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Regarding Refugee Children Fleeing the War in Ukraine

May 31, 2022 Update

Last week, the U.S. Department of State issued an update regarding Judicial Adoption Hearings in Ukraine. Of note, is the confirmation of what adoptive parents and adoptive service providers have reported to NCFA -

"The National Social Service recently confirmed that courts in Ukraine are allowing some adoption cases with official referrals to move forward. They emphasized that this depends on several factors, such as the availability of the court, the local security situation, and the ability for relevant parties to attend court proceedings. Virtual hearings may occur at a judge’s discretion, and all necessary documents are still required for pending cases to be processed. Our understanding is that judges are contacting PAPs directly to provide instructions and information."

NCFA commends the work of the Ukrainian government, child welfare officials, and other legal entities who are seeking to ensure the best interests of children during this crisis.

As the war continues to create delays and uncertainty for hundreds of American families who were already in the process to adopt Ukrainian children, we are working to actively support these families and their adoption service providers. We applaud the bipartisan, bicameral efforts of many in Congress calling on the Department of State to act with urgency to assist the Ukrainian government in processing these cases as soon as it is possible in these difficult circumstances.

We continue to affirm and caution that those who desire to adopt from Ukraine as a response to the war, need to understand why this is not an appropriate time to adopt a child who is separated from family due to war – and it is not appropriate to adopt outside the legal parameters set by the governments of Ukraine and the United States. At the same time, it is important to note that there are now cases in which adoption processes are appropriate and may continue to pursue completion within the legally established framework.

It is common following natural disasters, regional conflicts, and other events that displace children that questions about adoption arise. Our attention is drawn to the plight of these children and our hearts ache to provide them with the protection and love that they deserve.

The war in Ukraine is not an exception: videos and journalists’ reports tell of thousands of refugees fleeing the war and we know that this means many children are separated from family and other caregivers. The desire to provide a home and family to these children reflects the best intentions and a sincere desire to help. However, this is not the appropriate time or context to be considering adoption by U.S. citizens. Why? Adoption is only a possibility for children for whom parental rights have been terminated or for whom there is clear evidence that they are orphaned. It is paramount that the identities of these children and their families be clearly established, and their social, legal, and familial status is fully verified by governmental authorities. For most of these children, we cannot do that at this time.

There are limited cases in which an intercountry adoption is appropriate – cases that have legal paperwork already in place and can follow the established legal safeguards and practices. While there are a few cases like this, most children impacted by this war are not currently eligible for adoption and should not be currently considered for adoption.

Families who are in the process to adopt should be in contact with their adoption agency regarding what steps they can take. They may also refer to guidance from the U.S. Department of State:

There has been a great deal of media coverage on the impact of the war in Ukraine on adoptions. We have compiled links to those stories here.