PRE-ADOPTION: process and paperwork
On this page you will find:
One of the first tasks once you have decided to adopt from Kazakhstan is to select an agency. It is a very daunting task. Unfortunately, you won't really know if you made a good selection until after you have adopted. That is why it is important to talk with someone who has adopted through that agency, from that country, and preferably from the same region you would be adopting in.
You do not need to live near an adoption agency to use them, so don't restrict your search to only those that are local. With e-mail and telephones, you should be able to get ahold of any agency personnel quickly and easily.
Adoptive Families Magazine has an excellent article on how to select an agency; you can also search for an agency on this site. I recommend that you contact a number of agencies and ask for written information; this will give you a better idea of what to expect. Lousiana Eastern European Adoptive Families has hints on choosing an agency; they even have their own registry. Another list of suggestions for checking out an agency is on the Welcome Garden web site; they also have information on financing an adoption and a large list of adoption related links. Adoption agency checklist has a checklist in choosing an agency, a guide to evaluating web sites, photolistings and ethics, and an article on choosing an ethical adoption agent. A Child's Desire , Adoptive Families Magazine and Comeunity have an adoption agency interview with questions to ask. Fleas Biting , a blog by a parent who was mislead by an adoption agency, this offers excellent suggestions on ways to avoid problems with an adoption. What to Do About Adoption Corruption has tips for avoiding unethical adoptions. Adoption Agency Ratings doesn't have much activity on it, the owner is developing a new site that will be moderated. Pound Puppy Legacy is another site that advocates for ethical adoptions, they have an agency listing and lots of useful information.
Once you have narrowed down your list of possible agencies, the next step is to check references. If the agency you are looking at is non-profit, or is affiliated with a non-profit organization, check them out at Guidestar . Better Business Bureau (look under For Charities and Donors) "reports on nationally soliciting charitable organizations that are the subject of donor inquiries"; a listing with them would be a huge red flag, not being listed should be considered irrelevant. American Institute of Philanthropy (Charity Watch) is a "nationally prominent charity watchdog service whose purpose is to help donors make informed giving decisions;" not as comprehensive as Guidestar or the BBB. Another source to check is the Child Welfare Information Gateway information on international adoption.
Another obvious resource for asking questions about agencies are the numerous e-mail lists and discussion boards. I have links to these on the Groups page. When you post a question, or write to a reference that an agency has given you, do not ask "Can anyone recommend an agency?" or "Tell me about your experience." as you will likely not get many responses. Read the archives (when available), narrow your choice of agencies down, and ask specific questions about the agency or agencies: "Did you encounter any unexpected problems or delays?", "How did the agencies/facilitators deal with the problems?", "Would you use the agency again or recommend them to your best friend?" or any of the many other possible questions discussed by the websites in the above paragraphs. Do not assume that just because nobody says anything negative about a particular agency on the lists that the agency is perfect; some agencies have anti-defamation clauses in their contracts preventing clients from talking about them publicly. There is a Yahoo group called Adoption Agency Research : "formed to help prospective adoptive parents in their research and selection of an international adoption agency;" this group is very active, and does not allow adoption professionals; it is the only place that I have seen negative comments made about some agencies. The FRUA (Families for Russian and Ukranian Adoption) chat is very active, although messages aren't archived for long. Remember that the opinion of a parent that is already home with their child is preferred to one who has not traveled yet.
When initially talking with agencies find out how long they have been working in Kazakhstan, how long they have been working with their overseas facilitators, how many adoptions they have completed, and verify that they are registered with the government in Kazakhstan. Multiple agencies may work with the same overseas facilitator/agency so check them both out. Make sure that the references that the agency gives you used the same facilitator; I can't stress enough how important the overseas people are in how smoothly the adoption proceeds. You also want to talk with people who have adopted recently, as procedures change frequently. Being the first family to adopt in a new program is not a bad thing, you just need to be aware that there may be additional challenges as the process is worked out. I have created a list of questions to ask adoption agencies to help you.
One of the most frequent questions I get is "How much does it cost?". Although it is very important to most families, it is difficult to get an answer from agencies. You can find out what their basic fees are, but that is only part of the picture. Not all agencies include the same services in their fees. Travel expenses are especially difficult to estimate; it depends upon when you travel (international airfares are more in summer than in winter), where the orphanage is located in Kazakhstan (if it is not in Almaty, you need to add incountry travel; on the other hand, accommodations are more expensive in Almaty), etc. You can generally expect an adoption to cost from $35,000 to $45,000; this should include all expenses from homestudy to dossier to travel and back home. It certainly can be done for less, so don't be discouraged if this sounds like too much. For sources of financial assistance, go to the adoption resources page. I have put together a fees checklist that you might find helpful in evaluating agencies and fees; let me know if you encounter any expenses that I don't have listed. The PAKK list also has a file with a few families expenses documented; you have to be a member of this group to access the file.
