Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov has promised US legislators that he will urge his country's parliament to expedite the adoptions of 65 Kyrgyz orphans by American families.
The 65 cases have been held up for more than a year amid a Kyrgyz government effort to overhall the legislative framework covering foreign adoptions. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Chudinov met with US Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in late September in Washington to discuss the pending adoptions. The Kyrgyz prime minister was receptive to the legislators' requests that the cases be processed, according to the offices of both senators.
"It is my hope and belief the Prime Minister will work to grandfather in these adoption cases and the families in the United States will be able to proceed with their adoptions," Brownback said in an e-mailed statement to EurasiaNet. "I thank the PM for his willingness to work with us, and I stand ready to help as the process continues."
Chudinov told the senators that upon returning to Kyrgyzstan, he would meet with the members of the Kyrgyz parliamentary committee that is in charge of overhauling adoption procedures. Chudinov pledged that he would tell committee members that there is no need to keep holding up these 65 cases, senator Brownback's office reported.
The Kyrgyz prime minister also agreed to put this pledge in writing, although Senator Brownback's office had not received any documents regarding this as of October 5. The senators said they would follow up on the status in the next few weeks.
Chudinov introduced a moratorium on international adoption in Kyrgyzstan last February, amid allegations of corruption in the system. The Kyrgyz parliament has been working since then to draft new regulations, providing no timeframe for the completion of the process. In-country UNICEF officers who are working with the government on the issue said on October 6 that the legislation and amendments are finished and are under review by different ministries. As soon as the ministries sign off on the amendments, officials promise to allow for public debate on the proposed changes. Only after ample time for public discussion will the legislation be submitted to parliament. That process could take another six months, according to UNICEF.
Caught in between the old laws and the new are the 65 US families whose adoptions were nearly complete when the system entered into its holding pattern. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Senators Brownback and Casey both have constituents whose pending adoptions remain stalled. Brownback has four families waiting in Kansas, while Casey has five in Pennsylvania. Brownback has taken a particular interest in the case. The senator is the father of two children adopted internationally. "I know how difficult it is to wait to bring home your child," he said.
Before meeting with Brownback and Casey, Chudinov briefly spoke with two of the families enduring stalled adoptions. They told the prime minister about the little girl they were each waiting to bring back with them to the United States and showed him photos. The two families said Chudinov was courteous and offered assurances that he expected a swift resolution to the pending cases. "I was touched ... by his sincerity," one prospective parent said. "It gave me renewed hope that the wait will not be much longer."
Shannon Fenske, a Wisconsin woman who was matched with a little girl with a severe cleft palate in July of 2008, heard about the meetings and feels that real progress is finally being made.
"The fact that the prime minister was so generous with his time and talked with the senators and agreed to go back and address the issue, I have great faith that he will keep his word and do that," Fenske said.
A quick resolution is especially important for the child Fenske and her husband are in the process of adopting because of her cleft palate. As she ages, surgeries become more difficult and offer a diminished chance of success. The family originally thought they would be able to bring the girl to the United States at about four to five months in age and met with surgeons to plan the child's operations. At that point, according to Fenske, the child would have needed three to four surgeries right away, and five to eight in her teen years. At 14 months the child is now looking at five to seven surgeries to start off, and many later on, Fenske said.
"She has a brightness about her, she still smiles," Fenske said in an early September interview about the pictures she'd recently seen of the girl. "But she's 14 months old now and we have a very, very long road ahead if we're allowed to adopt her."
Laurie Rich is a EurasiaNet staff writer.