Ukraine is the eastern-most and largest country in Europe (about 90% of the size of Texas), located just south and west of Moscow and just east of Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. The Black Sea forms the southern border of Ukraine.
Ukraine is a fertile land and its crops and soil have been prized for many years. Because of its valuable natural resources, different groups conquered and split the country innumerable times until the 1900s when Ukraine became part of the Russian empire. Like the rest of Europe, Ukraine was impacted greatly by World War I and World War II. In fact, from 1932-1933 Joseph Stalin led a period of genocide known as the Holodor (“hunger extinction”) that killed at least 7-10 million Ukrainians.
In 1991, Ukraine became an independent state when it left Russia. Economic, social, and political ties remain today. Although the western half of the country speaks/writes/reads predominantly Ukrainian, the eastern half continues to use the Russian language and tend more toward Russian culture, religion, and business.
Ukraine has tried hard to make the shift from communism to capitalism since the early 1990s. Today, agriculture (wheat), mining, and manufacturing are the largest economic activities in Ukraine. Inflation has outpaced wealth and many of the social ills associated with poverty and financial stress plague Ukraine today.
Most data suggest that over 100,000 orphans exist in Ukraine today. Many of these orphans live in orphanages across the country; by some estimates orphaned children in state care number 60,000. Others are in foster care, with relatives, or on the street. Some children in state-run institutions are “true orphans” – without parents, and others are social orphans whose parents are unable to care for them (due to financial constraints, lack of food, alcoholism or other social issues, or incarceration).
According to UNICEF, Ukraine has the fastest growing population of children with HIV in the world. Recent data suggest that 440,000 people in Ukraine are HIV+. Mother-to-child transmission, nearly eliminated in first world countries and Africa, continues in Ukraine with annual increases in the number of HIV+ mothers. Children with other medical conditions are often placed in “medical orphanages”, separated from children who do not have pronounced/visible medical issues.
For many years, families from Italy, Spain, the US, and Israel have adopted children from Ukraine. In recent years, the country of Ukraine has developed a domestic foster / adoption program that has lead to slow but steady increases in domestic orphan care. For most families in Ukraine, foster / adoptive care is a financial impossibility. Government stipends to foster have led to increases in foster care – but some adverse outcomes as well.
Most international adoptions in Ukraine are families adopting older children (10+) or children with medical conditions, many of which are easily treatable with modern, western care. That said, the total number of completed adoptions from Ukraine has declined over the last few years as the process has become more complex and as many adoptive families go to other countries to look for younger children, children without siblings, and children without medical complications.
Because of this, children continue to age out in Ukraine. By 15-17, children are released from state / orphanage care. Some are able to attend trade school, but most indicate that only the “leftover” trades are available and some data suggest that fewer than 20% of children from orphanages get the opportunity to continue to school (and in government care) after age 17. These children who age out are on their own in a country with few opportunities for education or employment. Widely quoted data indicate that.
A trusted missionary friend in Ukraine published the following statistics regarding children who are aging out:
- 76% of children are afraid to leave their institution
- 70 % believe that they will not get a good education or appropriate job
- 52 % are afraid that they will not have a place to live
- 54 % are afraid that they will not have money for transport, food, etc.
- 30% are afraid that they will remain alone and have no support
- 27% are afraid they will succumb to bad influences
- 18% have no clue what it is to live independently
Other sources suggest that 60% or more of “graduating” girls enter prostitution, and over 50% of boys eventually become incarcerated after leaving an orphanage. The post-orphanage future is not bright in Ukraine for most of these children.
The good news is that families continue to come to Ukraine to adopt children – especially children who have historically been overlooked and, perhaps more importantly, there is a growing movement especially within the Christian church in Ukraine, to foster and adopt children domestically. Project HOPEFUL believes we need to work to care for orphaned children in Ukraine, adopt children internationally when a domestic option isn’t available, and support local families preparing for and pursuing local adoption and foster care.
More information on our direct care programs in Ukraine: