The news and world events of the recent weeks have been challenging to watch. Bombings, evacuations, and visions of desperation fill our screens. Our hearts break for the devastation the Ukrainian people are experiencing. The team is holding the people of Ukraine and Russia in our thoughts and prayers.

Not surprisingly, whenever we see tragedies unfold, we also see an uptick in interest from people interested in adopting children orphaned by the tragedies. Whether it is a natural disaster like the earthquake in Haiti or the typhoon in the Philippines or military actions like Afghanistan, or now, acts of war in Ukraine, people feel the need to respond.

We Should Not Rush to Adopt from Ukraine Right Now

The events we see all around us are terrible to watch. We all feel helpless, and we hurt for the innocent children caught in this madness. We understand this heart-felt desire to rush to the rescue. The instinctual response of most humans is to step in and do whatever we can to help a child to safety. However, running in to rescue a child who this war may orphan is not that simple. We all know the reality: war separates children from family and even ultimately orphans them. However, the goal should always be to reunite them with family.

Given that we have no idea how long the war in Ukraine will last, it’s impossible to know when efforts at reunification can begin. “Helping” the children by adopting them before attempting to reunify families is rarely the best approach immediately after a disaster. Here’s what we know, based on international law and the practical logistics of international adoption.

A child must be legally declared an orphan to be eligible for intercountry adoption.

In the aftermath of military activity, it can be surprisingly hard to determine if a child is truly an orphan or just temporarily separated from family. The government and relief organizations must move slowly to allow immediate and extended family members to find each other. Anything less than thoroughness in this process leaves the child and the program open to fraud. The widespread impacts of that vulnerability are many.

Once a child is determined to be an orphan, every effort will be made to find members of his extended family or community to adopt him. Families are already spread out all over the country and into other nations. Efforts of reunification take time and thorough documentation. Reunification and family preservation will be the priority. However, literally and metaphorically, Ukraine will need time for the dust to settle before they can contemplate resuming legal, ethical adoption processes. As we’ve said before,

A rush to adopt in the aftermaths of a national disaster or war also opens the door to unscrupulous actors taking advantage of children and those who want to “rescue” them.”

The families already in process need answers and support.

We can all agree these are not regular times. From a practical standpoint, the Ukrainian government is stressed to the max. They will be for a long time to come. They are busy coping with the immediate needs of their people. The Ukrainian Department for Adoption and Protection of Rights of the Child (DAPRC) will need to first deal with the children who have come into care. Then they will be able to turn to the many families already in the process of adoption when the war began.

More information on the Ukraine Adoption process.

In March, the US State Department issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory for Ukraine. The recommended restrictions on travel will likely be in place for some time. Updates are posted at the State Department site linked here as they are available. When travel does resume, the priority will likely be those families already in process.

If you are a family in process with Ukraine and you have not yet heard from your adoption service provider, please reach out to them today. They are the first and best source of reliable information and updates on your process. We know that these are troubling days for you and your family and our hearts go out to you. Please consider joining an online support group for adoptive families through your agency or connecting with families in the Ukraine program for the support and care you need at this time.

*Updates From The US State Department Below:*

There Are Many Other Ways to Help

If you feel a tug on your heart to help a child, please consider becoming a foster parent. There are approximately 500,000 children in the US who need homes. The recent podcast, How To Become a Foster Parent, is an excellent resource to get you started in that direction.

There are also many ways to help the children who are in crisis in Ukraine right now. Here are a few we’ve found* who are already putting plans in motion to serve. In addition, we’ve listed a few reputable sites that are listing resources to consider. We encourage you to do your research to find the charitable organization that fits your family’s values and intentions.

*Inclusion in this list of resources does NOT equal endorsement of the news organization or the organizations mentioned in their articles.

Image Credits: Vasenka Photography; UNICEF Ukraine; Adam Jones (cropped)