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Intercountry Adoption

Intercountry Adoption

  • Adoptions Landing Page

    "Recognizing that the child...should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding"

    - Hague Adoption Convention, Preamble

Intercountry Adoption

Intercountry adoption is one of the Department of State’s highest priorities. We believe it should be an option for children in need of permanent homes when it is in the best interest of the child and domestic solutions have been given due consideration.  Each year, thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from abroad, and families habitually resident in other countries also adopt children from the United States. 

Intercountry adoption is the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently. This website can give you valuable information about intercountry adoptions, from starting the process to post-adoption information. 

Post Adoption Information

Important Information on Post Adoption Requirements and obtaining U.S. citizenship

Department of State Designates Center for Excellence in Adoption Services as an Accrediting Entity

On June 2, 2022, the Department of State designated Center for Excellence in Adoption Services (CEAS) as an accrediting entity (AE) under the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) in accordance with 22 CFR Part 96. The designation is for a period of five years.

CEAS is the second designated AE, joining the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME), whose designation was renewed on June 2, 2022 for an additional five years. The Memoranda of Agreement between the Department and CEAS and between the Department and IAAME will be published in the Federal Register. CEAS’s responsibilities as an AE will commence upon the Department of State’s approval of systems, procedures, and a fee schedule that will be coordinated as necessary to ensure consistency in accreditation systems and procedures that both AEs will use. 

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AE Jurisdiction

Consistent with 22 CFR 96.4(b), the Department has identified geographic jurisdictions, based on existing federal regions, for each AE in consideration of equitable distribution of workload. Each AE will be responsible for accrediting, approving, monitoring, and overseeing ASPs whose primary offices, as reported in the public facing ASP directory as of June 2, 2022 (the date of signature on the Memoranda of Agreements), are located in the states within each AE’s assigned jurisdiction as follows:

CEAS’s jurisdiction comprises the following regions/states: 

Region 1 - New England: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont  

Region 2 - Northeast and Caribbean: New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands 

Region 3 - Mid-Atlantic: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia  
Region 5 - Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin 

Region 6 - Heartland: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska  

Region 10 - Northwest Arctic: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington 

National Capital: Washington, DC  
 

IAAME’s jurisdiction comprises the following regions/states: 

Region 4 - Southeast Sunbelt: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee  
Region 7 - Greater Southwest: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas  

Region 8 - Rocky Mountain: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming  

Region 9 - Pacific Rim: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Guam  

Transition Planning

The Department, IAAME, and CEAS are working together to ensure a smooth assumption of CEAS’s AE role and transition of relevant workload from IAAME to CEAS. The Department will inform ASPs individually which AE they have been assigned, based on the jurisdiction noted above. Until CEAS officially assumes the AE role, IAAME has the authority and responsibility to accredit, approve, monitor, and oversee all ASPs. CEAS and IAAME will implement Department-approved transition plans for all aspects of AE work related to accreditation, approval, monitoring and oversight for ASPs that will be transferred from IAAME’s to CEAS’s jurisdiction. 

The Department will disseminate further information about CEAS’s assumption of duties, the transition of some ASPs from IAAME to CEAS, ASP fees, and other aspects of this change as it becomes available.

 

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Judicial Adoption Hearings in Ukraine

The Office of Children’s Issues continues to engage the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine and the National Social Service of Ukraine to confirm the status of intercountry adoption at this time. 

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. 

Please note that the Department’s Travel Advisory for Ukraine remains Level 4:  Do Not Travel. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine and advises U.S. citizens in Ukraine to depart immediately if it is safe to do so. There are currently no in-person consular services available in Ukraine and the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine.  

We encourage prospective adoptive parents at or nearing the judicial phase of the adoption process in Ukraine to work closely with their adoption service provider to determine the next steps in their case.

