Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe that is known for its highly traditional and close-knit people. Not only do they put emphasis on their identity as a people by wearing their traditional attire, vyshyvanka, in their everyday life, but they also make themselves known by their big holiday celebrations like Christmas, Easter, two New Year dates, and most especially, Epiphany Frost when they plunge into ice holes in celebration of the Baptism of Jesus. Hence, adopting from Ukraine would mean adopting a child who is primarily raised in such a beautiful culture. What’s more, adopting a Ukrainian child would also mean raising a child that is a great deal friendly, loving, and familial.
Pursuing an intercountry adoption with Ukraine is highly doable such that, the country itself offers assistance to prospective adoptive parents, particularly during the period by which they are invited to travel to the country to attend in the court proceedings. The process, involving registering and applying with a Hague accredited service provider, home study, document processing, parent-child matching, and legal procedures, generally lasts for at least five months to a year or more. Ukraine does not charge for adoption fees, but service providers might. The entire adoption process has a cost range estimate of $20,000 to $40,000, with at least $10,000 for the agency fees.
International adoption from Ukraine follows the general flow of most adoption programs, domestic and international. The difference is that there are quite a few restrictions for Ukraine mandated by their central authority, which is the State Department for Adoption and Protection of Rights of the Child (SDAPRC), and the Intercountry Adoption Universal Adoption Act at par with the Hague Convention. Hence, here is the international adoption process and cost in Ukraine in detail.
THE ADOPTION PROCESS
Selecting and Applying in a Primary Adoption Service Provider
QUICK FACT: Ukraine is not a Hague Convention country. The Hague Adoption Convention or Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption deals with international adoption. The Convention ensures that adoption is given formal international and intergovernmental recognition of the countries involved in the case and of other Convention countries.
The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) for non-Convention countries governs Ukraine’s international adoption. The UAA follows the Hague Adoption Convention-compatible standards in the accreditation regulations to all intercountry adoptions, which means that prospective adoptive parents must ensure a partnership with an accredited or approved primary adoption service provider in their country of origin and in the country they are adopting from.
The primary services that UAA compels accredited primary service providers to provide include the following:
- Identifying a child for adoption
- Arranging the adoption
- Securing the consent to adoption
- Securing proof of termination of parental rights from the birth parents
- Child background study
- Home study and reporting for prospective adoptive parents
- Ensuring that the adoption is in the best interests of a child
- Ensuring the appropriateness of adoption for the child
- Monitoring the legal adoption procedures until finalization
- Assuming custody and providing childcare in cases of disrupted un-finalized adoption
Verifying Eligibility to Adopt and Home Study
The home study is also a must in all adoption programs, Hague, or non-Hague. Usually, the primary service providers or adoption agencies include home study services. However, for those that do not, they should be able to provide a contact of a local home study service provider that is nearest to the prospective adoptive parents’ home. The home study should last for approximately 2 to 3 months. These are the documents that should be presented in the home study report:
- Financial records
- Proof of financial stability, income tax returns
- Employment certification
- Proof of homeownership
- Marriage certification
- Recent medical examination certificate
- Criminal record
These are the requirements prospective adoptive parents must qualify in order to be eligible to adopt in Ukraine.
- Adoptive parents should be at least 21 years old.
- They should be 15 years older than the child. (In the past, adoptive parents who are 45 years older than the adopted child are not allowed, but that requirement has been terminated.)
- Only married couples are allowed to adopt.
- Applicants with previous divorces are allowed.
- Single applicants and same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt in Ukraine.
- Adoptive parents with other biological and/or adopted children are allowed for the adoption.
- Adoptive parents should have a stable income proven with evidence such as income tax returns.
- They must be physically and mentally healthy, proven with evidence such as recent medical examination documents. (Those with certain minor to more moderate health conditions or a history of mental health issues such as depression should consult with accredited service providers and the central authority of Ukraine prior to the application for adoption.)
