When deciding to adopt internationally, choosing the right country can be the most difficult part of the process. There are country requirements to consider, the type of children eligible for adoption differs, and the timeline between countries can vary vastly. From 1999-2017, American families adopted 11,062 children from Ukraine. The process to adopt from Ukraine is like many other nations, but a decision on December 1, 2008, from the Ukraine Adoption Authority slightly altered the process of intercountry Ukraine adoptions. Here’s what you need to know before beginning your adoption journey.
Like most countries, the first thing to consider is prospective adoptive parent eligibility. Ukraine welcomes heterosexual married couples who are at least 21 years of age to apply for intercountry adoption. Singles are only permitted to adopt if they are directly related to the child. Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt. The adopted child must be at least 15 years younger than the prospective adoptive parents, unless the child is being adopted by a relative. There are no restrictions on the number of children residing in the home, and all families must meet the minimum income as per the U.S. Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines.
To begin the process, you will need to find a Hague accredited adoption service provider (ASP). Even though Ukraine is not a Hague country, per the Universal Accreditation Act of 2014, all intercountry adoptions to the United States must use an accredited ASP to conduct their home studies. Once your home study is complete, you will submit an I-600A, which effectively evaluates your suitability as prospective adoptive parents to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Upon submission of your I-600A, you will begin to assemble your dossier for Ukraine. A dossier is essentially a collection of documents about you. Your dossier will include your home study, criminal background checks, reference letters, health forms, birth and marriage certificates, employment verification, financial records, and more. Once your I-600A is approved, you will add this last document to your dossier, apostille the entire collection of papers, and then have your adoption agency submit them to Ukraine’s Adoption Authority, the Department for Adoptions and Protection of Rights of the Child (DAPRC). But here’s where things get tricky.
The DAPRC maintains a large database of children eligible for intercountry adoption. The database includes the child’s age, characteristics, if they have siblings, and any medical needs the child may have. Per the December 1, 2008 ruling, when prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) submit their dossier, the DAPRC reviews the application to decide if the PAPs might be a good match for any of the children in their database. Most children on the list are age five and older, may come in sibling groups, and may have more than mild to moderate medical needs. If your home study does not list that you are open to a child like those available in the database, the DAPRC will deny your application and refuse to register your dossier. The process of evaluation by the DAPRC takes roughly 21-28 days.
If you are approved, the next step is to travel to Ukraine to meet your prospective child. The DAPRC will issue an invitation to travel, and most families arrive in Kiev about a month later. Once in Kiev, you will receive a photo and some preliminary information about a child. The child will be the same sex and roughly the same age as requested in your home study. You will be issued a letter of referral from the Minister and then travel to an orphanage, meet the child, and check their medical records. If you decide to accept the referral, about 3-4 weeks later, you will travel to the region of Ukraine where the child lives and present your case before a regional judge. During this time, some families decide to remain in Ukraine and visit with their prospective adoptive child, and other families choose to return home to the United States.
When your case appears before the judge, you must be present. Approval of the adoption depends solely on the regional judge and decisions come roughly 10 days after the initial hearing. Once approval is granted, you and your new child will travel back to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev for final approval of your child’s I-600 (a document which approves the child’s eligibility for adoption per Hague standards) and for the child’s visa. This step of the process takes roughly two weeks.
Once home you will need to follow Ukraine’s template for post-adoption reports (PARs). Ukraine requires adoptive parents to report on the well-being of their adoptive children every year for the first three years then every subsequent three years until the child’s 18th birthday. (It is important to note, however, that state post-adoption guidelines vary, so be sure to check with your social worker). Children adopted from Ukraine remain citizens of Ukraine until their 18th birthday. Per the Embassy of Ukraine in the United States of America, when you return home, you will need to register your child with the Embassy as a “Ukraine citizen permanently residing in the USA.” Upon his or her 18th birthday, the child may decide whether to remain a Ukraine citizen or not.
From application to adoption, many adoption agencies list the process as taking approximately one year. But given the DAPRC’s ability to deny an application and the fact that Ukraine is not a Hague country (which means there is less oversight of the intercountry adoption process), these timelines may be much longer.
Have you experienced an adoption in Ukraine? What was it like?