Ukraine Ministry of Social Policy Statements on Child Safeguards and Intercountry Adoption

The Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy has published a variety of official statements related to the impact of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine on vulnerable children and families. These notices can be viewed on both the Ukrainian Government’s official web page and the Ministry of Social Policy’s web page. The Ukrainian Government has jurisdiction over decisions about Ukrainian children’s safety and welfare, including granting permission to move them to a different country and approval of their temporary placement. At this time, they do not approve children for temporary travel to the United States.

The Department is pleased to provide the following official translation of the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy March 13, 2022 statement on intercountry adoption under conditions of martial law.  

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OFFICIAL TRANSLATION

Intercountry Adoption Under Conditions of Martial Law – A Clarification from the Ministry of Social Policy

Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, published March 13, 2022, at 22:19

Recently the mass media and social networks have been filled with notices about the willingness of foreigners to adopt a child from Ukraine and with appeals that Ukrainian children need to be adopted abroad.

The Ministry of Social Policy emphasizes that under current conditions intercountry adoption is impossible and that disseminating such inaccurate information contains signs of fraud and violations of the rights of the child.

This is why we appeal to all concerned citizens, civil society organizations, and international organizations not to disseminate misinformation and not to endanger children.

In reality, because of risks to the life and health of children as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine, children and families with children are being evacuated to safe areas within Ukraine as well as beyond Ukraine’s borders to other countries, including member states of the European Union.

This is stipulated by international law and practice that pertains to intercountry adoption in such conditions.

The policy of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with respect to adoption is that children who are evacuated to other countries as a result of an emergency situation, including children who are granted refugee status in the territory of other countries, cannot be adopted because the majority of them are not orphans or do not have official authoritative confirmation to that effect.

Such children require appropriate temporary care for possible reunification with [their] families in the future rather than adoption.

In addition, adoption must not be carried out if:

  • there is hope of successfully finding and reuniting families in the best interests of the child, and

  • a reasonable period of time has not yet passed (usually at least two years) during which all possible steps were taken to find the parents or other surviving family members.

Countries of origin of such children and countries of their temporary residence must make all possible efforts to find the family members of such children before they can be considered eligible for adoption.

This is stipulated by national legislation of Ukraine that pertains to intercountry adoption.

In accordance with the legislation of Ukraine, adoption of a child who is a citizen of Ukraine by foreigners or by citizens of Ukraine who reside beyond its borders requires the consent of the National Social Service. It is this Service that oversees matters pertaining to intercountry adoption.

The National Social Service is not currently considering cases and is not providing consent and/or permits for the adoption of children by foreigners or by citizens of Ukraine who reside beyond its borders. Because of active hostilities, it is impossible to ensure high-quality verification of documents of foreign citizens who have expressed a desire to adopt a child, to ensure contact between the prospective adoptive parent and the child, to establish the child’s opinion regarding adoption by precisely this person, to obtain findings and the consent of interested parties (parents, institutions in which the children lived, guardianship and trusteeship bodies, etc.).

Without such verification and preliminary work there is a great risk that the child could fall into the hands of fraudsters, persons who would not ensure the child’s rights and best interests, or human traffickers.

When the situation permits resumption of high-quality verification of documents of foreigners who are prospective adoptive parents and of the preliminary work required for the process of intercountry adoption, the Government of Ukraine will inform the public and competent authorities of foreign countries without delay about the terms and specifics of resuming intercountry adoption.

Updated - Information for U.S. Citizens in the Process of Adopting Children from Ukraine

June 9, 2022

This updates and supersedes notices previously issued on May 5, 2022, March 25, 2022, March 10, 2022, and on February 28, 2022.

The Department of State continues to receive many inquiries from U.S. citizens concerned about the plight of Ukrainian children. We share this concern, and we understand that some U.S. citizens want to respond by offering to open their homes to provide temporary safe haven, to host, or to adopt Ukrainian children in need. 

We recognize that the security situation in Ukraine is of great concern to prospective adoptive parents (PAP) at any stage of the process, including both former host families and those adopting children they have not yet met. The Department’s Travel Advisory for Ukraine remains Level 4: Do Not Travel. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine and advises U.S. citizens in Ukraine to depart immediately if it is safe to do so. There are currently no in-person U.S. consular services available in Ukraine, and the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine. 

