Monday, February 19, 2007

Adoption Requirements

One reader left a comment asking about the requirements of adoption for Russian families, and I’m going to answer that question more in depth here.

These are the official requirements for adoption, translated from the government website (, which has a lot of advice and FAQ (in Russian):

The initial documents needed: a short autobiography of the adoptive parent(s); a document from his/her place of work detailing work responsibilities and salary, or a declaration of income; a copy of a payment receipt, or some other document proving ownership of a home; a background check that will prove absence of criminal record; medical records; marriage certificate if there are two adoptive parents (must be married); and a home study.

Not unlike U.S. requirements. But obtaining each of these documents can mean standing in line all day, or perhaps more than one day, and that means taking time off work, and you can see how it gets complicated.

People who are restricted from adopting:

-individuals who are disabled or limited in their ability to function (?)
-a couple, if one spouse is disabled
-individuals who have been barred from guardianship or custody because of failure to meet legal requirements; or adoptive parents who have had a prior adoption be cancelled by their own fault
-individuals who have lost their parental rights, or whose parental rights are limited by law
-individuals who at the time of applying to adopt do not earn the minimum income required by law
-individuals who do not live in permanent housing or whose housing situation has been found to have inappropriate sanitary and technical conditions
-individuals, who at the time of applying to adopt have been found to have previously committed a crime deliberately endangering the life and/or health of another person
-couples living together but not legally married may not adopt a child

That’s all pretty straight-forward, but here are some obstacles facing Russian adoptive parents:

1) Social stigma. Nowadays, social awareness of orphans is growing and a lot of people show concern or a desire to help, but adoption is still pretty much an oddity, I would say.

2) Isolation in society. Even if friends and family react positively to the adoption, the rarity of the occasion makes it hard to find support when there are questions or behavioral issues.

3) Financial difficulties. Having one child in Russia is barely affordable for most people. With the exorbitant cost of living (St.Petersburg has been ranked among the top 15 of most expensive places to live; and Moscow #1), aspirations to add more children to the family are stifled by lack of financial security. The government is beginning to introduce stipends for foster or adoptive families. If they get serious about it, perhaps this will not be as much of a problem in the future, but it will also create the temptation for wrongly-motivated adoption.

4) Housing problems. I don’t understand it myself and won’t attempt to explain it all, but basically there is a lot of red tape involved with finding affordable housing, without some sort of inheritance or special help.

Further interesting information: in Russia there are 3 more forms of custody, in addition to adoption:

1) Guardianship

2) Foster care

3) Patronage. This differs the most from the U.S. system. It is a form of foster care in which the orphanage retains custody of the child. The parents become “employees” of the orphanage and receive a stipend. In some cases they even live on the grounds of the orphanage, in family-type housing. It is advertised as a chance for receiving professional experience and career growth while providing love and care for children. This form of custody has not been introduced in St.Petersburg yet.

It is a little hard to understand the process through which children are placed in these arrangements, since in the U.S. we normally omit the middle step of living in an orphanage.

Concluding thoughts: In the United States, “foster care” sometimes comes with a negative connotation because of the many cases in which children are abused or constantly moved from place to place. In Russia, the foster care system is still being developed, and it is going to be a complicated transition after many years of the orphanage system. It’s possible that there will always be orphanages open to house children who are waiting to be placed in families. But foster care seems to be sparking interest. In the midst of all the attention given to changes in regulations and paperwork, it’s important to be mindful that the children, whose well-being is at stake, do not suffer and get placed in the wrong hands.

Lo, children [are] an heritage of the LORD: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward.
(Ps.127:3 KJVS)

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
(Ps.82:3 KJVS)

Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
(Ex.22:22 KJVS)

1 comment:

  1. I can only hope that Russia manages their foster care better than the US does. It is criminal the people that are allowed to have children. So much effort expended to make sure the hot water is only a certain temperature, but people caring for children who can't express themselves rationally (among other things) And a transparent interest in the financial benefits. When we went to our foster parent trainings, I honestly felt that I wouldn't trust most of the people there to walk my children out to the car. It was very, very depressing.


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