About 26 thousand orphans wait for their new moms and dads in Ukraine. These are kids who have the right to be adopted, while the total number of wards of the state is 95.956 children. Only the third part of them does not have parents. The rest must live in foster homes, abandoned by living folks.

Will the time ever come when these little citizens find families? There are many couples who dream to become parents. According to the data of the Ministry for social policy of Ukraine, 2819 children were adopted in 2012, and according to presidential envoy on children's rights Yuri Pavlenko, more than one thousand and a half families registered for adoption last year.

One of the main reasons of long lines for adoption, Pavlenko points out unwillingness of Ukrainians to adopt children over 5 years old. Among other reasons, there are limits set by the Ukrainian legislation. "Our adoption system requires that siblings stay in one family. Only specific circumstances, like grave disease of one of the children, can be a ground for separation," Pavlenko says. 

According to official data, 1391 families out of 1500 candidates want to adopt children under five years old, and 1013 of these families want to adopt children under three years old. At the same time, according to Pavlenko, almost 80% of children for adoption are over 10 years old. "The President has set a task to promote adoption and to dispel fears regarding adoption of children over 10 years old," the presidential envoy noted.

While officials are thinking about how to improve the situation and potential parents are calculating the risks, ForUm has decided to find out who can adopt a child and what is needed for this.
I want to become a parent: can I?

Not everyone has a right to adopt a child. The reasons vary: poor health, criminal past, drug dependence. According to the Family Code of Ukraine, "to become an adoptive parent, an applicant must be a legal person over 21 years old, unless he or she is a relative of the child of interest." The document, however, does not specify relatives of what age can adopt children. Press office of the presidential envoy on children's rights informed ForUm that, "a sister for example, can adopt her brother only on her full age." At the same time, the obligatory norm of the adoption regulations stipulates that the age gap between adoptive parents and a child must be no less than 15 years. The question is whether a sister of full age can adopt her five-year-younger brother. The legislation does not answer this question. Probably, there are some exceptions to the rule. Another norm of the adoption regulations stipulates that a couple living in common law marriage cannot adopt the same child, meaning only one of the partners can adopt this child. However, if people live like a family for a long time a court may agree to make concessions.

Not only families, but also single citizens have the right to adopt children. However, married couples have the priority right. For foreigners this norm is limited. "Foreign citizens can adopt a Ukrainian child only if they are officially married," article 281 of the Family Code reads. The only exception is the case, when foreigners are relative to the child of interest.  

Persons (couples) of same sex have absolutely no right to adopt a child, according to the legislation. Moreover, article 212 stipulates that persons, who have already had an adoption experience but were deprived of the rights, cannot become adoptive parents repeatedly. The adoption will be denied also to drug or alcohol abusers, persons who have mental history or/and criminal records, do not have permanent residence and income, persons with criminal past or persons without citizenship.

Persons with poor health can also be denied adoption, especially if they need constant nursing care or have diseases included in the list of the Healthcare Ministry of Ukraine (tuberculoses, HIV, schitsophrenia, cancer, etc.)

If you are married to a person who was once deprived of parental rights and/or belong to one of the above-listed categories, chances are you will be denied the adoption right.

There can also be other reasons to deny the adoption rights, stipulated by the last paragraph of article 212. The paragraph, however, does not specify them, but vaguely explains that "persons whose interests do not meet the interests of a child cannot become adoptive parents."

In case if several candidates apply for the same child, advantaged category includes relatives, families with children and families ready to adopt siblings.

Requirements for foreigners

Despite the fact that the priority right for adoption belongs to Ukrainian citizens, foreigners adopted almost 700 children last year. For potential foreign parents the requirements are tougher. According to Yuri Pavlenko, the adoption system of our country is built to promote Ukrainian adoption. According to the law on children's protection, a child can be adopted by foreigners only if "all means to place a child in a Ukrainian family have been used but have not brought results." Moreover, foreigners have the right to adopt only children over five years old. The exceptions include cases, when adoptive parents are relatives to the child, when a child under five years old is sick or a foreign family is ready to adopt all siblings, at least one of who have reached the age of five.

It should be noted that since October 2012, citizens of foreign countries that signed international agreements on adoption with Ukraine can become adoptive parents on a first-priority basis.

Bureaucracy behind seven seals

To register as a potential adoptive parent, the candidate must collect a long list of documents and be ready to spend a great amount of time in legal offices. Along with the application form, the office of children's services requires the following documents:

- ID document;
- salary statement for the recent six months or income declaration for the past year;
- marriage certificate if there is any;
- health assessment of every applicant;
- legal consent of the second spouse to adoption (in case only one spouses adopt a child);
- statement of the presence (absence) of convictions, issued by internal affairs body;
- proof of property ownership.

According to the law, the office of children's services has not right to demand other documents. However, even if only one of spouses applies to adopt a child, the documents of both family members must be submitted. For foreign citizens the list of documents is way longer. Potential parents must also be ready for personal interview and further inspection of living conditions.
Are you ready?

Don't forget that paper chase requires time. Adoption is not a pure formality, but an important step not everyone is ready for. There are cases when courts cancel adoption, and children are first to suffer.

"Emotional aspect depends on a child's personality, but in any case these are children who seek mother's love and father's care. Finding a family is their dream, and when this dream falls to the ground, children suffer emotion breakdown," psychologist and professor of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Oksana Bryk comments.

As ForUm learned from the Ministry for social policy, courts canceled 32 cases of adoption last year. Among the most popular reasons, there are disagreements within the adoptive family - between adoptive parents and the child or between the adoptee and sworn brothers or sisters. Among other reasons, there are cases of death of the adoptive mother, renewal of relations with biological mother, etc.

How to determine whether you are ready or not to take care of a child? According to psychologists, potential adoptive parents should first consult specialists. "You know, if a woman wants to adopt a child it does not mean she is ready for this. The same concerns men. It must be well thought out and mature decision. Sometimes people adopt children for self-esteem but then realize they were not ready for such changes," Oksana Bryk says. 

At the same time, she adds that simple consultation is not enough. "Potential adoptive parents need practice. People should first try to communicate with children. You know, sometimes it happens like 'I do want a child, but in general children irritate me'. If you have similar feeling it is better to wait," Oksana recommends.

In order to prove they are ready to take this step, a family must go to visit a foster home, to talk to children, to spend some time with them, to organize an event. "Before adopting it is better to experience children's behavior and preferably not once," the psychologist adds.

At the same time she notes that even if you realize you are ready for such decision, your dreams do not always correspond to reality. "It's like marriage: there is a period before wedding and after it. Adoption is only the first step. The rest comes after. However, remember that walk and ye shall reach. Don't be afraid of mistakes. If something goes wrong there are specialists always ready to help," Oksana sums up.

Tetyana Matsur


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