Please review the following key notices about intercountry adoption and hosting programs involving Ukrainian children:

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Q: Can Ukrainian children come to the United States temporarily for their safety?

The Ukrainian government has confirmed that it is not approving children to participate in hosting programs in the United States at this time and prefers to keep them in closer geographical proximity in European countries.  We are in close touch with the Ukrainian government, which confirms that most children who were residing in institutions have already been evacuated and are receiving appropriate care, including specialized medical treatment, as necessary. The Ukrainian authorities are not making exceptions to this policy for children who previously participated in hosting programs or are already in the process of adoption. We will continue to convey to the Ukrainian government that U.S. families are interested in completing adoptions in process and in providing safe haven to Ukrainian children, when in the children’s best interest.

See the Department’s March 9, 2022 Ukraine Adoption Update and the Ukrainian government report from April 16 on Protection of Children's Rights.

The following resources provide information on other ways to help:

Q: Can the "Uniting for Ukraine” program be used to bring Ukrainian orphans to the United States?

 

Information about the Uniting for Ukraine program is available on the Department of Homeland Security website (italicized below):  

Children traveling without their parent or legal guardian are not eligible for parole under Uniting for Ukraine.  Upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry, a child who is not traveling with their parent or legal guardian may be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as required by law under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), to protect the child from human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. For more information, please visit the HHS Unaccompanied Children webpage.

This process may not be used by prospective adoptive parents to circumvent the adoption process nor to host children temporarily.  Any further questions about Uniting for Ukraine should be directed to the Department of Homeland Security.

Q: Can I visit children who have been evacuated to European countries?

We are aware some PAPs and host-families have travelled or may be considering travel to Poland and other neighboring countries in order to visit with children who have been evacuated. Please keep in mind the children's Ukrainian guardians have authority to approve visitation.  We encourage all travelers to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in order to receive security and other critical updates from the relevant U.S. Embassy. Country-specific information is available on the Department's website.

Q: What action is the Government of Ukraine taking to protect children in institutional care?

The Ministry of Social Policy and the National Social Service Office of Ukraine have jurisdiction over decisions about the protection of the children in their care and take this responsibility very seriously.  Since the start of the invasion, the Ministry reported that over 10,000 children from vulnerable categories were evacuated to neighboring countries and these efforts are continuing.  The Ministry of Social Policy has repeatedly stated that all the children are safe and provided with housing, food, medical and educational services.  The Ukrainian government is in the process of concluding a Memorandum of Understanding with 23 countries in close geographical proximity to Ukraine to guarantee the protection of evacuated children and their return to Ukraine. The Government of Ukraine has also formed a Coordination Headquarters/Task Force to protect children’s rights, and their monthly reports will be available on the Ministry of Social Policy’s website, https://www.msp.gov.ua/.  Prospective adoptive parents and other concerned individuals may wish to monitor statements released by the Ukrainian government for current information about child protection activities. Individuals with specific information regarding concerns about the safety of evacuated children may email details to our office at Adoption@state.gov. We will share credible information with the Ukrainian government as appropriate.

Q: How can I begin the process to adopt a child in Ukraine?

Information about intercountry adoption, including country specific information, is available on our website, adoption.state.gov.  You may also wish to consult with an accredited adoption service provider. 

Please review carefully the Special Advisor for Children’s Issues statement regarding children of Ukraine.  It can be extremely difficult in times of war and crisis to determine whether children who appear to be orphans are truly eligible for adoption and immigration under U.S. laws. Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members during a conflict or natural disaster and their parents may be looking for them.  It is not uncommon in dangerous situations for parents to send their children out of the area for safety reasons, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that a child’s parents have died, children are often cared for by other relatives.  In addition, it can be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for intercountry adoption of both the United States and the child’s country of origin under such circumstances. It can also be challenging to gather documents necessary to establish that the child meets the requirements of U.S. immigration law. Prospective adoptive parents may wish to consult with an experienced immigration attorney when considering adopting or caring for a child under these circumstances. For context, you may wish to review the general procedural information on our website about applying to adopt a child from another country to the United States.  See in particular those sections describing the U.S. immigrant visa process for an eligible adopted child.

