After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has undergone a deep economic crisis it is still recovering from. Billions of people were left jobless and insecure. Many could not afford to provide for their children and thousands of kids of all ages ended up in state orphanages. While Russia is making great strides at encouraging domestic adoption and guardianship/fostering arrangements, over 150,000 children remain institutionalized today, waiting for loving families. Since 2001, more than twenty five thousand Russian orphans found new homes in USA.
Despite the fact Russian orphanages receive limited budget from the state, many adoptive parents agree the children often receive wonderful care and emotional support from dedicated teachers and caretakers. School-age orphans are able to tap into Russian quality education system and upon arriving to their new home country, often exhibit strong athletic and academic abilities.
All adoption petitions are processed by regional Departments of Education under Russian Ministry of Education. These are typically referred to as MoEs. Some regional MoEs may have different policies regarding document requirements, parents’ ages and marital status, etc. However, there is a uniform set of guidelines structuring every adoption process.
Sadly, due to the moratorium, we can no longer place Russian children with American citizens. However, our Russian program remains open and operational for non-US citizens and residents only.
Children from 6 months to 16 years old are available for international adoption. Most kids are of Caucasian heritage, primarily Christian Orthodox. Many children over 12 years old take English as a foreign language. Siblings as well as unrelated children can be adopted at the same time. Parents must be at least 16 years older than adopted child.
While in the their home country, prospective families are required to prepare an adoption dossier (a set of documents required for adoption processing by local authorities abroad). For Russia, the dossier includes immigration authorization to adopt internationally, homestudy prepared by a licensed agency or local social services office, post-placement obligations from both parents and agency/authority, and a number of documents verifying family marital status, income, health condition, criminal clearance, etc.
Once the dossier is completed, it is mailed to a regional coordinator in Russia. The coordinator gets the dossier translated into Russian and submits it on family’s behalf to the MoE. After the dossier is processed and registered, the MoE invites the family for an appointment in Russia. Except for special situations, both parents must travel. During the appointment, parents are given a non-binding referral for one or more unrelated children or a sibling group. Please note that some regions are more flexible than others on providing preliminary information about the children prior to travel, but all recommend parents to choose their child at the time of their MoE appointment.
Parents then travel to the orphanage to meet the child(ren). The family has the right to refuse a referral for any reason and go back to the MoE for a new referral. When looking for an older child, parents may sometimes be presented with other adoptable children in that orphanage (per director’s discretion). Once parents accept their referral, a lengthy paperwork approval process begins, including one final check of the child’s legal status as an orphan. It may take several weeks before the final approval, and parents are recommended to return home during the wait. Once all the papers are processed, a hearing at the local city court is scheduled and both parents must attend. By Russian law, the adoption becomes final 10 days after court; some judges waive the 10 days and grant immediate execution of the court’s decision.
After the court’s decision is finalized, parents complete post-adoption paperwork in the region and travel to Moscow for an exit interview at their country’s Embassy to get a visa for their adopted child. If the 10 days after the court are not waived, parents can leave and come back in a week and a half (only one parent required to travel).
Upon arrival home, parents are required to register their child with the Russian Embassy within one month of arrival. After that, parents need to submit four post-placement reports about child’s well-being to the Russian Embassy or Consulate.
Overall, adoption from Russia takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months depending on how quickly families can prepare their dossiers (sets of documents required by the MoE to process adoptions). Typically, it takes 3-5 months for dossier preparation, but unexpected changes in MoE requirements and dossier preparation delays might extend the wait time. Appointment waiting times often depend on age and health condition of child(ren) desired.
Although the length of stays in Russia is unpredictable, most of our families have adopted in two trips and spent 2 to 4 weeks total (most regions do not waive the 10 day waiting period).
Russian adoptions are relatively expensive, in part due to costly travel and in-country living expenses. However, it affords a convenience of two short trips (for one of the parents) for families with one parent on a tight work schedule.