Uzbekistan is one of the lesser known countries that was once a part of the former Soviet Union. It is a fascinating country, with centuries-old history and culture that could not be eradicated even by decades of communist regime. It is not surprising, therefore, that Uzbekistan’s orphanage system similar to that of Russia or other former republics, but adoptions are ultimately decided by mayor offices, the closest thing to elders’ council. There have been very few adoptions from Uzbekistan so far, but growing relationship with the West slowly broadens the doors of international adoption in Uzbekistan.
Adoption from Uzbekistan may be more adventurous and pioneering than from some of the other more established programs. The new law passed in August 2007 has introduced some constraints, eliminating possibility of escort and requiring adoptive parents to make two trips, but on the positive side banned separation of siblings for the purposes of adoption and put a cap on the amount of time local officials have to process the adoption. Although prenatal care in Uzbekistan is not at par with Western standards, there are fewer instances of alcohol and drug-related disorders in Uzbek children. The children are loved and taken care well with limited resources available to caretakers.
There are two adoption authorities in Uzbekistan. First, all dossiers are processed centrally by the Ministry of Education. Next, they are forwarded to the local Guardianship and Trusteeship Office (GTO) affiliated with a Mayor’s office in the town of adoption, called Hokimat. Starting 2013, adoptions are no longer finalized by the Mayor’s office, but by a civil court, like in other countries. Please see U.S. Department of State overview for more details.
With a few exceptions, all adoptions from Uzbekistan that About A Child has processed were plagued with delays, procedural changes and more delays. For a few years we were holding out hope that things might change, but we are still not seeing changes to the better. At the moment, our program is closed.
There is no national or international adoption registry in Uzbekistan, but by unwritten regulations children typically become available for adoption/referral only after they turn 1 or 2 years old as GTO tries to place infants with local familes. Most children are of Uzbek descent, with olive skin and slightly Asian features. There are many Slavic and Mongol children as well, making for a very diverse population. Very few children speak any English, but many older children can speak and read Russian. Siblings are not separated for the purposes of adoption. It may be possible to adopt two or more related or unrelated children at the same time.
The children in Uzbekitan are on average as healthy as kids in the rest of the former Soviet Union, which is to say their health varies from child to child. On average, there are less instances of FAS among ethnically Uzbek population, but adoptive parents should be more prepared for health issues developed as a result of poor environment and resulting genetic abnormalities.
While in the U.S., prospective families are required to prepare adoption dossier (a set of documents required for adoption processing by local authorities abroad). For Uzbekistan, dossier includes USCIS (former INS) permission to adopt internationally, homestudy prepared by a licensed agency and a number of documents verifying family marital status, income, health condition, criminal history, etc. Once dossier is completed, it is first authenticated in the Uzbekistan Embassy in USA and then mailed to Uzbekistan. There, it is translated into Russian and authenticated.
AAC overseas coordinator primarily seeks referrals by presenting family dossiers to local GTO (Guardianship and Trusteeship Office) and orphanage officials. About A Child does not withdraw a referral until the prospective adoptive parent(s) have had two weeks (unless extenuating circumstances involving the child’s best interests require a more expedited decision) to consider the needs of the child and their ability to meet those needs, and to obtain physician review of medical information and other descriptive information, including video of the child if available.
Once a family receives and accepts their referral, the dossier is delivered to the Ministry of Education. After the dossier is processed and registered, a family must now travel for a few days to meet the child and accept his or her referral from MoE. On a case-by-case basis, adoptive parent(s) would also meet on the same trip the GTO representative of the town/city where the child resides.
After issuing the referral letter, MoE forwards family’s dossier to the GTO in the town/city of the referred child (sometimes the dossier has to go through a regional GTO office first). GTO issues referral to civil court, which may take up to 20 days to review the documents and set a court date. Both parents must be present at court. There is 20 days waiting/appeal period and parents receive custody of their child once court decree is obtained.
Depending on the region, Vital Records and/or Passport offices may require adoptive parent(s) to sign for the new birth certificate in person. When both the Passport Agency and Vital Records office agree to issue the documents to a POA, adoptive parent(s) only need to travel to Tashkent for a week to go through U.S. Embassy exit interview and obtain a child’s immigration visa. When parental presence is required by either the Passport or Vital Records office, at least one of the parents should expect to travel for 3-4 weeks for the third trip, depending on how quickly child’s passport and embassy paperwork can be processed.
In the U.S., parents are required to register their child with the Uzbekistan Embassy within one month of arrival. After that, parents need to submit annual post-placement reports about child’s well-being to the Uzbekistan authorities until the child turns 18.
Because of the volatility of the program, we can give only approximate estimates of how long it is going to take from Uzbekistan. Some families were able to complete an adoption in 6 months, others waited 2-3 years after receiving a referral. Typically, it takes 3-5 months for dossier preparation, but unexpected circumstances and USCIS delays might extend the wait time.
Uzbekistan adoption program is lower in program fees, but poses a risk for unexpected expenses for extra travel, prolonged in-country stay, etc.