Years ago, the Armenia program was a popular option for families seeking to adopt a healthy infant. Wait times were reasonable, and the children usually received good care in the state-run orphanages. Later, the program also grew through lively advocacy for infants and older children with various diagnoses, such as Down Syndrome and spina bifida. Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc. was the first US adoption service provider to assist a family with the adoption of an Armenian child with Down Syndrome.
In 2017, Armenia’s Central Adoption Authority initiated a series of changes that altered the face of international adoption in this country. Healthy infant adoptions by foreign parents essentially faded out as interest from domestic adopters increased, and the social and cultural landscape within the country allowed more families to parent rather than place their children into state care.
Advocacy for children with special medical and developmental needs was abolished, effectively leaving the most vulnerable orphans without an opportunity to be seen by those who could offer them permanency abroad. Families who inquire are often disappointed at the lack of advocacy and the uncertainties and risks that accompany the request for a referral through a program that currently operates with diminished transparency. Even though some international families no longer view Armenia as a viable option for adopting children with complex diagnoses, disabled Armenian children of all ages continue to be eligible for international adoption and are waiting for well-prepared and loving foreign families.
While the evolving Armenia program has lost its appeal for many prospective adoptive families over the last five years, Armenia is a great option for families looking to adopt a child with Down Syndrome or brain-based diagnoses, such as hydrocephalus, epilepsy, Dandy-Walker syndrome, traumatic brain injuries and congenital anomalies of the brain. Adoptions of children with other or isolated diagnoses are rare and could require unpredictable referral wait times. The number of school-aged children who are relatively healthy and eligible for international adoption is very small, and children over the age of 10 have to give their consent to be adopted.
Families wishing to adopt from Armenia now must submit a dossier and await the referral of a child chosen for them by Armenia’s Central Adoption Authority in accordance with the home study approval and recommendations, based on the gender, age, and health of the Armenian children cleared for international adoption at any given time. Per Armenia’s Family Code of 2018, prospective adoptive parents must be at least 18 years and no more than 50 years older than the child referred to them. A visitation trip of one week is required to meet the child, and the second stay of approximately 23 days in Armenia is necessary to finalize the adoption and US visa process. If married, both parents must travel for the visitation trip and personally attend the court hearing for the finalization of the adoption at the beginning of the second trip. Referral wait times are variable, but adoptions of children with complex diagnoses can often be completed in 18 months or less from dossier submission.