The situation with adoption has improved dramatically in the past three years, reports Ukraine’s Ministry of Family, Youth, and Sports of Ukraine. Last year over 2,000 children were adopted by Ukrainians and 1,500 by foreign married couples, whereas in 2007 the numbers were reversed.
The ministry predicts that another 2,300 children will be adopted in Ukraine by the end of 2009. There are several reasons for this increase. First, a number of laws have been enacted to support adoptive families. Thus, starting on Jan. 1, 2009, they are entitled to the same childbirth payments as the families with their own children: over 12,000 hryvnias plus a 56-day maternity leave.
Second, throughout the year of 2008, which was proclaimed the National Adoption Year by the president of Ukraine, the ministry promoted alternative forms of care for orphan children, including foster families and homes.
This has also served to change public attitude to adoption. From now on September 30 will be marked as Adoption Day to promote and honor adoptive families. Thanks to their efforts, nearly 60 orphans or children without parental care are adopted every day. What else should the state and society do to further improve this situation? Below is an interview with Deputy Minister of Family, Youth, and Sports Tetiana KONDRATIUK.
Ms. Kondratiuk, what are your ministry’s expectations regarding newly introduced Adoption Day?
“There are different approaches to honoring and encouraging adoptive parents across the world. Similar holidays exist in Europe and the United States, although their tradition is more pragmatic.
“In Ukraine, Adoption Day was instituted last year on the president’s initiative to be marked on September 30. A number of events and public expert discussions will take place, because adoption is a public issue. In October, the President will take part in the fifth all-Ukrainian conference to discuss protection of children’s rights, and adoption will be on the agenda. Festive events will take place in the regions in order to draw public attention to the subject.
“Adoption Day must be a holiday for every family raising an orphan or a child denied parental care. Perhaps this event will launch a tradition when adoptive parents tell their child that they are not his or her biological parents. On the one hand, there is the secrecy of adoption, but on the other, we’re promoting children’s right to know the truth. The important thing is to know when the child is prepared to take in this information, i.e., at what age and in what psychological atmosphere. Adoption Day may be an excellent occasion.”
How large is the increase in the number of adopted children compared to last year? What are the causes behind it?
“There are 32,000 children waiting to be adopted. Over the past four years the adoption statistics have changed dramatically in favor of Ukrainian married couples. There are an increasing number of foster homes and families. Over 3,000 children live in 450 children’s homes. Another 4,000 children are with foster families. Our priority task is to have every child raised by a family, not in an institution with 20 children per room.
“Another positive aspect is that an increasing number of Ukrainians adopt HIV-positive children. There have been 20 such adoptions this year, in addition to 37 HIV-positive children in the foster family of Rev. Mykhailo, who was awarded the title ‘Hero of Ukraine’ by the president. Now he has more than 150 foster children. There are people in Ukraine who realize that such children are no different from others, except that certain limits were imposed on them at birth, so they can’t grow up normally. Nevertheless, they can be given a chance to have a future by giving them medications, looking after them, and raising them with love.
“A total of 25 HIV-infected children have been adopted by Ukrainian couples over the past year and a half. Therefore, the stereotypical notion that sick children go abroad is nothing more than a stereotype. Every family wants to raise a healthy child. In some cases foreign couples adopt children who need a surgery to help them out, but more often than not they refuse to adopt children with serious diseases.
“A number of adoption laws have been changed in last couple of years, and the adoption procedures have become more transparent and simpler, so that you don’t have to wait for several years—now it’s just three to four months. At present, there are ‘children’s services’ all over Ukraine, manned by qualified and experienced personnel. This system help the people who make the responsible decision to adopt children do so as quickly as possible. The amount of paperwork involved remains the same, but now it is free of charge.
“There are a greater number of adoptive families because the Ukrainian mentality is changing. Except for the ongoing crisis, the living standard in Ukraine has increased over the past couple of decades. Sociological studies show that quite a few families that have their own children decide to adopt children, saying they can afford this and that they have enough experience. Ukrainians are thus refuting the stereotype that adopting children is a very hard task. They are getting skeptical about allegations that children born to alcoholic families will eventually take to the bottle. All this has little to do with real life.”
Last year more children were adopted by Ukrainians than by foreign families. What is the situation now and what does your ministry plan to do to continue this trend?
“This trend has been there for the past three years, with Ukrainian families adopting 500 children more than foreign ones. It is also a positive fact that an increasing number of families are adopting children aged between six and twelve.
“Ukrainians used to conceal the adoption with women pretending to be pregnant and so on. Now an adoption is regarded as a normal thing. There is also progress in practicing various methods of raising such children. There are two forms of accommodation introduced by the state: foster homes in which parents can accommodate up to 10 children and two-parent foster families, which can raise up to four children.
“These forms allow the children to grow up in normal conditions. First, each such family receives two minimum living wages per child per month plus 35 percent of the sum total as a bonus for the foster parents. At present all such payments are made on time regardless of the crisis. Our objective is to get rid of all the post-Soviet boarding schools in 10 years’ time. This reform has been under way for five years, but there is still much to be done. In order to have more children in foster homes and families, we have introduced the money-follows-the-child system. In other words, no matter where the child is the money from the state will find this child.
“This makes enrolling children in boarding schools unprofitable, because here twice as much is spent on the children than in a foster family. In contrast to a foster family where all of this money is spent on the child, a boarding school channels part of this money into payroll, heating, equipment, and so on. Financing is not the only point, but it’s one of the elements of the institutionalization reform.
“Of course, the people who are still working [in boarding schools] will do anything to keep their jobs, so in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science we’re considering the possibility of retraining them as social workers. Another effort is aimed at expanding the network of training courses for foster parents and families that keep foster homes. A training course for adoptive parents will be launched on January 1. All this is meant to help them realize the risks they will be taking, for example in case a child is sick. Coaches need their own training, because their qualification may influence trainees’ decisions to foster or adopt a child.”