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Ukraine's Minister for Sport, Youth and Family Yuri Pavlenko on current situation in the orphanage system and the adoption

October 6, 2006, 0:00 3154 "ForUm"

Q: Does the Cabinet of Ukraine support main trends of the policy implemented by your Ministry regarding the children rights and abandoned kids in Ukraine?

A: There are no political divergences in the governmental policy regarding the youth policy and children rights protection.

As a result of the negotiations between Youth, Sport and Family Ministry and the US Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador William Taylor, the working group on pressing issues related to the adoption has been formed. It is a well-known fact that the US citizens adopt major part of Ukrainian orphans. However, from the other side we have some important differences in our legislations which must be settled regarding the children rights protection. We held a meeting addressing the rights of the Ukrainian adopted kids with the Ombudswomen Karpachyova and set principal approaches towards the US adoption and the problems existing within this sphere.

Q: The US citizens complain that their reports have been lost. Is this a real problem?

A: The Ministry as an executive agency has been in charge with the international adoption only since May of 2006. The Ministry and the State Department on Adoption and Children Rightsstated work on July 1, 2006. The documentation transfer from the Adoption Centre to the new State Department took place during May-June. There were about 50,000 documents, the majority of them are subjected only for the governmental circulation. Since the date of the transfer procedure and the date of the Department had been formed, the representatives of the Ombudswoman Nina Karpachyova, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the General Office of Prosecutor have been observing the procedure. It was initiated by the Sport, Family and Youth Ministry's in order to check every single document. The revision disclosed lots of aspects and features which raise our concern. But the final decision will be made by the General Office of Public Prosecutor of Ukraine. The main problem is that there was not a common data base of the foreign citizens who adopted Ukrainian children, not only the US citizens but the citizens of others countries. To form such data base was one of the issues the US Ambassador Taylor andI addressed.

So, we cannot comment unambiguously on every report as we have been given the general information by the Centre of Adoption attached to the Education and Science Ministry of Ukraine. We are working on it now and checking every document. We have lots of questions regarding the reports especially on kids aged 1-3 years (it is the annual report).

Besides, the US government does not oblige its citizens to make a report on adopted kid. However, before receiving the right to adopt Ukrainian child, every American citizen has signed the guarantee to do it.

Moreover, there is another unsettled bilateral Ukraine-US question - the dual citizenship. According to the Ukrainian law, a child adopted by the foreigners remains a Ukrainian citizen up to the age of 18 years. According to the US law,an adopted child isan American citizen. We intend to address this issue with the US Ambassador. However, the Ambassador himself and the corresponding US Department prove that every adopted child is developing in American family in accordance to norms and standards. But governmental report is not enough for Ukrainian legislation; we demand first-hand reports from the families. We discussed this issue with the Ombudswoman for the purpose settling the common position regarding this issue aimed at protection of the Ukrainian children's rights.

Since 1996 16,174 little Ukrainians have been adopted by the US, Spain, Italy, Israel, Germany, France and Canada. National adoption has been degraded during the past five years. In 2005 Ukrainians adopted only over 1,500 comparing with over 2,100 cases of adoption by the foreigners. In 2000 there were 2,200 national adoptions. What is the reason for it? One says it is financial matter, another says it is a question of Ukrainian mentality… However, in 2000 Ukrainians lived poorer than in 2005. As we are responsible for the national adoption as well in this regard we have considered and analysed the reasons of the national adoption decay. The special analysis disclosed that 18% of Ukrainian families want to adopt orphans. It means 3 million Ukrainian families are ready to become adopted parents or 92,000 orphans in Ukraine (total number of the orphans in Ukraineaccording tothe State Statistic Committee). So, the problem is not Ukrainian families, the matter is an ineffective work of the bureaucratic officials commissioned to assist the national adoption. They delay it instead. We have implementedpersonnel rotationwithin the Ministry in order to deal with it. In February the Ministry of Education and Science delegated its commission related to the adoption to the State Department on Adoption. So, the real problem is in the procedure of adoption, for example there were cases when the adoption procedure was lasting for six years and the officials did all their best to prevent the adoption.

We implement an educational program for the officials working with the national adoption. We are working out a simplified procedure of the national adoption . Liliya Podkopayeva was the first Ukrainian who adopted little Vadym within 3 months. We intend to cancel all fees on adoption procedure for the national parents and implement special trainings (psychological and social) for the national adoptive families.

Q: Sometimes, foreigners coming to Ukraine with the aim to adopt an orphan face corruption within the bodies commissioned with the procedure of international adoption. What do you think they may do in such situation?

A: They must address the embassies or consulates as we have close connections with these agencies. They may address the State Department of Adoption.

Regarding the means of countering the corruption in the foreign adoption, our Ministry, the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine and the Ombudswoman's office work on the plan aimed at prevention of the traffic in Ukrainian children. I call it so as all corrupt machinations are trafficking in children. It may be regulated by Hague Convention on International Adoption but unfortunately, Nina Karpachyova does not support us in its ratification. We negotiate over this issue. The ratification will regulate the accreditation of the middlemen and organisations assisting foreigners and provide for control over these kinds of activity. Nowadays, any middlemen in the international adoption process are illegal or find different ways to legally cover their illegal activity.

Q: How is the reformation of orphanage system going on?

A: The State Budget-2006 allotted 50 million UAH for the family homes. But we have not had yet the complete legislation base for such institutions. The work on the corresponding legislation is underway.

Focusing on the priorities of work, I should outline the national adoption, the national guardianship, the reform of the orphanages. The last one is implemented in accordance to 10 years plan providing for the staged transformation from large orphanages with 300 kids living there to 50 kids in the area of their birth.

