In order for you, dear reader, to have a better understanding of this process, and so you can understand what we are dealing with over here, I am giving a timeline of the current requirements for the process of adoption. I say "current" because things seem to change rather rapidly around here.
*Disclaimer: I am only sharing information I know from this experience. Just from this trip, I have learned that some of the things I was told about this process were inaccurate and even after today's experience we are questioning some of the things we thought we understood before. This is only meant to give future adoptive families a clearer picture of what is required and to help our friends and family understand our situation based on this timeline.*
A Child's Journey (to Adoptability)
1. Parental rights revoked (for various reasons and after a timeframe that is decided on a case-by-case basis.
2. Child's paperwork submitted to the local office
--remains on the local registry for 30 days.
3. Child's paperwork submitted to the regional office
--remains on the regional registry for 30 days
4. Child's paperwork submitted to the SDA (State Department of Adoptions) national registry
--remains on the national registry for one year
5. After that year, child is then available for adoption
A law applies to our case. Because Ruslan and Nastia are half siblings, raised by the same mother, this special law allows her year-long wait on the national registry to be dismissed because Ruslan's waiting periods were complete in December of 2011...including the year wait on the national registry. She rides on his coat-tails and is adoptable without that waiting period. However, the local and regional registry waiting periods still apply...thus our delay.
The Family's Journey
1. Paperwork at home: completion of dossier
--a large, time consuming stack of applications and forms that are notarized by your local authorities first and then notarized at the lt. governor's office.
--packet includes the following as well as other requirements:
-doctor clearance for both parents
-tax forms from previous tax year
-blood work and testing
-employment status information
-immigration (done nationally and within the state)
-fingerprinting (both locally and state)
-marriage and birth certificates (not copies)
-currently, known child application if you know who you want to adopt
This packet (more like a stack) is completed and submitted to the State Department of Adoptions office in Kiev.
2. Receiving the referral:
--Once they give approval of the family to adopt the children they are requesting, they offer an appointment for the family to come pick up the referral for that child.
--With the referral in hand, the family has permission to visit the child and the orphanage.
--This meeting usually takes two days...one day to have the meeting, the next day to pick up the referral paper.
3. Visiting the orphanage:
--Families are given time with the child
--Orphanage staff gives all the medical, psychological/emotional, academic, personality information about the child as well as their family history and information regarding living relatives and the death of parents or the removal of parental rights.
--Local authorities finish paperwork.
4. Local authorities request clearance from SDA to allow the families to have a court date.
--This takes a few days because paperwork has to go from the region, back to the SDA in Kiev.
5. Waiting period for court date
--Once the SDA has this region's paperwork about the adoptive family, they have 10 days to give clearance so a court date can be assigned.
--They used to have 3-5 days, now they have 10...and they take it.
6. Assigning of court date
--Once clearance has been given by the SDA, a court date is assigned which is usually a couple days away.
(Note: I hope you're calculating how many days this has taken by this point...remember to acknowledge that flying here can take about 2 days of travel. Travel to the region can take a day as well, depending on how far that region is from Kiev. Our region is a 16 hour train ride away.)
--This is a landmark. It is the last required time both parents must appear together and in person. (All the paperwork and signatures in Ukraine up to this point have required both parents in person as well.)
--A judge, two jurors, a prosecutor and the adoptive parents and facilitator appear in court. If the children being adopted are old enough, they are there to testify, too. (We know the 13 year olds we have seen adopted recently were both required in court, but the 6 year old was not.)
--The prosecutor can bring up any reason the family should not adopt or require the family to prove anything he/she thinks needs to be discussed.
--Parents, facilitator and children are all asked to testify to whether or not the adoption should take place and why.
--Judge makes a judgment. It is my understanding that it is very rare for a judge to make a negative judgment.
8. 10 day waiting period
--Once a positive judgment is made, there is a 10 day waiting period before the child can be removed from the orphanage.
--MY understanding is that this waiting period is for a few reasons:
-for the adoptive parents to back out
-for the child to back out
-for the prosecutor to review the process and see if anything illegal or improper has been done to the paperwork along the way.
9. Final steps
--child is removed from orphanage (parents must provide all shoes, clothing, underwear, etc since the child does not own anything)
--new birth certificate is printed in region
--passport issued to child (this can take up to 5 days, depending on several factors and can be issued in region or in Kiev, again depending on the region you are adopting from. In our situation, we have passports issued in region and have the option of paying an expediting fee that gives us the passports back the same day. Hallelujah.
--bring child back to Kiev for medical exams and immunizations, immigration and US embassy visit, issuing of Visa
10. GO HOME...and make sure you don't have to disembark in a foreign country because your precious documents cannot be opened by anyone but the good ol' US ofA.
Got all that?