EASTON, Md. — May 16, 2011 — On May 6th, President Roza Otunbaeva signed into law a bill that will allow prospective foreign parents to adopt from Kyrgyzstan, after a two-year moratorium. This is welcome news for the 11,000 abandoned children living in orphanages in the country.
It’s also news that a group of Americans, known as the “Kyrgyz 65” has been waiting a long time to hear.
This group of 65 American families began the adoption process in Kyrgyzstan two to three years ago. They got caught in limbo when the moratorium was placed on foreign adoptions. When their adoptions couldn’t be finalized, these parents could not take their children home, and the children were forced remain institutionalized. Two of the Kyrgyz 65 children passed away during the moratorium from lack of proper medical care.
Kyrgyzstan’s 120 orphanages are chronically underfunded and conditions in many rural orphanages are dire. Many orphans live without running water, sewer systems, or basic medical care.
Kyrgyzstan is a small country roughly the size of South Dakota. Bordered by neighbors China, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, this landlocked country is the second poorest country in Central Asia. This former Soviet republic directed the vast majority of its exports to the former Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, Kyrgyzstan, without a major trading partner, was left in economic ruin. The country tried to rebound by pumping up its agricultural production, but continues to struggle.
Reinvented Adoption Process
Before the Kyrgyz government halted adoptions, families from the United States, Israel, Italy, Germany, and Australia adopted 235 children between 2006 and 2009.
More than half of the children adopted by Americans had severe medical issues, include birth defects that required urgent medical attention.
Despite political upheaval that consumed the country last year, Kyrgyzstan managed to put into place new processes and guidelines to allow foreign adoptions. Kyrgyz officials say their intent was to reorganize the adoption process, and institute stricter controls in an effort to protect children from trafficking, abuse and exploitation.
Damira Niyazalieva, a Kyrgyz lawmaker explained, “We needed to put a specific, state body in charge of international adoption, to control the whole process from the very beginning.”
The Social Welfare Ministry has been tasked with acting as a central “clearing house” for foreign adoption. That’s marks a major change from the past, when foreign-based adoption agencies would have direct contact with Kyrgyz orphanages. Now, all agencies will go through the Ministry to process inter-country adoptions and the country will permit no direct contact by agencies with orphanages or orphans.
The plan is for the Ministry to create a bank of children eligible for adoption. Agencies will apply to the Ministry on behalf of prospective parents, and the Ministry will do the matching between child and parents, after background checks are conducted on prospective parents.
American families interested in proceeding with applications for adoption in Kyrgyzstan should be aware that, although many lawmakers have advocated that the country sign The Hague Treaty, it has not been ratified yet. Additionally, finalization of the law lifting the moratorium is expected to take three months.
As for the “Kyrgyz 65,” the U.S. government indicated that it will make an exception and grant these families the necessary paperwork to bring their children home and finalize their adoptions, despite the fact that these adoptions were processed without adherence to the Hague guidelines.
This will mark an important break from the State Department’s prior stance, which remains in place in all other non-Hague countries, which holds that these standards are mandatory for inter-country adoptions for Americans.
Andrea is an adoptive mother and a journalist. She is at work on a book, “The Red Thread,” a collection of stories told by families united through adoption. She is also owner of Media Branding International, a public relations/media consulting firm.
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