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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Adopting in Ukraine

(Alexandra’s Note:  This blog post was written by Ivanka, presently in Ukraine, finishing up their second adoption in the last six months, this time a 16 y.o. boy.  They have bio kids, as well, and their eyes and hearts have been opened to the miracle of adoption.  Their family hosted the girl the summer before, and then met the boy while they were at the orphanage.  Ivanka is an ardent promoter of adoption to others now.  Here are her thoughts– thank you for taking the time to write it down for those of us who don’t know much about adoption in Ukraine.  Now that Russia is fairly closed-down to Americans adopting (in many regions due to politics), or is requiring four separate trips to the country, Ukraine may be a viable option.

Thanks also to our correspondent, Greg, adoptive dad to another 15 y.o. from Ukraine, who shares the contact information for their facilitator and a hosting program of Ukrainian kids coming this summer to the Virginia Beach area.  Take a look at those websites at the end for more info.)


Loving orphans from anywhere in the world is a joy, a joy that too few people really know.  My personal experience in Ukraine has been a SUPER one.  That is not to say that there haven’t been challenging moments… there have been several.  Periodically, I’ve wondered if we were ever going to bring our adoptions to completion.  I have remained flexible, stayed focused on the goal, and prayed a lot… and at the end of the day I have our daughter from UA and am currently in the 10 day waiting period for our son!  I have come to love this country and its people, especially the children who live in this former communist land.  They have such a limited future, and yet they have a hope for life better than they have ever known before.  Please consider these children!

I will not attempt to compare or contrast Ukraine with Russia, or even the USA, as I have only adopted in UA.  But I wish to share what I do know from my own experiences.

Legally, an adoptive family is not allowed to “pre-identify” children in UA, but everyone does it.  In fact, at both the initial MSP (previously SDA) appointment and in the formal court hearing, they will ask how you know this child, how long you’ve known each other, how frequently you communicate, etc.  The authorities like that you know the child, and that the child knows you.  I do not understand this contradiction, but it is what it is!

We initially met our daughter through a Christian hosting program, and we met our son while we were in country adopting our daughter (following an extended stay due to document complications… did I say to be flexible and stay focused?).  The Ukrainian authorities really seem more flexible (I know that sounds like an oxymoron when discussing international adoption) with the older children.

Teen orphans are considered “special needs children” simply because they are less likely to be adopted due to their age.  Ukrainian children cannot be adopted (by international families) before the age of five.  Occasionally there are some exceptions (for example, if they have older siblings) but I am not certain when or how these exceptions are approved.  Ukraine allows adoption of children up to the age of 18, but (as you know) the US will not issue a visa after the age of sixteen.

Additionally, UA does not allow single parents to adopt.  Both parents must be at least 18 years older than the child, and neither parent can be more than 45 years older than the child.  (See updates in comments section below– there is no age limit on the upper end for parents’ ages.)

The children “graduate”from the Internat (boarding school, AKA orphanage) following completion of ninth grade.  Interestingly, they finish at several different ages.  It appears that they begin 1-class whenever they first come to the Internat.  I know children who have graduated out of orphanage at 14, with others in the same class already 18 years of age.  As they “age-out” (really, “grade-out”) of the orphanage, they then go to “trade-school”.

The particular type of school they attend seems to be decided upon by the director of the orphanage.  They have essentially no say as to where they would like to go or what they would like to do.  Most boys are sent to welding school, while most girls go to cooking school.  According to descriptions from kids I know currently in the trade schools, it sounds like they one step up from home-less hell.  The establishment of a hierarchy starts over with bigger, meaner kids.  Nothing is secure.  Everything gets stolen from their rooms.  Food is scarce and horrible tasting… they are basically starving all the time.  Trade school is closed during holidays, and those orphans who cannot go with friends or extended families are herded into a single room to sleep and stay (without food or heat).  It is crazy!

