Updated – Information for U.S. Citizens in the Process of Adopting Children from Ukraine
From the U.S. Department of State Office of Children’s Issues:
March 25, 2022
The Department recognizes the security situation in Ukraine is of great concern to prospective adoptive parents (PAP) at any stage of the process, including host families who intend to but have not yet started the adoption process.
The Department has issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Alert urging U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine and advising U.S. citizens in Ukraine to depart immediately if it is safe to do so. There are currently no in-person U.S. consular services available in Ukraine and the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine.
We are aware some PAPs and host families are considering travel to Poland and other neighboring countries in an effort to visit with children who have been evacuated. We encourage anyone who travels to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in order to receive security and other critical updates from the relevant U.S. Embassy. Country-specific information is available on the Department’s website.
Please review the following key notices about intercountry adoption and hosting programs involving Ukrainian children:
– Ukraine’s Ministry of Policy Statement on Intercountry Adoption – Please note that the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine (MSP) has stated adoption in Ukraine is “impossible” at this time.
Q: Can Ukrainian children come to the United States temporarily for their safety?
The Office of Children’s Issues has received many inquiries from individuals who are concerned about the welfare of Ukrainian children. Many families have previously hosted the child they wish to adopt and hope to find a mechanism to bring the child to the United States until the crisis in Ukraine resolves; others have not been involved in hosting or adoption but want to find a way to help. We are also hearing from hosting organizations and other humanitarian groups who seek information about how to bring Ukrainian children to the United States outside of the intercountry adoption process. The Ukrainian government has confirmed they are not approving children to participate in host programs in the United States at this time. They are taking measures to ensure their safety in neighboring countries. We are in close touch with the Ukrainian government, which confirms that most children have already been evacuated and are receiving all appropriate care, including specialized medical treatment, as necessary. The Ukrainian authorities are not making exceptions to this policy for children who previously participated in hosting programs or are already in the process of adoption.
See the Department’s March 9, 2022 Ukraine Adoption Update and the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy’s March 19 Statement on the Evacuation of Children in Institutional Care for additional information.
The following resources provide information on other ways to help:
· Department of State – United with Ukraine: How You Can Help
· U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) – see the How You Can Help section on the Ukraine Crisis page
Q: What action is the Government of Ukraine taking to protect children in institutional care?
The Ministry of Social Policy and the National Social Service Office of Ukraine have jurisdiction over decisions about the care and protection of the children in their care. The Minister of Social Policy Lazebna’s statement on the evacuation of almost 5,000 children in institutional care confirmed that “all the evacuated children are safe, [and] they are provided with housing, food, medical and educational services.” On March 17, the Government of Ukraine set up a Coordination Headquarters/Task Force to protect children’s rights and they developed a draft Memorandum between Ukraine and other countries to protect the rights of displaced children and guarantee their return to Ukraine, based on the agreements already reached by the Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine in meetings with relevant Ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany and Italy. This situation is fluid. Prospective adoptive parents and other concerned individuals may wish to monitor statements released by the Ukrainian government for current information about child protection activities.
Q: How can I begin the process to adopt a child in Ukraine?
We are receiving many inquiries expressing concern for the children of Ukraine and asking how to begin the adoption process. Ukraine’s Ministry of Policy Statement on Intercountry Adoption confirms that adoption in Ukraine is not possible at this time.
Information about intercountry adoption, including country specific information, is available on our website, www.adoption.state.
Please review carefully the Special Advisor for Children’s Issues statement regarding children of Ukraine. We note it can be extremely difficult in times of war and crisis to determine whether children who appear to be orphans are truly eligible for adoption and immigration under U.S. laws. Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members during a conflict or natural disaster and their parents may be looking for them. It is not uncommon in dangerous situations for parents to send their children out of the area for safety reasons, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that a child’s parents have died, children are often cared for by other relatives. In addition, it can also be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for intercountry adoption of both the United States and the child’s country of origin under such circumstances. It can also be challenging to gather documents necessary to establish that the child meets the requirements of U.S. immigration law. Prospective adoptive parents may wish to consult with an experienced immigration attorney when considering adopting or caring for a child under these circumstances. For context, you may wish to review the general procedural information on our website about applying to adopt a child from another country to the United States. See in particular those sections describing the U.S. immigrant visa process for an eligible adopted child.
Q: Can the State Department expedite the processing of Ukraine adoption cases already in process?
We are working with the Government of Ukraine on behalf of families who have final adoption orders to obtain required documents for the child’s immigrant visa processing. These are cases in which a Ukrainian court has already granted legal custody to the adoptive parents. We will continue to raise U.S. families’ commitment to and interest in completing the process in cases where both U.S. and Ukrainian approvals have been granted but there has not yet been a final, legal change of custody determination. However, we cannot predict whether or when any cases without a final adoption order will be able to proceed. Intercountry adoption cases in process are not expected to move forward in the near term.
On March 13, 2022, the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy issued a statement confirming that adoption is not possible in Ukraine at this time. See the Department’s March 21, 2022 Notice for more information. Families at any stage of the process, including those who have started but not completed required court hearings, should consult with their accredited adoption service provider (ASP) to discuss the impact of the Ministry of Social Policy’s statement on their adoption plans.
