Open Letter from Embassy, Kyiv
March 14, 2005
Dear Members of the American Adoption Community Interested in Ukraine:
With this letter, we would like to provide updated information about Ukraine“s intercountry adoption program as well as highlight some improvements and changes in the Consular Section, which affect adoptions. First, we are pleased to welcome consular officer William J. Bistransky as the new Chief of the Immigrant Visa Unit. Bill is a very experienced consular officer who enjoys working with adopting parents and children, which he says is one of the most rewarding parts of his job. Bill and the Immigrant Visa staff look forward to meeting parents when they come to the Embassy to process their children“s immigrant visas.
Renovation of the Embassy“s Consular Annex (same old building; nice, new look) is almost finished. All the work has resulted in a workspace that will be more efficient and welcoming to the public. The renovation comes just in time because on May 3, 2005 the Consular Section is slated to start processing all Ukrainian immigrant visa applicants. As of May, these immigrant visa applicants ÷ many of whom are spouses and children of U.S. citizens ÷ will receive the same service which we were able to extend to adopted children last spring, and will no longer have to travel to Poland in order to complete the immigrant visa process. Diversity visa ("visa lottery") applications, however, will continue to be processed in Warsaw, Poland. For more information see our website.
Although consular officers are precluded by law from acting in a legal capacity on behalf of American citizens with regard to their private legal matters, such as an adoption, we are nevertheless often able to provide information and discuss ideas that might be helpful to American families in general. Although we try to stay ahead of the information curve, and to publish information on changes in Ukrainian adoption laws and regulations just as soon as we receive it, sometimes the first notice we get of a new requirement or problem is when it is brought to our attention by a member of the American adoption community. We welcome your input, and hope you will feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com.
Lately we have received a significant number of emails from the members of American adoption community (adoption agencies, adoptive parents and others) raising identical issues and concerns. We hope the information contained in this letter - in the form of frequently asked questions - will be of general interest, and helpful to all American adopting parents.
Why did the NAC start refusing to communicate with a family's authorized Power of Attorney in Ukraine about the status of a family's dossier or appointment date?
This change was enforced by the NAC more than a year ago, and is a subject we addressed in a similar adoption letter last year. The Family Code of Ukraine and Ukrainian Adoption Decree (both effective as of January 1, 2004) prohibit the release of information concerning families' registration numbers and appointment dates to third parties, including those granted power of attorney. According the NAC Director, two important notification letters - 1) the acknowledgment of receipt of dossier with registration number, and 2) notice of appointment date - must be relayed directly to the prospective parents only, not to intermediaries. (To assist American families, the Embassy provided the NAC with English translations of these two standard letters. In addition, the Embassy suggested that families be allowed the option of submitting prepaid DHL/FedEx envelopes with their dossier, in order to expedite communication with the NAC.) The NAC also stressed that each family should designate only one person with power of attorney (that is, one facilitator) to communicate with the NAC on adoption matters other than the two letters mentioned above.
Why are whole dossiers being mailed back to families for non-compliance with documentary requirements?
According to the NAC, returned dossiers fall primarily into two categories: those that have already expired; and those whose dates are still valid but contain incomplete paperwork. Any defective dossiers that have not been checked on, or picked up by a family's representative (with Power of Attorney) for more than one month, will be returned directly to adoptive parents, even if the date on the dossier has not expired.
Why does the NAC often fail to register adoption dossiers within ten days as stipulated by Ukrainian law?
According to the Adoption Decree that became effective on January 1, 2004, the Adoption Center now has 20 working days to register an adoption dossier, not ten days as it was previously. However, the Adoption Center has officially informed the Embassy about the delays in registration of dossiers caused by a dramatic increase in the number of the incoming dossiers. According to the NAC leadership, the number of incoming dossiers is so large, that the NAC appointment schedule has already been completed through July-August, 2005. The priority for appointments now goes to those dossiers received by the Center before January 1, 2005. We have been told that the dossiers submitted from families applying for adoption of older and/or children with special needs continue to receive priority in registration and appointments, per existing NAC policy. The waiting time is increasing for all, but especially for single parents - the category of parents that receives lowest priority by Ukrainian law (per Article 213 of the Family Code).
In an apparent effort to manage the NAC workload by controlling demand, the NAC currently accepts only a limited number of dossiers per day during a several-hour time window. The NAC has indicated that they may even have to stop accepting new dossiers for a period of time, since workload constraints may be such that NAC staff may not be able to schedule those families within the validity period of their documents. The NAC Director assured us that the Embassy would be notified if the Center decided to stop accepting new dossiers, in order to give us some time to alert the adoption community. We were also told that any moratorium would apply to all dossiers, not only those from American adopting families.
Why is it so difficult and time-consuming to get a second/third referral?