These children get a little bit of money each month from the government ($60 to $150) depending upon which school they attend.  They have zero life skills at this point, so they are unable to manage their money, even this tiny amount.  So, they quickly buy a new phone or mp4 player (sometimes to replace the one stolen the previous month) and then have no money for food, clothes or other necessities until the next month.  After a few months of this kind of life, it’s easier to understand the appeal of theft and robbery for the boys, and the sex-trade for girls.  Even so, I still find them surprisingly innocent as they leave the orphanage.  I guess they do not stay that way for long.

Adoptions from Ukraine can be completed in one trip, if you prefer, or two at the most.  After completing your home study, you can put together a dossier fairly quickly.  Again, I have nothing to compare it with, but it is rather straightforward information:  doctor letter/form for each parent,  FBI fingerprinting and background check,  DSS criminal check, financial statements, house plans, three letters of reference, passport copies, petitions for the child, power of attorneys, etc.  I can provide specific list for anyone interested (simply message Alexandra and I will forward information).

The process begins with a request for an appointment with the MSP (Ministry of Social Policy, previously the SDA [State Department of Adoption]) in Kyiv.  Usually, you can get to the region where your child is located within a few days of this appointment, and arrive to adoption court within 2 weeks.  Assuming a favorable court decision, you will then have a 10-day waiting period, after which you can pick up your court decree (and your new son or daughter… “Gotcha Day”!).  Following this, there remains about one more week of errands relating to turning your new child into an American citizen (such as getting the appropriate documents for the US embassy appointment requesting immigration visa).  I have known people to go home during the waiting period.  Regardless, one parent can leave Ukraine immediately after the court hearing.

I estimate the total cost at $25,000 to $30,000, depending on the region you are staying in and the time of year you must travel.  One can adopt sibling groups with a greater discount if done at the same time.

Most importantly, the orphans in Ukraine need families.  They do not need your “stuff”, but they are desperate for a family whom they can love.  May it be you?



Greg recommends this summer hosting program as a possible way to meet 11-15 y.o. Ukrainian kids in need of homes.  They are located in the Williamsburg/ Virginia Beach, VA, area of the mid-Atlantic states.  Contact them for further info if your family is interested!





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8 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Sybil says:

    I wish many homes for the children come out of your goodness and kindness, Ivanka. We, unfortunately, have “aged out”, but will pass on any info to anyone we meet who might be interested.

  2. avatar hoonew says:

    What is the age limit for parents? Are exceptions ever made if there is a significant difference between parent ages? Or, if one is adopting an older child? I’d love to have a list of paperwork requirements.

    • avatar admin says:

      Hoonew, from what I’ve read the age limit is at most 45 years’ difference between parent and child. (Agencies claim that there are similar “laws” in Russia, but really, it might be a regional “preference”, since there is no such law there.) In other words, if you’re 50, you could adopt a 5 y.o., but no younger (not that younger than 5 is really available). If you’re 55, you could adopt a 10 y.o. and no younger. If one of the parents is older than the limit for that particular child, that parent would not adopt, but would adopt the child once you arrived home. That’s how I understand it. Let me see if Ivanka can send me the list of paperwork requirements and then I can forward them. (It’s got to be better than Russia-!) She’s in UA right now, so I’m not sure if it may have to wait a week or two until she’s home, but I’m sure she’d be happy to share…

  3. avatar admin says:

    Here’s a decent list of requirements/documents. About the only “old news” that I see is the reference to the SDA which has changed to the MSP as Ivanka states above. Here’s the link: http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_info.php?country-select=ukraine.

  4. avatar melody says:

    hi, my name melody and Im from asia, Indonesia. Im really interested for adopt christian baby or child from ukraina. do you have their pictures, I really love to see them.
    and i need information, how much I need to prepare for adopt baby/child from ukraine to indonesia. thankyou,God bless you.

    • avatar admin says:

      Hi, Melody, you should contact a local adoption agency or social worker in your country that works with adoptions in Ukraine. The laws depend on the country where you live. We wish you all the best, let us know how it goes!

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