ADOPTING CHILDREN FROM UKRAINE
Interested in adopting a child from Ukraine? So are many western couples who cannot have children of their own or choose not to do so for health or personal reasons. Ukrainian children are typically family-oriented, and caring, and make attachments easily. They are eager to be part of a family and look to their new parents with adoration.
WHO ADOPTS UKRAINIAN CHILDREN?
Ukraine today is a comparatively friendly place for would-be adopters from overseas. International adoption is restricted or prohibited in many countries, but Ukraine has very few restrictions. People with any income level may adopt, as well as singles, divorced people, and homosexual couples (who make up 10-20% of those who adopt Ukrainian children).
Most Ukrainian children are adopted between the ages of 3 and 7 (rarely under 14 months, though this is possible). Prospective parents have the chance to choose the child they wish to adopt. All international adoptions are handled by the Ukraine State Department for Adoption and Protection of Children’s Rights. Foreign parents may handle the adoption process on their own or choose to work with an adoption agency such as Adoption Plus.
UKRAINIAN CHILDREN IN THE U.S.
According to Ukrainian law, adopted children remain citizens of Ukraine till age 18, at which they can choose their citizenship. Parents must register their children with the Ukrainian consulate in their country and submit reports to the consulate every year for the first three years after adoption and once every three years until the child reaches age 18. You can download the report here. It includes questions about the child’s health, as well as personal accomplishments, interaction with family members, and living habits.
Some readers may be aware that Ukraine suspended American citizens’ right to adopt Ukrainian children in September 2005. As of January 2007, Americans may adopt Ukrainian children once again. The suspension was due to the absence of post-placement reports on a huge number of Ukrainian children that the Ukrainian government had essentially lost all contact with.
ADAPTATION TO A NEW CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
Since the children are so young, adaptation to the new family, culture, and language takes place very rapidly — usually within just a few months. Unless children are not taken to special classes (say, from the local Ukrainian/Russian community), they soon forget how to speak their native language.
VISAS FOR UKRAINIAN CHILDREN
Children whose adoption process has been approved are guaranteed a U.S. immigration visa and receive a “green card” (residency permit — actually, it is pink) until they turn 18 when they must choose their citizenship.
WHO CAN ADOPT?
Prospective parents of adopted children undergo a thorough application process and must demonstrate a high level of health and law abidance. All information provided in applications is checked by licensed social workers whose report is submitted along with the application to Ukrainian authorities. Adopting parents must meet the following requirements:
- parent or parents are at least 18 years of age
- either married or single (prior divorce is acceptable)
- no less than 15 years and no more than 45 years difference between the age of adopting parents and child
- there are no restrictions on the number of children already living in the home
- no HIV/AIDS, STDs, life-endangering cancer, or other serious medical or mental conditions
- no history of violent crime
Adopting parents receive considerable assistance from state and federal government bodies.
THE ADOPTION PROCESS
According to specialists at Adoption Plus, the adoption process typically goes as follows:
Prospective parents obtain all necessary documents (including medical exams, income statements, statements on the absence of criminal record from police, and others). Meanwhile, licensed social workers do a background check on the family and confirm all information provided.
The package of documents is submitted to the state adoption center in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a meeting with the parents is scheduled at the center (both must be present if there are two parents).
The couple arrives in Kyiv, usually 1-2 days before the meeting. Representatives of Adoption Plus meet them at the airport and make necessary travel arrangements.
At the meeting at the National Adoption Center, one or both parents are shown information on children who best match what they are looking for (this database is classified). They then choose one child to investigate and are given the address of the orphanage.
The parents visit the orphanage meet the child and review his or her medical record. They may visit up to three children this way. If they select none of them, they must leave the country before scheduling a new appointment with the adoption center. Around 97% of parents end up choosing a child during their trip.
Parents are entitled by law to conduct an independent medical exam on the child through a private doctor of their choice, in the presence of a member of the orphanage staff.
After choosing a child, the files for the case are submitted to a judge in the district where the orphanage is located. A hearing is held at which both parents must be present. The judge reviews all the documents and makes a decision, usually on the day of the hearing. Rejections are rare and usually result from serious problems with the documents.
After the hearing, one of the parents may return home. The judge’s decision comes into force only one month after the hearing. During this period the decision may be appealed. Judges may grant an “immediate execution” only if it is in the child’s health interests.
After receiving the adoption decree, the parent(s) get a Ukrainian passport for the child, apply for an immigration visa to the U.S. (or another country), and accompany him or her to their new home.
Within 30 days after arrival, parents must register the adopted child with the Ukrainian consulate and submit periodic reports as described above.