PLEASE READ the information letters put out by the Kazakhstan Embassy concerning international adoptions from Kazakhstan; they can be found on the General Adoption Information page on their website. These letters contain important information regarding agencies and adoption procedures. Although Kazakhstan has not signed the Hague Convention and adoption agencies don't have to be certified right now, you might be interested in the US Department of State Accredited Agencies and Agencies Denied Accreditation . FYI: accreditated goes to agencies with non-profit status, approved goes to individuals and private, for-profit entities; they go through the same process and mean the same thing.
As of 15 September 2008, there are 9 agencies that are approved to submit dossiers to the Consulate of Kazakhstan in New York City: Adoption Associates, Good Hope Adoption Services, Maps, Tree of Life, World Links, Little Miracles, International Adoption Guides, WACAP, and Children at Heart.
In the summer of 2008 Kazakhstan no longer allows you to select gender.
Previously known as Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS).
Go to the USCIS web site for forms and fees information. All of the following forms can be downloaded in PDF format. It takes approximately two weeks if requesting to have the forms mailed; it is easier if you order all the forms at once.
Send it only by registered mail (FEDEX, registered US Postal Service, etc.). All I-800A are now processed through the USCIS office in Lewisville, Texas regardless of where you live; the address is located on the website for the form.
Also on the USCIS web site is a page on Inter-Country Adoptions which includes links to forms, information sheets on the Intercountry Adoption Act and the Child Citizenship Act and an online and PDF version of the handbook titled The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children.
General Information on International Adoption , including updates, country flyers, statistics, and laws.
International Adoptions from Kazakhstan , this has everything you need to know about the process, from filing paperwork through the adoption trip. A version of this page is also on the US Embassy's web site listed below.
US Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan : The American Citizen Services has contact information, hours, etc., and a page for adoptions . You can e-mail the adoptions unit or the general address . Contact them before you travel to verify that they have been cabled your approval to adopt; contact information is found at US Embassy - Contact US . Even though the Embassy has officially moved to Astana, adoption visas are still issued in Almaty.
Please note that the process under the Hague Convention may change, and none of the following websites have been updated since the suspension of adoptions.
Procedures and dossier requirements vary from region to region and agency to agency. You need to verify with the adoption agency exactly what you need. Below is a list of what is generally required. The agency should provide you with applicable forms. Some agencies will take care of the apostille process for you; I personally liked doing it myself because it was done as quickly as I needed it done. The Kazakhstan Embassy and Consulate each have a list on their websites of all of their requirements. The procedures for submitting dossiers changed in 2008, and it seems that they will limit the number of dossiers per month per agency and number of overall dossiers processed per month.
I have samples of some of these forms/documents available for download on the Dossier page. I have included some documents and PDFs concerning the new requirements for the dossier from the fall of 2005. They are linked to on the Dossier page.
All documents that are not certified need to be notarized. Check with your state Secretary of State to see if the documents need to be authenticated at the county level; not all states require this. Documents then need to go to your state Secretary of State to be apostilled. As of May 2005 they are no longer allowing documents to be bundled for apostilling; each document must be apostilled separately. The dossier needs to be translated into Russian by translators approved by the Kazakhstan Embassy or Consulate (this is a new requirement in June, 2005; before that you could either use one of the translators or your dossier could be translated by someone in Kazakhstan) and the translations need to follow the originals. You must make two complete exact copies of the dossier and an additional copy of the home study is to be submitted with it.
You will then send your dossier to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington D.C. or the Consulate of Kazakhstan in New York City to obtain the registration letter. Your agency will provide you with specific guidelines on how to do all of this or they may handle it for you. Once the dossier is approved by the Embassy/Consulate, it is sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Education (MOE), and the Guardianship Board in the city where you are adopting. The MFA has a page on Adoption Procedure . If you are adopting independently (not through an adoption agency), then you can not use a courier service to deliver your dossier to the Kazakhstan Embassy, it must be hand-delivered by the family; however, you can use Legal-Eaze to deliver the dossier to the Kazakhstan Consulate in New York.
For an excellent overview of what the dossier is and how it needs to be handled, visit Kazakhstan Dossier on the web site of The Assistant Stork . You will find detailed information about the process, a listing of state "Secretary of State" offices, and a list of international adoption agencies. Although Laura no longer runs a courier service for Kazakhstan adoptions and the information on her site is from 2005, I think that the information is still valuable. However, Legal-Eaze has permission to deliver dossiers to the NYC Consulate regardless of where you live.
I recommend that you have at least one copy, preferably 2 or 3, of your dossier per child for yourself. The extra copy that I carried with me was authenticated (when I traveled dossiers were authenticated, not apostilled) through the state level, and I had a copy of the US State Department (no longer done) and Kazakhstan authentications. There have been cases of people who have had documents missing from their dossier, and they were glad that they could just pull the document from their set. Leave an extra copy at home with someone who can mail it to Kazakhstan if it is needed.