- Adoptive parents must have a clean criminal history. (Those that have a certain criminal record should contact a consultant prior to the application for adoption. Cases of domestic, child and sexual abuse are strictly not allowed.)
If all that is stated above is a check for the prospective adoptive parent applicant, then they may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be recognized as eligible to adopt. This would require filling out the Form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) and sending in the applicants’ dossier. Agencies should be able to help in compiling these forms and making sure they are properly notarized and authenticated. This documentation, application, and approval of the USCIS should take about 6 to 8 weeks.
Once the USCIS approves the application, they will send the documents to the State Department for Adoptions and Protection of Rights of the Child (SDAPRC) in Ukraine, who will then be responsible for inviting the applicants, both adoptive parents, to travel to the country. The travel invitation should take 1 to 3 months of waiting. The applicants may travel within a month and then return home in 4 to 6 weeks.
Upon the SDAPRC’s invitation, applicants meet local facilitators upon arrival in Ukraine, if provided by the adoption agency. These local facilitators are responsible for arranging the adoptive parents’ accommodation and their visit to an orphanage where they will be adopting a child from.
Referral and Matching
The invitation to travel to Ukraine also comes in with a referral letter, which will be the permit for the prospective adoptive parents to conduct a maximum of 3 visits to an orphanage to look at children’s files and select a child to be adopted. If a child has not been chosen by the third appointment, the applicants’ dossier will be returned to them by virtue of the Ukrainian adoption guidelines.
Who are the children available for adoption?
These are the children in orphanages that prospective adoptive parents can select on:
- Children ages 5 to 16
- Children with special needs ages 14 months and older (Special needs may include HIV+, cleft palate/cleft lip, club foot, cerebral palsy, vision or hearing impairments, alcohol-related birth defects, down syndrome, and intellectual disability.)
- Children with minor or correctable health challenges ages 6 to 15
- Sibling groups of 3 or more (Younger children may be available for adoption if they have older siblings.)
The applicants may select a child of their own choice should it be allowed by the agency. However, it is Ukraine’s practice to offer first older children or those with special needs in light with their efforts to find families for all children. It is, nevertheless, acceptable to decline these kinds of referrals and get referred with the younger and healthier children.
Attending to the Court
Once the applicants are able to select a child, they will be required to request a grant for the adoption from a local court. The appeal will take about ten days to be extended should serious complications arise, which happens very rarely. An additional 7 to 10 days will also then be required to obtain the child’s documents. Prospective adoptive parents may return home, or they may opt to stay in Ukraine while waiting for the court hearing.
Applying for the Child’s Permit to Immigrate
For a child to be deemed eligible to immigrate in the adoptive parents’ country, he or she may qualify as an orphan. According to USCIS, a child is an orphan:
- Due to the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents;
- If an unwed birth mother is unable to care for the child properly and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption;
- If an unwed birth mother does not marry (which would result in the child having a stepfather) and the child’s biological father has not legitimated the child; and
- If a surviving parent has not married since the death of the other parent (which would result in the child’s having a stepfather or stepmother).
If the child meets the determiners for an orphan and the adoptive parents already have a valid Form 1-600A, the applicants will have to petition the child in their country, or in the US, file a Form I-600 which is a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative to the USCIS, on behalf of the child. A primary provider should be able to help in this application unless an exception applies.
Once the USCIS passes judgment for the Form I-600 petition, the consular section in Kyiv, Ukraine, must complete a Form I-604 (Determination on Child for Adoption, sometimes informally referred to as an orphan determination), to verify the child’s orphan status. Otherwise, if the Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by an international USCIS office, USCIS generally completes the Form I-604 determination. Also, if a Form I-600 petition is filed with the Embassy’s consular section, the consular officer must complete the Form I-604.