The NAC policy on repeat referrals is still tough. During our recent meeting with NAC officials we were told that the NAC would not issue second referrals to adopting parents who have declined to accept the first referral, unless the parents discovered serious health problems during their visit to the orphanage, that were not listed in the child's file from the NAC databank. We were told that second referrals would only be issued in exceptional cases. The NAC officials explained this policy by citing the large numbers of adopting families currently applying for adoption in Ukraine, and the need to process cases quickly. The NAC also said that each family has access to all NAC files of available children during the first appointment and that each family has one hour to review the files and select a child. The NAC officials expressed the view that if parents were not willing to accept their first referral within that time frame, this would indicate that they were psychologically not ready for an adoption. Families in this category would be advised to come back a few months later (six months or more), when the databank would be more likely to be updated with new available children.
Why did the NAC implement a new medical form requirement, without prior notice to the public?
This implementation is required under Ukrainian law, not independently by the Adoption Center. We became aware of it last February, when we posted that information on our webpage. We have asked the NAC to provide advance notice of any future changes, so that we can alert the adopting community well in advance. To the best of our knowledge, the NAC has not changed any new paperwork requirements since that time.
Why doesn“t the American Embassy become more aggressive in advocating for American adopting parents with the Ukrainian adoption authorities?
The State Department considers the welfare and protection of American citizens as its highest priority. This includes Americans adopting children in Ukraine. U.S. law, however, places certain constraints on consular officers with regard to assistance to Americans in the context of their private legal matters, such as an adoption. International adoption is essentially a private legal matter between a private individual (or couple) who wishes to adopt, and a foreign court, which operates under that country's laws and regulations. U.S. authorities cannot intervene on behalf of prospective parents with the courts in the country where the adoption takes place. However, we do provide extensive information about the adoption processes and the U.S. legal requirements to bring a child adopted abroad to the United States.
What the State Department Can Do:
- Provide information about international adoption in countries around the world
- Provide general information about U.S. visa requirements for international adoption
- Make inquiries of the U.S. consular section abroad regarding the status of a specific adoption case and clarify documentation or other requirements
- Ensure that U.S. citizens are not discriminated against by foreign authorities or courts in accordance with local law on adoptions
What the State Department Cannot Do:
- Become directly involved in the adoption process in another country
- Act as an attorney or represent adoptive parents in court
- Order that an adoption take place or that a visa be issued
Although we cannot get directly involved in the adoption process in Ukraine, we in the Embassy understand that it is hard for American families to track changing policies at the NAC, and that often policy/procedural changes are not positive from the American adopting parents' perspective. Please be assured that we in the U.S. Embassy are always advocating on a collective basis on behalf of American families and looking for ways to work with the NAC to facilitate adoptions for the benefit of American families and the children they adopt. We look for ways to help - such as providing the bilingual notification forms; publicizing new information about medical form requirements; suggesting the NAC accept and use pre-paid international mailers from those parents who wish to speed up communications; helping to explain to the NAC why even Americans who already have multiple biological children would wish to adopt a Ukrainian child; explaining why single parents in the U.S. adopt, and explaining on what basis American social workers make their decisions about the fitness of parents to adopt.
Most of the issues addressed in this letter were also discussed in our Adoption Open Letter from Consul General of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv of April 1, 2004 and Readout from Adoption Facilitators Seminar, both of which are available on our website.
How can I file a complaint against the NAC with Ukrainian authorities?
Although Consular Officers cannot act as your legal representative, we can help facilitate communication. If you wish to fax us a letter addressed to the NAC (or to any other Ukrainian government authority) outlining your concerns/complaints, we can forward it to the specified Ukrainian authority under an Embassy cover letter. To do this, we would need your signed consent waiving your rights under the U.S. Privacy Act. For your convenience we have attached a Privacy Act Waiver form. Those wishing for the Embassy to forward a letter of complaint on their behalf should complete, sign and fax the form back to us. If you elect to send your complaint directly to Ukrainian authorities (that is, not through the U.S. Embassy), then no Privacy Act Waiver form is required.
For your convenience, we are also attaching a list of translators. Although some of the staff at the NAC and other Ukrainian government organizations read English, many do not. To enhance your chances of having your communication to the NAC read, it would be helpful to submit information in Ukrainian or Russian. Unfortunately, Embassy staff cannot perform this personal service for you.
As we have said many times, although we try to stay ahead of the information curve, and to publish information on changes in Ukrainian adoption laws and regulations just as soon as we receive it, sometimes the first notice we get of a new requirement or problem is when it is brought to our attention by a member of the American adoption community. We welcome your input, and hope you will feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your interest in Ukraine“s intercountry adoption program. We look forward to hearing from you and to facilitating immigrant visa issuance to all qualified adopted children.
The document is avialable at USA Embassy site http://web.usembassy.kiev.ua/amcit_adoptions_openletter_mar14_eng.html