February 28, 2011/ washintontimes.com
SAN MIGUEL ALLENDE, Mexico — For months, parents waiting to adopt children from Kazakhstan feared the news that finally came on January 13, 2011. That’s the day the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Children’s Issues announced that all Americans who had not been matched with children by December 15, 2010, would have their dossiers returned.
The reason? Kazakhstan, in an effort to become a party the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, is undergoing a review of its intercountry adoption policies in an effort to reform its process.
Although this decision had been expected since last fall, there is no sign that reforms are significantly closer to being implemented, nor that the intercountry adoption process will open again in the near future.
Effect on Families
What that means is that families, who have been waiting in the queue to be matched with orphans, will now have to start their adoption process over in one way or another. And the choices are bleak.
If Kazakhstan does reopen the processing of adoptions, Americans will have to re-file their documents, this time as Hague Convention cases with its required paperwork.
This is no simple matter. It’s tantamount to beginning the entire process over since requirements for Hague and non-Hague adoptions are vastly different. (For details on requirements, refer to The Hague Convention intercountry adoption process the Form I-800A/I-800 process.
In addition, as we inch ever closer to the March 2011 target date for reforms there is no sign that the implementation of the new process is imminent in Kazakhstan.
The official statement from the U.S Government is terse and not particularly encouraging. It reads: “The Department of State will continue to monitor the developments in Kazakhstan and seek the confirmation of the Government of Kazakhstan when the new Hague Convention adoption process is in place.”
There is another option for these families who have been shut out of Kazakhstan and who remain committed to proceeding with international adoption. That is to search for another non-Hague country to adopt from, one that will accept the bulk of their existing paperwork, tests and background checks. Transferring is easier said than done, however, since the list of non-Hague countries has contracted significantly in recent years.
Of course, the dossier will need updating and translating. And, in many cases, it will mean changing adoption agencies.
Plus, the wait time for most of these non-Hague countries is long. For many families the wait time will be too long since most countries now have age restrictions on adoptive parents. (As young as 40 in many cases). Because the wait for a match with a child in another country can take years, many Americans will face “aging out” as eligible parents.
There is not a great deal of assistance for families who choose this option. The U.S. Department of State offers this statement to these families: “Affected prospective adoptive parents with an approved Form I-600A for Kazakhstan wishing to request a transfer of their approved Form I-600A to enable them to adopt from another non-Hague Convention country should refer to the USCIS website.”
Effect on Children
As for the estimated 75,000 orphaned children in Kazakhstan, they, like so many around the world, are collateral damage in a broken international adoption system.
As the government in Kazakhstan mulls its options for reform, thousands of children will be denied permanent homes and will condemned to live in overcrowded orphanages, many in dire conditions without sanitation or, in some cases, beds.
Even better orphanages in Kazakhstan are underfunded and must feed, clothe and shelter their charges for around three cents a day per child. The result is that orphans here tend to be less developmentally advanced than their American counterparts and are smaller due to malnutrition.
While there is a small domestic adoption program in Kazakhstan, it is not sizeable enough yet to make a dent in the orphan population. Intercountry adoption has been the primary solution for placing orphans in families.
Children who are finally discharged from orphanages (at around 16 years old) face a bleak and uncertain future. Many become homeless and there are a number of reports that point to an increased suicide rate among these teens.
As long as governments in the U.S. and abroad refuse to prioritize a safe solution to facilitate intercountry adoption, this travesty will continue.