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Parents found abroad for 457 children

Ani Parmaksizyan

The Ministry of Justice and the association of the Bulgarian accredited organizations facilitating international adoptions are organizing a conference tomorrow. Representatives from 12 countries, 21 foreign facilitation organizations, orphanage directors, social workers and pediatric psychologists will discuss the ways to more easily find the most suitable adoptive parents abroad for the children that no one in this country wants.

In the year 2008, suitable parents were found abroad for 402 abandoned Bulgarian children. For the first two months of this year, another 55 children have been proposed for adoption to 51 couples. This number is twice as many as compared to the total from the previous three years when the International Adoptions Council at the Ministry of Justice referred a child from Bulgaria to an average of 85 families.

The Council began its active work at the end of 2007, when it was headed by the then newly appointed Deputy Minister of Justice, Ms. Ilonka Raychinova. The Council sits for hours every Tuesday and reviews the dossiers of at least 20 kids, refused by three Bulgarian couples, and also considers the dossiers of at least 150 adoptive applicants from abroad. Bulgaria’s becoming a party to the Hague Convention on international adoptions in the year 2003 put an end to the hitherto practice for foreign nationals to go around childcare homes seeking to like a Bulgarian child for an adoptee. Under the old procedure, about 900 kids used to be adopted by foreigners annually. (How are they living today? – see the photographs provided by the Ministry of Justice.)

Now it is the Council that determines which couple is eligible as a new family for each particular little one. The Council refers the couple to such child, and if the couple agrees, the procedure goes underway, namely the Minister of Justice grants explicit consent, and then Sofia City Court rules in a final manner on the international adoption thus proposed.

The Council has two registers to it – one of children who can be adopted by foreign nationals, and one of overseas applicant adoptive parents. The information in the first register is provided by the regional directors of the Social Support Agency following three refusals by Bulgarian nationals, while the information regarding foreign citizens is supplied by specifically licensed facilitators known as “accredited organizations”.

Out of a total of 1992 Bulgarian children entered in the international adoptions register since 2003, some 730 have new parents.

The most families, namely one half, come from Italy, followed by Spain, France and Germany, where new homes have been found for 17, 11 and 8 per cent of the children, respectively. USA, Canada and Greece saw the arrival of a total of about 5% of these abandoned children. Even fewer children have been adopted by couples from Cyprus, Sweden, Malta, Austria, Switzerland, Andorra, Poland and Denmark.

The procedure has been initiated, i.e. the applicants’ consent has been received, for 118 kids entered in the register. Some 150 children have been deleted, because they have come of age, have died, or their parents have withdrawn their consent to adoption. As many as 800 children – older ones and, above all, ones with extremely serious conditions, are included in a special list. As it is difficult to find adoptive applicants for them, the said list is posted on the Ministry of Justice website. It contains no names, and only shows the child’s age, gender and condition. The Council is scheduled to review the documents of all Bulgarian children entered in the register over the last few months. There are no delays now, and each case is undertaken almost as soon as it has been received.

However, this is not the way things stand with the applications of prospective adoptive parents from abroad, such applications being considered in the order of their receipt. For 14-15 months, the Council has been able to review the documents submitted between 2003 and the end of 2005. “Before our mandate expires, we shall strive to also discuss the applications entered by mid-2006. There are children waiting in the homes and registers, and there are parents willing to adopt, while there has been nobody to get down to handle those applications”, was Deputy Minister Raychinova’s explanation about the delay.

From 2,523 couples who, since 2003 to date, have stated their willingness to bring home a Bulgarian child, it is only 882 that are expecting a child referral.

Most of them have given up, either because of waiting for a response for years, or because they have adopted a child from China, Russia, the Ukraine, Vietnam, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, or from some African country, where the procedures are fast, easy and with no unnecessary prohibitions.

“They are not interested in the color of the child’s skin; they will adopt children who are healthy or sick, younger or older, because they want to have a child in their families. It is quite understandable why they have given up on Bulgaria – five years is a very long time”, says the Deputy Minister.

The Council, however, does not become aware of the adoptive parents’ refusals until it proposes a Bulgarian child to be adopted by them. “We received a letter saying: ‘But we adopted a long time ago.’ We are to be advised of the fact that the adoptive parents are no longer interested in adopting through the accredited organizations in their respective countries and those in Bulgaria. Yet, this information fails to reach the Council and it often turns out that we have worked in vain”, Ms. Ilonka Raychinova explained.

Since Italian adoptive applicants account for the majority with 34% of all those registered in Bulgaria, and last year some 54% of all Bulgarian children adoption referrals were made to such couples, obviously we have had the largest number of refusals coming therefrom. In an attempt to resolve the issue and to ensure up-to-date information regarding couples, at the beginning of March Ms. Raychinova discussed the problem in Rome with Senator Carlo Giovannardi – Assistant Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet and Head of the Italian International Adoptions Committee.

“We have agreed to enhance communication in order to work with families that are still waiting – only 327 of 800 applicant adoptive parents from Italy registered in Bulgaria. It is important that we work well, because the Italian and American couples rank highest among those ready to adopt older children or children with health problems, as well as to adopt more than two kids”, emphasized the Deputy Minister.

Photo captions:
1. “I was adopted when I was 7 years old; now I am 14. One of the biggest advantages is that now in America, when I grow up, I can be whatever I want – doctor, musician, artist, …”, says Bozhendara Fisher.
2. 13-year-old Rositsa has lived in USA since the age of 7. She can still remember the fields with wild flowers, the red roses and her favorite meal – banitsa (filo pastry with cheese). She was abandoned because her mother was unable to take care of her, and her father did not want her.
3. Ann and Peter, both aged eight, were adopted in the same US family six years ago. She was taken from a childcare home in Dobrich, and he came from an orphanage in Yambol. The couple has other children as well – two daughters, and is hoping to adopt one more boy from Bulgaria. “We will love him very much”, promises Peter, formerly known by his Bulgarian name of Dimitar.