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Green street to international adoptions

13.03.2009 г.

On 19 March the Ministry of Justice and organizations-facilitators will hold a joint conference at Sheraton Hotel

Eliana Mitova

It is expected that the conference to be held on 19 March at Royal III Hall, Sheraton Hotel, by the Ministry of Justice and the Association of Licensed Organizations will grant a green street to international adoptions.

Ilonka Raychinova, Chairperson of the International Adoptions Council and Deputy-minister of Justice will personally familiarize the audience with the main aspects of this issue. Her report has been expected with great interest by all involved parties, because for four years now international adoptions have been almost a topic under taboo in the Bulgarian society. Directors of homes for bringing up abandoned children will discuss the disastrous effect of the institution on the development of growing-up children. Specialists in the field of law will present the new Family Code (not discussed yet on second reading), which is the basic document in relation to international adoptions implementation. Judge Mariya Georgieva, of Sofia City Court, whose experience in related procedures is extremely valuable and useful, will also render her standpoint from this conference rostrum. The painful topic of placing children with special needs (i.e., children with severe health problems) will also be brought to light. Representatives of foreign central authorities, involved in adoption abroad, will share the difficulties they encounter in the dialogue with their Bulgarian partners. In order to take part in the conference, some adoptive families from abroad will arrive together with their children. The open discussion will enable the presentation of opinions, which may be extremely useful for the future of international adoptions.

Defrosting after ice age

The conference to be held on 19 March is a sign that the ice age in international adoptions has come to an end forever. For some four years, the international adoptions, were reducing to some 100 adoptions annually. Those actions was explained as depending on some European requirement, which, you see, has imposed that Bulgaria should perform no more than 100 procedures per year. The “requirement” turned out to be just mere talk, however it virtually deprived hundreds of abandoned Bulgarian children of the chance to have families. As a result of this misanthropic policy, adoptive parents from abroad, broken-hearted and disappointed with so much waiting for, withdrew their dossiers and went to other countries. The international adoptions system practically collapsed. The present team of the Ministry of Justice is still fighting the terrifying consequences of such collapse.

Chaos in documentation, fog in the registers

Defrosting in the field of international adoptions is a fact, as made evident by the documents, posted on the site of the Ministry of Justice. The number of international adoptions is growing, and furthermore, such adoptions are implemented according to even more transparent procedures. Since 1 January 2007, they have been making any and all legal and technical efforts for the purposes of promptly finding an appropriate adoptive-parents and family care for each child, who has been entered in the register. For example, from 13 December 2007 to 7 October 2008, no less than 20 correspondences related to placement of children and no less than 70 applications by adoptive-parents respectively, are considered at every meeting of the Council. A true record as compared with the preceding period! In 2008, they have processed correspondences for the adoption of 184 children, and 169 explicit consents have been granted by the Minister of Justice. For the same period, the correspondences of 161 applicants have been rendered complete and sent to court in relation to the adoption of 175 children. Nevertheless, directors of childcare homes complain about their institutions being full of children eligible for international adoption. The harrowing of hell continues – as if children find themselves in timelessness, when they have to pass from the national register into the international register, while their files are staying on the shelves covered with dust. The reason – low-quality and neglected work in relation to the kids’ files at the district social assistance directorates. It is precisely for this problem that on 18 March, i.e., on the eve of the international adoptions conference, the directors of district social assistance directorates will have a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Justice. Maybe this meeting will finally clarify the reasons for such chaos in documentation and in the registers of those children, for whom international adoption is the only chance to have a family?

Suspected corruption has darkened good intentions

When things are getting worse, there always appear suspicions of corruption. The case was the same with international adoptions as well. It was for such suspicions that in 2003 the directors of childcare homes were branded as nearly criminals and were deprived of the possibility to select adoptive parents. But the lawsuits against the said directors suffered complete fiasco. All these experienced physicians and pedagogues, who had dedicated their lives to abandoned children, swallowed the bitter insult. Some of them retired, while others continue to perform their official obligations in manner, which is worthy of respect. And all of them are seriously worried by the fact that the childcare homes are full of healthy and able-bodied children who are continuously falling behind in their development, because deprived of a family. Just think of how little effort it takes for them to have one! Logically ensues the question: where did corruption go since it left the homes? Is it inhabiting the district social support directorates, where the decisions are taken as to which child should be given to whom, or whether the child should be entered in an international adoption register? There is only one conclusion – there exist ways in which the corrupt can be detected and castigated. Corruption, however, should in no case be an obstacle to the implementation of international adoptions!

