Ukraine and Russia were previously united by a political treaty for over 300 years until Ukraine regained its independence in 1991. Although greatly influenced by Russia throughout the years, Ukraine retained its unique language and culture, as well as genuine warmth and hospitality of its people. New Yuschenko administration places a specific emphasis on children’s rights and bright futures. Like any nation, Ukraine is prioritizing domestic adoptions and emerging foster care over international adoption. But they also recognize the right of every child to have a family, and give a chance to find new homes abroad to children who weren’t adopted or taken under guardianship in over a year.
The unique aspect of Ukrainian adoptions is its prohibition on photolistings and pre-selection. Families are required to submit their dossiers and travel to Ukraine to choose their children. Some exceptions are made for older (over 7-10 years old) and special-needs children who became known to families through missionary trips, hosting and other adoptive families. These rules are designed to protect the children and are strictly enforced: any agency or facilitator offering healthy infants to foreign families are severely persecuted.
Central authority on adoptions is currently the Ministry of Social Policy. Please see U.S. Department of State overview for more details.
Although state adoption authority in Ukraine is being transferred to a new ministry, adoptions continue to be processed without interruptions. A short hiatus is possible in the future, but no long-term moratorium is expected at this time.
Children up to 16 years old are waiting for new homes, though by recent regulations “healthy” kids are available for international adoption only starting 5 years old. However, many young kids with various degrees of special needs qualify for an exception from this rule and sibling groups are intact, allowing foreign families to adopt younger healthier kids with their older siblings. Most kids are of Caucasian heritage, primarily Christian Orthodox. Depending on the region, children speak Russian and/or Ukrainian. Many children over 12 years old take English as a foreign language. Starting Feb. 23, 2004 most families are not allowed to adopt two or more unrelated children. Cases of older and special needs children will be considered separately. Parents must be at least 15 years older than adopted child.
While in the U.S., prospective families are required to prepare an adoption dossier (a set of documents required for adoption processing by local authorities abroad). For Ukraine, dossier includes USCIS (former INS) permission to adopt internationally, homestudy prepared by a licensed agency or social worker 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 facilitator in Ukraine. The facilitator gets the dossier translated into Ukrainian and submits it on the family’s behalf to the SDA. After the dossier is processed and registered, the SDA invites family for an appointment in Kiev. Except for special circumstances, both parents must travel. During the appointment, parents are given a non-binding referral for a specific child or sibling group.
Parents then travel to the orphanage to meet the child(ren). The family has a right to refuse their referral for any reason and go back to the SDA 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, the paperwork approval process begins and a hearing at the local city court is scheduled. By the new Ukrainian law as of September 2005, the adoption becomes final 10 days after the court.
During the wait, one of the parents may leave Ukraine after signing the spousal power of attorney at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. The other parent would complete the final paperwork in the region and return to Kiev to attend the exit interview at U.S. Embassy and obtain the child’s medical clearance.
Once in U.S., parents are required to register their child(ren) with the Ukrainian Embassy within one month of arrival. After that, parents need to submit progress reports about the child’s well-being to the Ukrainian Embassy or Consulate. The reports are due once a year for the first three years and then once every three years thereafter until the child reaches 18 years old. No post-placement reports done by a licensed agency are required.
On average, adoptions from Ukraine take anywhere from 6 to 9 months depending on how quickly families can prepare their dossiers. Typically, it takes 3-5 months to for dossier preparation, but unexpected changes in SDA requirements and USCIS delays might extend the wait time. Because of the recent transfer under the new ministry, additional delays may occur.
Although the length of stay in Ukraine is unpredictable, most of our families adopting after the 10-day mandatory wait spent an average of 4 weeks in-country completing their adoption.
Ukrainian adoption is relatively inexpensive compared to many other programs in Eastern Europe. One trip rather than two helps save on airfare, U.S. citizens no longer need to pay for visas to Ukraine and progress reports are done by the parents, thus sparing extra fees for agency-conducted post-placement reports.