The following resources provide helpful background on why adoption of Ukrainian children may be difficult or inappropriate at this time:
· UNICEF and the UN High Commission on Refugees – Unaccompanied and Separated Children Fleeing Escalating Conflict in Ukraine Must be Protected
· Hague Conference on Private International Law – Information Note on Children Deprived of their Family Environment Due to the Armed Conflict in Ukraine
· The National Council for Adoption – Regarding Refugee Children Fleeing the War in Ukraine
· International Social Services – Ukraine Crisis Fact Sheet
· Save the Children – Ukraine Crisis: Call for Immediate Halt on Intercountry Adoptions to Keep Children Safe
Q: Who is the primary point of contact for PAPs in the process of adopting in Ukraine?
ASPs are the most appropriate point of contact for PAPs who are in the adoption process. ASPs can provide guidance about how the situation in Ukraine may impact each family’s adoption plans. PAPs may also contact the Office of Children’s Issues directly at Adoption@state.gov.
Q: What if I have started the adoption process and I have had one or more court hearings, but additional hearings are required?
The Department has requested adoption hearings be expedited and conducted virtually whenever possible. However, the judge has sole discretion over this decision. At this time, most government offices and courts are not open or able to conduct business, and we are unable to track the operating status of each. Based on the Ministry of Social Policy’s March 13 statement that adoptions are not possible at this time, we do not expect these cases to move forward in the near term. The Department will continue to convey to the Ukrainian government that U.S. families are interested in completing the adoption process if possible under Ukrainian law. PAPs at this stage of the process should remain in close contact with their ASP to discuss how this situation impacts their adoption plans.
Q: What if I have accepted an official referral from the Ministry of Social Policy (MSP) but there have not yet been any court hearings, or I have declined a referral and not yet been offered another one?
Based on the Ministry of Social Policy’s March 13 statement that adoptions are not possible at this time, we do not expect cases at this stage of the process to move forward in the near term.
Q: Can the State Department facilitate the removal of children from Ukraine and entry into another country for their safety?
The Ukrainian authorities, which have jurisdiction over decisions about the care and protection of the children in its care, have expressed concern about moving children out of Europe at this point and are taking steps to ensure their safety in neighboring countries. The National Social Service Office of Ukraine has made clear that while children may depart Ukraine with their legal guardians, who are often the orphanage directors, if other required criteria are met, they do not approve the children for onward travel to the United States for hosting at this time.
Information about the evacuation of children residing in institutional care is available on the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers website. Q: What if I am partway through the adoption process and the child’s orphanage or another entity is able to get the child to Poland or another neighboring country? Will I be able to resume the intercountry adoption process from there?
Based on the Ministry of Social Policy’s March 13 statement that adoptions are not possible at this time, we do not expect adoption cases to move forward in the near term. The Ukrainian government retains the authority for decisions about the best interests of Ukrainian children in institutional care, even when the children have been evacuated to other countries.
Q: Is the State Department able to facilitate humanitarian parole for a child I am in the process of adopting so that I may bring the child to the United States?
Questions about humanitarian parole for Ukrainian children in institutional care should be directed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which has jurisdiction over this issue. Information about the humanitarian parole application process and refugee and asylum status is available on the USCIS website.
Q: What if I am in the process of adopting a child that has previously traveled to the United States through a hosting program? If the visa expiration date has not yet passed will the child be able to enter the U.S.?
Children who travel to the United States for hosting programs do so with the Ukrainian government’s authorization and on a U.S. non-immigrant visa that is typically valid only for one entry to the United States and only during the narrow date range of the program. To travel to the United States again, a child would need a new non-immigrant visa. Children in the process of intercountry adoption without a final adoption or guardianship order are generally not eligible for issuance of a non-immigrant visa as they are intending immigrants. Visa eligibility and adjudication is governed by U.S. immigration laws, and State Department consular officers do not have the authority to make exceptions to U.S. law. Please see Visas for Ukrainian Children for additional information.
Q: What if I am considering adoption or I know I am not in a position to adopt a child but I would like to host a child so that they can leave Ukraine temporarily while the country is at war?
We are receiving many inquiries from U.S. citizens concerned about the plight of Ukrainian children. We share this concern for these children, and we understand that some U.S. citizens want to respond by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need.
It can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for adoption and immigration under U.S. laws. Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members during a conflict or natural disaster and their parents may be looking for them. It is not uncommon in dangerous situations for parents to send their children out of the area, for safety reasons, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that a child’s parents have died, children are often cared for by other relatives. Many children living in orphanages in Ukraine are not orphans.
During times of crisis, it can also be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for intercountry adoption of both the United States and the child’s country of origin. This is especially true when civil authority breaks down. It can be very difficult to gather documents necessary to establish that the child meets the requirements of U.S. immigration law, so persons interested in adoption may wish to consult with an experienced immigration attorney when considering adopting or caring for a child under these circumstances. For context, you may wish to review the general procedural information on our website about applying to adopt and immigrate a child from another country to the United States. See in particular those sections describing the U.S. immigrant visa process for an eligible adopted child.