exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in

Information Note on International Adoption from Kazakhstan

Special Issue No 7, June 20, 2008
Information Note on International Adoption from Kazakhstan

The Government of Kazakhstan is committed to monitoring the process of international adoption in Kazakhstan as well as keeping a close eye on the living conditions of adopted Kazakh children abroad. Kazakhstan considers adoption to be one of the best forms of tutelage for children who for any reason lack parental care, although the priority is given to biological parents or, in their absence, to child's relatives. If a child cannot be adopted by its relatives, adoption by Kazakhstan citizens is the next preferred option. And if that is also not possible, only then can a Kazakh child be adopted by foreign families.

As the economic well-being in Kazakhstan continues to grow, the number of domestic adoptions in the country is increasing, whereas the number of international adoptions is falling correspondingly. Since the Marriage and Family Code was enacted in 1999, 30,184 children have been adopted in Kazakhstan; of that number 23,012 children have been adopted by Kazakhstan citizens, 6,791 by foreign citizens and 281 by relatives from abroad.

The United States is by far the most popular destination for adopted children from Kazakhstan (in 2000-2007 American families adopted more than 5,000 Kazakh kids, with highest number of US adoptions in 2004). In 2007 Embassy of Kazakhstan to the US registered 515 American families intending to adopt Kazakh children. The Consular Section of the Embassy of Kazakhstan closely monitors the international adoption in Kazakhstan by US citizens as well as the living conditions of Kazakh kids.

All in all, processing of a dossier in proper Kazakh agencies can take up to 5 months. In Kazakhstan, prospective adoptive parents must personally choose their future child and spend at least two weeks with him/her to get to know each other closer and learn the child's personality and habits.

The final decision on adoption of a child is then taken by a Kazakh court based on the application submitted by the prospective parents. Adoption cases are considered by courts on an ad hoc basis in accordance with Kazakhstan's civil procedural law. After a proper court order is issued, a registrar's office and migration police issue the adoption and birth certificates and a Kazakh passport for the adopted child.

Fees payable to Kazakh agencies in the course of the adoption process are as follows:

The Consular Section of the Embassy charges up to USD $180 per dossier for consular registration (issuing a certificate to confirm registration, attesting translation and documents in the dossier). State agencies in Kazakhstan charge no fee for dossier processing. There could be some expenses for issuing the power of attorney for the parents' representative in Kazakhstan; consular fee for a new passport for the adopted child as well as the registration fee at the Consular Department of the Foreign Ministry (all in all, about 12,000 tenges or USD $100). Besides, there are also some legal expenses related to court proceedings, which are quite reasonable. Parents may make a voluntary financial donation to the orphanage if they choose to do so.

One of the main principles of adoption in Kazakhstan is the protection of the rights and interests of both adopted children and adopting parents. Kazakhstan recognizes the important role played in the adoption process by such facilitators as duly licensed adoption agencies, but firmly believes that these agencies have no right to make commercial profit through the genuinely noble and humane process of adoption.

According to Kazakh legislation, to adopt a child, foreign citizens are allowed to work with a representative (coordinator) in Kazakhstan, whose rights and obligations are defined by Kazakh laws.

Our review of the current system of adoption of Kazakh children by American citizens has revealed a number of problems which may lead to violation of the humane principles of adoption. One of the main reasons for such a situation is that, unlike in other countries, in the United States there is no single authorized government agency which would oversee the entire process of adoption, including the control over annual reports on the living conditions of adopted children. The main players on this field are numerous duly licensed private (not-for-profit) US adoption agencies.

Usually, American citizens wishing to adopt Kazakh children refer to such adoption agencies for assistance and sign contracts with them. The Embassy has found out that in many cases parents pay up-front 50 percent of the overall agency fee only for preliminary consultations on a Kazakh adoption (on average, overall fees could be more than USD $25,000) and most of that sum is non-refundable.

We have learned about some cases of unscrupulous behavior by some agencies.

For example, there have been situations where parents had to collect and prepare all the necessary documents themselves and the agencies simply provided them with the list of documents for a dossier which is posted and easily accessible on the website of the Embassy of Kazakhstan.

It seems also that some adoption agencies are trying to make undue commercial profits by dealing with such routine matters as consular registration, documents translation and processing, and sometimes agencies even try to gain benefits from changing the region in Kazakhstan where a child is going to be adopted from. For instance, one agency put in its contract an $840 charge for consular registration with the Embassy of Kazakhstan, whereas the Consular Section of the Embassy charges no more than $180 for the registration (the Embassy does not charge American Parents any other fees). Besides, the contract says that the "family understands that fees related to the adoption process abroad might be changed and are out of Agency's control. Therefore, the Agency does not take responsibility for such changes and is not liable for additional expenses." Such a provision makes it possible for the agency to charge extra fees for alleged "fast-tracking" of adoption process in Kazakhstan.