Completing the Form I-604 determination can take approximately at least a week or longer, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Once the Form I-604 determination has been completed, adoptive parents will have to apply for the following travel documents:
- Birth Certificate –Adoptive parents should apply for the child’s new Ukrainian birth certificate, which will contain the names of the adoptive parents. This should cost approximately $10,000 to $15,000. Moreover, the new birth certificate should be applied at the local civil registrar’s office (RAGS) through the adoption court decree and with the child’s old birth certificate. The adoption court decree usually takes approximately 30 days.
Note: For children 14 years old or older, a new internal ID card may also be necessary to be applied through the local central authority within the city or village. This process should take approximately a week or two.
- Ukraine Passport – Of course, the child will need to have a Ukrainian passport in order to travel abroad. The adoptive parents may have to spend $45 to $50 dollars for a passport application if the child does not have a passport yet or of the child is changing his or her last name in light of the adoption. However, if the child has not changed his or her last name, he or she may use a previously issued Ukrainian passport stamped by the regional passport office (PMZh stamp), which should show that he or she is allowed to immigrate. Passport applications should take at least ten days or more.
- Immigrant Visa – This is the final document needed to obtain permission to bring the child to the adoptive parents’ country. An application must be made at the embassy in Kyiv. This process requires a report on the child’s medical information.
Once all the documents are complete, adoptive parents should be free to bring the child home.
Finalizing Adoption and Post Placement Monitoring
Once the child is already brought home by the adoptive parents, they have to complete the adoption following the child’s admission into the country and before the child turns eighteen in order for the child to acquire citizenship. For the adoptive parents that have completed the adoption in Ukraine, generally, the child will acquire citizenship automatically if the child is under the age of 18. The child still remains a Ukrainian citizen until he or she is 18, which means he or she may have dual citizenship. By 18, the child can decide whether he or she will maintain the Ukrainian citizenship.
After the placement of the child to the adoptive parents’ country, the adoptive parents will have to comply with post-placement reports about the child’s development supported with pictures. The reports should be sent every three years until the child turns 18 years old and should be monitored or managed by the accredited agency.
THE ADOPTION COST
The amount of money prospective adoptive parents may have to spend in international adoption in Ukraine can vary greatly depending on the agency, the number of repeated travels, and the amount of time the referral and matching will take.
Below is a list of costs estimates:
- Home study – $1,000
- Application and documentation – $2,000-$2,500
- Travel – $9,000-$15,000
- Agency Fees – $4,000-$10,000
- Foreign program fees – $5,000-$10,000
- Post-adoption applications and fees – $1,000-$1,500
Therefore, by total, the approximate total amount for international adoption in Ukraine will be within the range of $20,000 to $40,000.
These are some of the specifics of the general expenses:
- Medical exam of the child for immigration – $220
- Court fees – $20-50
- Document translations/notarial – $10-20 per document
- Birth certificate – $10-15
- Passport – $45-50
- Legalization/Hague Apostille – $10 per document
- Professional service fees (medical, facilitators, legal, translation) – fees vary depending on the quantity and quality of services
What do we do if a primary service provider is not allowed to operate in a non-Convention country?
If a primary service provider is not allowed to operate in a non-Convention country, the prospective adoptive parents may be able to coordinate with the primary service provider to identify a foreign public authority or a foreign service provider which will provide the services necessary. This usually happens for home study by which agencies cannot directly provide to the adoptive parents. However, the primary service provider should obtain documentation concerning the completion of the services and should make sure that the services are provided in accordance with the local law, the UAA, and, thus, the Convention as well.
Can a non-Hague accredited agency or person assist in international adoption?
The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) and the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) permit the unaccredited adoption service provider to assist in international adoption as long as it is supervised by an accredited agency. Hence, there is still a need for an accredited primary service provider, and there should be a written agreement between the accredited provider and the supervised provider. Supervised provider commonly operates during the home study process. Moreover, the accredited agency supervising the unaccredited agency is responsible for maintaining the proper regulations in accordance with the Convention and is subject to adverse action such as suspension or cancellation of its accreditation should they commit any violation or lapses.