On March 13, the Ministry of Social Policy published a statement that intercountry adoptions are not possible at this time. 

Q: Can the State Department expedite the processing of Ukraine adoption cases already in progress?

We are working with the Government of Ukraine on behalf of families who have final adoption orders to obtain required documents for the child’s immigrant visa processing. These are cases in which a Ukrainian court has already granted legal custody to the adoptive parents. We have asked the Ukrainian government whether it may be possible for cases with official referrals to proceed.

The Ukrainian 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. 

Families at any stage of the process, including those who have started but not completed required court hearings, should consult with their accredited adoption service provider (ASP) to discuss the impact of the Ministry of Social Policy’s statement on their adoption plans.

The following resources provide helpful background on concerns relating to intercountry adoption in times of crisis:

Q: Who is the primary point of contact for PAPs in the process of adopting in Ukraine?

 

Adoption Service Providers (ASPs) are the most appropriate point of contact for PAPs who are in the adoption process.  ASPs can provide guidance about how the situation in Ukraine may impact each family’s adoption plans. PAPs may also contact the Office of Children’s Issues directly at Adoption@state.gov

Q: What if I have already accepted an official referral from the National Social Service Office of Ukraine before the invasion started, but there have not yet been any court hearings? 

The National Social Service recently confirmed that courts in Ukraine are allowing some adoption cases 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. 

Q: What if I am partway through the adoption process and the child’s orphanage was evacuated to Poland or another neighboring country? Will I be able to resume the intercountry adoption process from there?

We encourage you to continue to work closely with your adoption service provider to determine the next appropriate steps in your individual case.  Please note that the

Ukrainian government retains the authority for decisions about the best interests of Ukrainian children in institutional care, even when the children have been evacuated to other countries.

For cases in the earliest stages of the intercountry adoption process, please review the reference information we have provided from UNICEF, the Hague Convention on Private and International Law, the National Council for Adoption, International Social Services, and Save the Children relating to the challenges of starting an intercountry adoption during times of crisis.

For families with official referrals, we recently confirmed that courts in Ukraine are allowing some adoption cases to move forward.  Ukraine’s National Social Service 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. 

Q: Is the State Department able to facilitate legal entry to the United States for a child I am in the process of adopting?

For children in the intercountry adoption process, the Department does not have the authority to facilitate legal entry for purposes of immigration l to the United States outside of the intercountry adoption process. Questions about humanitarian parole for Ukrainians should be directed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Information about the humanitarian parole application process and refugee and asylum status is available on the USCIS website. Questions about the Uniting for Ukraine program may be directed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Q: What if I am in the process of adopting a child that has previously traveled to the United States through a hosting program? Can this child receive a new non-immigrant (tourist) visa, or if the visa expiration date on the previously issued visa has not yet passed will the child be able to enter the U.S.? 

Children who travel to the United States for hosting programs do so with the Ukrainian government's authorization and on a U.S. non-immigrant visa. The visa is typically valid only for one entry to the United States and only during the narrow date range of the program. To qualify for another nonimmigrant visa, applicants must establish that they are not an intending immigrant. Children in the process of intercountry adoption without a final adoption or guardianship order are generally not eligible for issuance of nonimmigrant visas.  Applications for nonimmigrant visas are evaluated under Section 214(b) of the INA which states that every applicant for a nonimmigrant visa “...shall be presumed to be an immigrant until (s)he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer... that (s)he is entitled to nonimmigrant status…” This presumption of immigrant intent can be difficult to overcome for children who are in the process of an intercountry adoption. Please see Visas for Ukrainian Children for additional information. 