Analysis of documents submitted by various agencies showed that some of them deliberately concealed invalid data and ill-validated documents in dossiers to speed up registration with the Consular Section of the Embassy. For instance, one dossier contained a forged copy of doctor's license; there were other forged documents. Some agencies even tried to use unethical methods to "fast-track" registration with the Consular Section.

We also have learned that some agencies made attempts to "monopolize" the international adoption for US citizens in Kazakhstan and even threatened other agencies that if they did not start working under their aegis, these agencies' activity in Kazakhstan would be blocked through their coordinators on the ground.

We believe that the reason for all the above shortcomings and violations is the lack of transparency in the activity of a number of US adoption agencies as well as in the lack of knowledge by American parents about the adoption procedures in Kazakhstan, related fees and other expenses.

Therefore, it seems that adoption of Kazakh kids by American parents may have become a source of undue commercial profits for some unscrupulous agents, who abuse the humane principles of adoption enshrined in The Hague Convention and Kazakh legislation.

Yet another negative aspect of the issue is that it mars Kazakhstan's image as some agencies use the parents' lack of knowledge to present adoption in Kazakhstan as a protracted and inefficient process full of red-tape and corruption; and request additional expenses on behalf of parents to "overcome" these obstacles. In other words, some agencies and their coordinators in Kazakhstan abuse parents' willingness to pay "any price" to adopt a child as soon as possible, and make undue profits. It is worth repeating here once again that there are no major fees to be paid to Kazakh government ministries or agencies in the process of adoption (except for the above consular and registration fees at the Embassy and the Foreign Ministry as well as minimal legal expenses). Therefore, the Embassy has begun considering certain measures to optimize and refine its work with US adoption agencies.

These measures are aimed at protecting the rights and interests of Kazakh children and their adopting parents in the US as well as at maximizing the transparency of the adoption process and eliminating loopholes for making undue profits through the noble process of adoption.

In particular, we believe that these measures will help to optimize the number of US adoption agencies willing and able to work efficiently on behalf of American parents to adopt Kazakh kids. The main criteria for us to evaluate the agencies will be their ability to supply the Embassy with transparent information on the rules and procedures of their work with adopting parents, fees and tariffs involved, as well as their commitment to send to the Embassy regular post-adoption reports on adopted children until they reach the age of 18 as required by Kazakh law.

We would like to emphasize that until the above complex work is completed, the Embassy will continue as normal receiving and processing adoption documents from all agencies except for those that have seriously violated ethical norms.

Authorities in Kazakhstan are also taking relevant steps to ensure transparency in the work of coordinators on the ground that represent the interests of American parents in the country and serve as their liaison with Kazakh government agencies involved in the adoption process. Efforts are being taken to create a databank of such coordinators.

We would also like to announce that the Parliament of Kazakhstan is currently considering joining and ratifying the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Kazakhstan is also drafting a new Family and Marriage Code which will also cover the issue of proper accreditation of foreign adoption agencies' branches in Kazakhstan. All these efforts will contribute to providing greater transparency, fairness and order in Kazakhstan's cooperation with foreign partners (including the US) on international adoption.

Our efforts are also aimed at eliminating the unacceptable and often unscrupulous practice of "fast-tracking" documents in various Kazakh agencies. We recognize that the adoption process is not swift but this is justified by the high responsibility of adoption decisions. We hope for understanding on behalf of parents and adoption agencies.

As a matter of principle, the Embassy has briefed the US State Department, through Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Service Ms. Michele Bond and Consular Affairs Bureau representative Mr. Gerry Fuller, as well as the Joint Council on International Children's Services on the situation surrounding the adoption of Kazakh children by American families.

We are glad that a friendly dialogue and mutual understanding have been established with our American counterparts over this complicated issue.

Interestingly, a number of agencies reacted to our efforts in a peculiar way:

The Embassy has a copy of an email message that has been circulated by an agency to other agencies and parents stating that the Embassy is groundlessly stonewalling the process of adoption. The message was written in the form of an unambiguous instruction calling for maximum pressure on the Embassy through a wave of complaints to various US institutions, including US Embassy in Kazakhstan, Senators and Congressmen representing the districts where parents and their agents reside.

The Embassy would like to point out that it won't yield to any kind of pressure and firmly intends to implement its plans on streamlining and improving the process of adoption in Kazakhstan by American parents. The Embassy is fully open, however, to holding a face-to-face meeting with adopting parents and adoption agencies to jointly look for ways of providing maximum convenience for parents and full transparency of the adoption process.

The Embassy would also welcome the creation of an association of American parents who have adopted kids from Kazakhstan. Such an association could be instrumental in assisting American parents to find better ways of building relations with their Kazakh kids during the post-adoption period and in many other ways.

In its next Information Note on international adoption the Embassy will provide more information on adoption procedures as well as offer some practical advice on cooperation with US adoption agencies working in Kazakhstan and with their coordinators on the ground.

We will also offer a set of transparent criteria for adoption agencies which will lay the basis for optimizing the list of most preferred agencies that could be recommended to all American parents intending to adopt children from Kazakhstan.

2008 Jun 20