September 26, 2003
Except from the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi:
Possible Amendment to the Georgian Adoption Law Could Significantly Slow Down International Adoption
Tbilisi – On August 26, 2003, the Parliament of Georgia made changes to the Civil Code of Georgia, Article 1251, 1252 Chapter 6. These changes were adopted with the required three hearings.
Based on the amendment made, direct international adoptions will be regulated by the “Law on the Rules of Adoption” as opposed to the Civil Code. As far as the American Embassy Tbilisi understands, the former law doesn’t foresee international direct adoption. The latter law says: “The parents may give their consent to the adoption of their child to any concrete person or without specifying a concrete person” (Art. 1251) and “In case of a child born out of wedlock written consent of mother is necessary. Consent has to be made more than 6 weeks after the child’s birth” (Art. 1252). The American Embassy received a copy of the amendments and was able to study them.
As far as the American Embassy Tbilisi understands, these changes mean that babies left without parental care must be registered in the Ministry of Education’s centralized database of orphans. Babies will have to be placed in an Infant House where they can be adopted by a local Georgian family. In case no local family is willing to adopt a child, such a child might be adopted internationally by foreign families, e.g. American citizens. The Ministry of Education is the institution responsible for regulating the adoption process.
The amendment to the law has meanwhile been submitted to the President of Georgia. After the President signs the law, the new law will be enacted and enforced. To date, the President has not signed the law.
Representatives of the American Embassy Tbilisi have met with Ms. Rusudan Gorgiladze, the Deputy Minister of Education, to seek clarification of the law. She confirmed the passing of the amendments and informed the Embassy that her office has submitted a lengthy brief to the President requesting him not to sign the new law as the Ministry of Education was neither informed nor involved in passing this amendment, a highly unusual practice. According to Ms. Gorgiladze, the amendment conflicts with ongoing legal reform initiatives being considered by the Ministry.
At this point it is unknown whether or not President Shevardnadze will sign the amendment. The American Embassy Tbilisi remains in contact with the Ministry of Education to discuss further proceedings should President Shevardnadze sign the bill, specifically how to process pending adoption dossiers that have not yet been authorized by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry has not yet worked out procedures for such cases. The American Embassy Tbilisi also understands that one of the leading adoption attorneys in Georgia is working closely with the MOE on this issue and has addressed the Secretary of the Parliament with a request for guidance on pending adoption cases. The Embassy also remains in contact with the Parliament to see where the amendment is in the ratification/signature process.
American citizens considering adoption from Georgia and/or their adoption agencies will appreciate the fact that, should the law be signed and enacted, all adoption agencies’ direct adoption programs would be subject to significant delays (as children must first be placed in infant houses, resp. orphanages and spend the minimum 6 months on the orphan database). The American Embassy Tbilisi places a high priority on adoption issues and will continue to closely monitor the situation. We will update American citizens and the Department of State once there is news.
This situation in no way affects immigrant visa applicants from Armenia and Azerbaijan (including adopted children) whose immigrant visas are processed at Embassy Tbilisi as of October 1, 2003.