Q. What is the State Department doing to convince Ukrainian authorities to allow children hosted in the past by the U.S. families to be brought to the United States for safety?

We are in regular communication with the Ukrainian government and have conveyed that U.S. families are concerned and interested in bringing children to the U.S. for temporary care.  In all of our engagements, Ukrainian officials have clearly stated that they prefer the children to remain in close geographic proximity to Ukraine and will not authorize any temporary travel to the United States, in line with international standards for unaccompanied and separated children in emergencies.

For many years, the United States has maintained a close and positive partnership with Ukraine to assist Ukrainian orphans in finding permanent and loving homes with U.S. families. We respect the Ukrainian government’s legal authority over Ukrainian children in this crisis and their right to determine what is best for their children of any age or familial status.

Ukraine - Statement by Department of State's Special Advisor for Children's Issues

Statement by the Department of State’s
Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, 
Michelle Bernier-Toth

President Putin’s premeditated, unjustified, and unprovoked war against Ukraine has had a devastating impact on Ukraine’s most vulnerable citizens: its children. The global child protection community, including non-profit organizations, has been working tirelessly with the Ukrainian government to evacuate children to safety. A critical part of this effort is to prevent children from being permanently separated from their parents and caregivers.  

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The United States and Ukraine have a long history of intercountry adoptions. Every year, hundreds of U.S. families open their hearts and homes to Ukrainian orphans in need of a permanent family. These adoptions occur with protections from U.S. and Ukrainian laws and regulations. Ultimately, Ukrainian authorities have jurisdiction over and responsibility for the safety of the orphans in their custody, including decisions about what is in their best interests. The Ukrainian government has informed us it has moved many of the children in its care to Poland and other European countries for safety and medical treatment.

The majority of children living in orphanages in Ukraine are not orphans.  Most have parents and families who have placed them in orphanages for economic reasons or for assistance with a child’s special needs. It can be extremely difficult during crises to determine whether children who appear to be orphans are truly eligible for adoption and immigration under U.S. laws. Children may be temporarily separated from their family, and their parents or other caregivers may be looking for them. Families may make the difficult choice to send children on their own or in the care of non-family members in order to achieve their safety. When a child’s parents have died, other relatives may be willing and able to care for them.   

For these and other reasons, the Ukrainian government informed the Department of State they do not approve Ukrainian children for temporary travel to the United States at this time. This decision was made by the National Social Services Office of Ukraine, which must approve the transfer of any orphan. Ukraine has also confirmed there is no plan for simplifed procedures, including for those already in the process of being adopted, and on March 13, 2022, announced that adoption is not possible at this time.

The Ukrainian government and many international organizations have serious concerns about children being taken out of the region, since this would hamper efforts to reunite them with their families once the crisis is over. UNICEF and the UN High Commission on Refugees have published information regarding the protection of unaccompanied and separated children in Ukraine and throughout the region. The National Council for Adoption issued a statement Regarding Refugee Children Fleeing the War in Ukraine, which explains why, given the uncertainty in the current situation, now is not the time for U.S. citizens to be considering adoption of children whom the Ukrainian authorities have not already identified as eligible for adoption and approved for adoption by a specific family.

In some cases, Ukrainian courts issued final approvals of an adoption by U.S. families before Russia invaded. The Department of State is working closely with adoption service providers and the families involved in these cases. We are facilitating the departure of these children with final adoption decrees and the issuance of immigrant visas by the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. We are sharing information and updates with a larger group of families who had initiated but not yet completed the process to adopt children from Ukraine.  We will continue this dialogue and continue our work with the Ukrainian government as it seeks to ensure the safety of all its children. Please review Information for U.S. Citizens in the Process of Adopting Children from Ukraine for more information.

The United States reaffirms its unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, and we are inspired by the many families, individuals, and organizations in the United States who are moved by the plight of the children of Ukraine and want to help. There are many ways to assist the people of Ukraine. Please see United With Ukraine on the Department of State’s website for information and resources about how U.S. citizens can connect with organizations working to help the Ukrainian people.