International adoption is an amazing experience. During the process of meeting and visiting your child(ren), you are also able to submerge yourself in the culture in which they come from. The process of adoption is not easy in any country, even domestically. However, if you take it a chunk at a time, it is very doable. There is the question that comes to mind in this situation, “How do you go about eating an elephant? One bite at a time!”. This rings true to the adoption process.
Due to the nature of how the government and orphanage officials work in Ukraine, it is imperative that you have a strong facilitator and an experienced translator. Your agency that you decide to use stateside will give you recommendations on a facilitator and the facilitator will provide you with a translator. With all of that being said, here is a breakdown of the adoption process that is unique to Ukraine:
There are so many details that are hard to put into one article, but we will try to address some common issues.
Who can be adopted in Ukraine?
Under the INA 101(b)(1)(F), a child can be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from both parents, or in the case where there is a sole or surviving parent who is incapable of providing the proper care and has in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
In addition to qualifying as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the child must also meet the following requirements of Ukraine:
Eligibility for adoption: In order for a child to be eligible for intercountry adoption in Ukraine, the child must have first been found eligible for domestic adoption and listed on the local register for 14 months. If no suitable family has been found in Ukraine after 14 months of being listed on the local register, and if the child is over the age of five, the child’s name is added to the intercountry adoption register and the child becomes eligible for intercountry adoption (unless an exemption applies).
Age of Adoptive Child: Ukrainian law requires that orphans be at least five years old before they are eligible for intercountry adoption, with certain exemptions for children with special needs, relative adoptions, and sibling adoptions. Please note that for a child to meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law, a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, must be filed on the child’s behalf while the child is under the age of 16 [or under the age of 18 if the child is the birth sibling of another adopted child who meets the age requirements and immigrated or will immigrate as an orphan based on adoption by the same adoptive parent(s)]. Please see the USCIS website for special rules on filing dates for children aged 15-16 or siblings aged 17-18.
Can we hold a child that we previously met for adoption?
No, Ukraine does not hold children and considers their adoptions as “blind”. However, you can request a specific child, they just won’t hold them for you.
Can a child say “no” to adoption?
Yes, they certainly can! If a child says no to adoption and you think they just need more time, your facilitator should be able to get time approved for them to get to know you better for a final decision.
Who qualifies to adopt in Ukraine?
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child from Ukraine must meet the following requirements:
Where do we stay?
Your facilitator will help you find an apartment or hotel in which to stay.
How do we get around?
Usually by taxi or hiring a driver, your facilitator or translator can help. If going from region to region, it may be best to take a train.
Where do we eat?
There are many restaurants in each area and they are usually very good and inexpensive. If you are staying in an apartment, you may want to venture out to a grocery store and cook at the apartment.
Will I have time to bond in Ukraine with my child?
Yes! After you pick up your child, you will have a couple of weeks in-country while gaining their passport and Visa. Use this time wisely! There are many local attractions in their regions or when you are in Kyiv, there is a lot to do! There are malls, soccer games, restaurants, museums, many historical sites, ice skating, opera, circus, etc.. Don’t be afraid to enjoy the culture and get to know where your child is from! If they are from a rural area, they may never have experienced these things as well!
The US Embassy website in Ukraine provides a wealth of information when it comes to the details of the laws of adoption. Some of the information above has been extracted from the site.