Good example sets sail from Italy
Bulgaria and Italy will in future synchronize even better their activity in the field of international adoptions – this emerged at the meeting that took place in Rome between Ms. Ilonka Raychinova, Deputy Minister of Justice and Chairperson of the International Adoptions Council, and Senator Carlo Giovannardi, Assistant Secretary in the Italian Prime Minister’s Cabinet and Chairperson of the Italian International Adoptions Committee.

The enhancement of contacts between the two countries is necessitated by the fact that a large number of Italian families want to adopt a child from Bulgaria – 34% of all adoptive applicants. Besides, 54% of all adoption referrals on our part in the year 2008 were addressed precisely to adoptive Italian nationals.
During the visit of Deputy Minister Ilonka Raychinova to Rome, discussions were also held about the possibilities for strengthening the cooperation in the field of protection of abandoned children and children with disabilities. Is it then likely that after March 19 there will be more good examples of fruitful collaboration in the field of international adoptions?

Kids from Faculteta /the largest Romany residential quarter in Sofia/ become citizens of Barcelona
First was Daniel. Cast off by his own mother at a home for abandoned children, he was adopted by Helena Bow and Jordi Sangra from Barcelona. The couple’s parents accepted him as their favorite grandson, having at long last arrived from faraway Bulgaria. A year after the happy event, news arrived from Sofia – Daniel’s little brother was also abandoned by his mother and accommodated in the same home! So, Helena and Jordi got their documents ready, packed their cases and … in a few months’ time Jan was brought into their family! The kids are fans of the Barcelona football club; they are excellent students and speak fluent Spanish and Catalan.
Once again there was news from the remote motherland – the two boys’ sister – Sara, was also left at the home. The family’s only possible reaction was to apply for the little girl as well! Here, however, they came up against a stumbling block – adoptions in Bulgaria were frozen, and it was anybody’s guess why! What is more, the law stipulated no obligation for the Bulgarian authorities in charge of international adoptions to give Sara to Helena and Jordi of all people! Because, would you believe it, it was said that the two brothers shared no emotional relation with their sibling! The saga went on for the best part of three years. Daniel and Jan knew they had a baby sister and could not make it out why she would not come to Spain! They did belong to the same family and kin, did they not? Helena and Jordi were preparing to mount a street protest in front of the Parliament or the orphanage in Sofia – to put up a tent and tell the journalists about their tribulations. Their case reached both the Spanish and Bulgarian press. It was then that the relevant bodies were compelled to stir and eventually give a green light to the family’s third adoption.
Luckily, this story has a happy ending. On Christmas Day itself, two years ago, Daniel, Jan, and Sara were reunited. Forever!

Fatme Iliyaz, Member of Parliament for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms: “The Family Code will facilitate procedures”.
No one knows why the public are haunted by the preconception that an international adoption is a threat to the child. Adoptive parents are believed to nestle in their ranks people of criminal intent, engaged in organs trafficking!
Absurdity incarnate! Throughout the history of international adoptions in Bulgaria, 99.99 per cent of those have ended happily, id est the child has been provided with a family so desired. Prior to being approved as adoptive parents, the nationals of West European countries and of the United States are subjected to draconian examination. Then, for three years after the procedure’s completion, they are placed under the vigilant supervision of the social services in their respective countries, wherefrom the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice receives comprehensive reports on the physical, psychic and intellectual development of any internationally adopted child.
International adoption is a chance for those children that are unwanted in their home country. The Bulgarian people still suffer from prejudice when it comes to origin and color of the skin. Such biased misconceptions will probably phase out. Yet, until they do, children will continue to be adopted by foreigners. And there is nothing wrong with that! On the contrary, these children will grow up to be full-bloodied citizens of such foreign countries, while preserving a positive feeling for the country of their biological birth. They will be citizens of the large European family! The new Family Code, which passed its first reading in parliament, will facilitate both national and international adoptions. This is the opinion of the lawmakers working thereon. I hope that we will see its enactment very soon, before the conclusion of this parliament’s term. This new code will serve as the legal precondition for expedient, effective and transparent procedures to regulate international adoptions. And this is something that will benefit our society as a whole.