Today I attended a conference call with the US State Dept, US Embassy General Consul in Bishkek, USCIS, and the 65 families that are stuck in the process. The meeting was designed to update these families on the current situation, what is being done by US officials to advocate resolution, and to answer questions from the families. The following was provided to the attendees as general information:
· The Embassy has confirmed that the Kyrgyz governmental working group submitted its report to the Kyrgyz Parliament. On Wednesday March 8, the findings of the Parliamentarian commission were presented to the three parliamentary committees with jurisdiction over adoptions. The presentation noted that numerous violations of adoption legislation had occurred and called for efforts to prosecute government officials and orphanage directors involved in “child trafficking.”
Vice-Premier Uktomkhan Abdullaeva told committee members that most of the children have been adopted by U.S. citizens, and happily live with their new families according to reports and photos. She mentioned that there is an urgent need for a database of adopted children to keep track of post-adoption reports. Another goal of the Government commission is to establish a national adoption agency.
The committee will recommend to the parliament the Kyrgyzstan ratify the Hague adoption convention.
The full Parliament is expected to discuss adoptions soon.
· According to recent press reporting, the Kyrgyz government has opened nine criminal cases, three involving U.S. adoptions that have been completed and the children are now living in the United States. In general in Kyrgyz criminal matters, the prosecutor or police collect evidence and, if appropriate, refer the matter to the courts, who then decide to proceed with prosecution or dismiss the allegations. The Embassy is aware that local adoption facilitators have been questioned, but It is unclear at this time if the courts have made any decisions about prosecution or are waiting for further investigations to be completed.
· The U.S. Embassy has not received an official notification or request from the Kyrgyz government regarding these investigations. Unofficial contacts have indicated to the Embassy that in their judgment it is unlikely that any adoptions will receive a final approval until these criminal investigations have been completed and a decision has been made regarding possible prosecution. The Embassy will attempt to get official confirmation.
· The Embassy is in contact with an organization called UpLift, which is currently working in Tokmok and Bishkek orphanages and may be able to provide services for and information about children at these orphanages. We understand that some adoptive parents may already be in contact with individuals who work for this organization. We anticipate we will be able to provide information by the time of the conference call.
· At every meeting, the Embassy continues to press Kyrgyz officials on the importance of resolving these cases as promptly as possible in the best interests of the Kyrgyz children.
The meeting confirmed much of what we already have known. The general sense is that Kyrgyzstan will reopen their adoption program and that the atmosphere is generally supportive. There continues to be no time estimate of when this will happen. The officials explained that the process is complicated because it involves multiple different government branches and that the Kyrgyzstan government is disorganized and complicated. The US officials identified what they were doing to promote resolution but clearly stated that they are limited due to soverienty of the Kyrgyzstan government. They also highlighted the Kyrgyzstan officials can be sensitive to slights and that caution needed to be taken in addressing these issues. The current focus will be on educating Kyrgyz officials as to why American desire to adopt and on the success stories of completed adoptions. The Consular reassured families that all adoptions that have been completed to date have been legal according to US standards. The Embassy investigates each case to confirm the legal status of the child and that no child trafficking is occurring. They believe that the primary legal issue being investigated is whether the children were made available for domestic adoption prior to consideration for international adoption as mandated by law. The officials also believe that Kyrgyzstan will ratify The Hague Convention.
According to our people on the ground there is considerable confusion going on with the investigations. This will likely take some time to sort out and everyone is going to be reluctant to move forward until the legal issues are resolved. Hopefully the adoption committee will move forward with the changes quickly. We will continue to monitor the situation and let you know as we get additional information.