until the age of 18).

It IS possible to adopt a known child from Ukraine. Missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, as well as other adoptive families often bring back information and pictures of children who are available for adoption. Most of these children are older children, sibling groups or children with special needs who might not otherwise be adopted. There are also families who "host" Ukrainian orphans (orphans are brought to the US and live with American families for a short period of time (usually 4-6 weeks), much like a foreign exchange program) and desire to adopt them. In these cases, when you submit your dossier along with your petition to adopt, you include the specific information about the child you desire to adopt (in our case, we included Evan's full name, his birthday, his medical condition and the city he was residing in). Generally, once a family's dossier has been processed and accepted, the SDA will pull the file of the child you desire to adopt. Until your dossier and adoption petition have been submitted and the child's file has been "pulled" there is no guarantee that another family will not proceed you in requesting or adopting that child, so it is important that you complete your paperwork as quickly as possible. At your appointment, they will present you with the file of the child you have requested and from that point the adoption proceeds just as a blind referral would.

Ukraine also operates on a "quota system." For example, in December 2007, the Ukrainian government issued Decree 4939 which limits ALL foreign adoptions (not subdivided by country) to 1, 453 dossiers for the year 2008 (this does not include children with special needs). By March 2008, with the backlog of dossier's from the previous year, the quota had already been met so many families had been told that they must wait to submit until next year when the quota is reset. Fortunately, after a dossier tally, it was discovered that they were actually still UNDER the quota for this year and have begun accepting dossier's until November 27th. For a good explanation of the "quota system" and the availability of children in Ukraine, please stop by the Pretre's adoption blog. This gives you an idea of how "fickle" the adoption process in Ukraine can be.

The time line to adopt from Ukraine is, on average 5-12 months from submission of your dossier to your appointment date. One or two trips can be made. If making two trips, both parents are required to travel for the first trip to meet with the SDA, meet their child/children and attend court. This trip can take between 2-4 weeks (our first trip was 3 weeks). The second trip only requires one parent to travel to pick up their child/children, receive the new birth certificate and passport and process through the embassy. This trip generally takes between 1-2 weeks (my second trip took 1 week). If one trip is made you can plan on an average of 6+ weeks.

The children available for adoption in Ukraine are between the ages of 14 months and 16 years. Ukrainian children are required to be on a national registry for 14 months before they are available for international adoption. During this time, they are only available to Ukrainian citizens. In 2006, 50% of the children adopted were girls and 50% were boys. 44% of the children were between the ages of 1-4. Recently, with the aid of UNICEF, Ukraine began a foster care program to promote the adoption and care of Ukrainian children by Ukrainian citizens. Because of this, most of the young, healthy children have been placed in foster homes and are not available for adoption internationally (there are many, many things that I could say about "foster care" in Ukraine, but I will save that for another time) . Most of the children currently residing in orphanages who are registered for international adoption are older children, sibling groups and children with special needs. If you are looking to adopt a young, healthy child (particularly a young, healthy girl), Ukraine may not be the best country for you. There have been many families who have traveled to Ukraine in the past year, hoping to adopt young, healthy children (or just healthy children in general) and they have come home heart broken and empty handed. It is also important to remember that MOST of the children living in orphanages in Ukraine are NOT available for adoption. Many of the children are in the orphanages due to the extreme poverty of their families and have family that still visits them. Many of the children have siblings that are either not available for adoption or do not want to be adopted (Ukraine WILL NOT separate siblings unless a judge feels that they would not be adopted otherwise. For example, if one child has a severe special need causing prospective adoptive parents to pass over the referral, a judge may rule that the sibling may be separated so that they have the chance to be adopted). Some of the children have never been registered. So, when you see all of those cute little faces in pictures of Ukrainian orphanages, remember that it is likely that only about 10% of them are actually available for adoption.

The following is a video put together by an adoptive mother, after a humanitarian aid visit to Ukraine. It provides a very realistic look at the life of an orphan in Ukraine, as well as statistics. Make sure you have the tissues handy. . .makes me cry every time I watch it (and I have watched it more times than I can count).

For more information about adopting from Ukraine, please take a moment to visit the following links:

Ukrainian Adoption Blogs:
Truthfully, there are more Ukrainian adoption blogs than I have the time to list, so thank goodness for Leanna (3 Journies of the Heart) and the Pretre's (Pretre's Adoption Blog) for keeping up with such great blog rolls! For those who are interested in adopting from Ukraine, there is no greater source for gaining a realistic view of the adoption process in Ukraine than by reading the blogs of those who have been through the process or are going through it now, so please take a moment to peruse the blogs!

As always, and especially in the case of Ukraine, if you have any questions regarding the process of adopting from Ukraine or our experience there, please be sure to leave your questions or comments.



Anonymous said...

Valerie, I decided to come look at your blog (I'm Elaine's sister and in Jill's ward), and had to comment on the video. I'm reading a book right now about human trafficking in the former soviet countries. It has talked quite a bit about Ukraine. It is just heartbreaking to watch that video and know what the future holds for many of those kids.

Why does the country's government put such an extreme limit on the adoptions there?

Charity Brown said...

I think you're doing such a great job with your posts, even if you are a few behind. They are so informative and great! That video is amazing!! Your family is really an inspiration to me, in a lot of ways! I hope to be able to adopt someday!

adoptedthree said...

Hey Valerie that was a great description for UA adoptees!!!

I cant believe it has already been a year since your adoption to Evan.

Thanks for the kudos!

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Anonymous said...

Let God bless you! We are helping orphans in Eastern Europe, namely in Ukraine. We need your support and attention very much at least through the repost, please. We'll be very greatful.

Anonymous said...

Hello! This is a difficult time for Ukraine. Everyone has a chance to help Ukrainian children by simply reading the information and sharing it. Thank you!