Previously it was private initiative now it is state policy with a system of control. Nobody can form now family homes without special preparation and analysis by special agencies. In 2006 3 thousand families applied with initiative to organise such homes, only 600 families out of this number have been approved by the corresponding commissioned agencies.

The directors of the orphanages support our reform of the system. Their experience and their advices make great contribution to the reformation. It is a result of the discussion held before.

The Cabinet is to approve the State Program of Orphanages Reformation. We consider every document by its individual merits and provide it with the corresponding financial aid in order to avoid lack of financing in its implementation.

Socially responsible business is important factor in reformation of the system. The Ministry negotiated with leading companies of Ukraine regarding financial aid for the implementation of the reforms and was given strong support in its efforts from the business circles. Joint actions of Ukrainian local authorities, the central authorities and the socially responsible businesses make possible implementation of the abandoned kids' protection.

Q: Will it be foreign or only Ukrainian companies?

A; We consider only Ukrainian business structures. It is a pragmatic question for these companies.

Q: Some charitable NGOs were shocked by horrible conditions our orphans live. These orphanages were called even "death camps." Do you know about those facts? How many times the Youth, Sport and Family Ministry has held reviews of the orphanages?

A: If such violation happens, it must be reported to the Ministry. We have agreement and close relations with the Social Policy Ministry and the Health Ministry, so we will deal with the problems.

We regularly check orphanages. Our first raids disclosed lots of violations of conditions of living, nutrition, violent treatment with children. Time and again we have been checking these institutions and every new raid reported about reduction of such violations.

Regarding the foreigners' impressions of our orphanages even quite well, according to Ukrainian standards, orphanage where 300 kids living and 10-15 persons in a room may look horrible for foreigners. And it is horrible. We are constantly working for improvement of this situation.

Comments

mhemmen (16:31 | 05 October,2006)

"The special analysis disclosed that 18% of Ukrainian families want to adopt orphans. It means 3 million Ukrainian families are ready to become adopted parents or 92,000 orphans in Ukraine (total number of the orphans in Ukraine in accordance with the State Statistic Committee)." But 80% of these 3 million families request an infant! And of the 92,000 orphans, only 3,000 are infants. Even less are "healthy" infants. This is why national adoption has not taken off - yes there are enough Ukrainian families to get all these kids out of orphanages, but none of them want older kids! There is already a system in place to allow Ukrainian families to have "first pick" of orphaned infants - the 14 month "hold" after a child becomes available for adoption. During this time only Ukrainians can adopt them. My big issue is that this "hold" is applied to older kids too - why should a 7 yr old be forced to wait 14 months for a Ukrainian family when there are none who want to adopt her?

mhemmen (16:35 | 05 October,2006)

" It may be regulated by Hague Convention on International Adoption but unfortunately, Nina Karpachyova does not support us in its ratification" Another reason Ms. Karpachyova needs to be removed from her office. She slanders international adoptive parents, makes false accusations, and works AGAINST the best interests of these kids. Ratification of the Hague Convention would regulate the hosting programs, the so-called facilitators, and even the local authorities - it would cut down the corruption, bait-and-switch, bribes, and would make the process more consistent. Right now its a total minute by minute game of chance for adoptive parents.

AngelaW (15:42 | 06 October,2006)

I can see that I wasn't specific enough about the missing post adoption reports. The Ukrainian Consulates in the various countries (Canada, United States, France, Spain) lost the post adoption reports. All adoptive parents are required to mail their reports to the Ukrainian Consulate where their child is registered. The Consulate forwards the report to Ukraine. Since my adopted child is a Ukrainian citizen, I must register her passport with the correct Consulate. And I must provide the post adoption reports. Up until about 1.5 years ago, none of the Consulates acknowledged receipt of post adoption reports. And infamously the Consulate in NY and SFO still don't acknowledge receipt of post adoption reports. I know adoptive parents who were trying to figure out if they owed reports.... and the Consulates wouldn't response to them. The Consulate in Washington DC is the most responsive. They lost my 2002 or 2003 report. I had to resubmit it.

AngelaW (15:43 | 06 October,2006)

French families had 30 missing reports, but these were all submitted to the correct Ukrainian Consulate.

AngelaW (15:47 | 06 October,2006)

From 2000 to 2001 the Ukrainian government didn't receive any post adoption reports from American families. It turned out that the Ukrainian Consulate in Washington DC decided not to forward any reports. They had hundreds of reports. I am pretty certain this problem hasn't happen again. But it shows you why Amercian families are really tired of being accused of not turning in reports... This has been going on some time.

AngelaW (15:48 | 06 October,2006)

With all that said.... there are some American families not turning in reports. I exchanged emails with a family recently that might partly explain why.

AngelaW (15:51 | 06 October,2006)

When I adopted in 2000, I was required to turn in an annual post adoption report. The rules on the reports were changed. Now parents are suppose to provide "once a year for the first three years after adoption, and then once every three years until the child reaches the age of 18." http://www.ukraineinfo.us/consular/adoption-report.html

AngelaW (15:54 | 06 October,2006)

I exchanged an email with a family who adopted with the help of an American adoption agency. The adoption agency told this family they only had to provide reports "once a year for the first three years after adoption". The agency got confused by the rule change. I do not doubt there are others in a similar situation.

AngelaW (16:18 | 06 October,2006)

I exchanged an email with a family who adopted with the help of an American adoption agency. The adoption agency told this family they only had to provide reports "once a year for the first three years after adoption". The agency got confused by the rule change. I do not doubt there are others in a similar situation.

AngelaW (16:28 | 06 October,2006)

To provide some positive feedback about the Ukrainian Consulate in the United States……. The Washington DC one will occasionally send Christmas cards. My daughter loves getting her Christmas card. The NY Consulate arranges an annual weekend for adoptive families. It was very successful this year. And I expect next year it will be even bigger.

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