“Our lives are also forever changed by this little girl who came across the world to teach us what love is all about and to appreciate the little things around us.” Brenda, A World Association of Children and Parents (WACAP) mom
Sometimes, in international adoption, a few larger programs overshadow smaller ones in the headlines. While Russia, China, and Ethiopia’s programs have garnered the spotlight, country programs like Bulgaria have quietly and successfully carried on in the background for decades.
Nick Ratchev, Saint Mary International Adoption gives one reason for why Bulgaria might be a country to consider for international adoption, “In general, Bulgaria’s requirements for adoptive parents can be considered easier to meet. Some parents might not qualify for other programs for whatever reason like age or marriage length can consider Bulgaria.”
The children from Bulgaria come into state care for a variety of reasons: poverty, abandonment, death of both birth parents, or when the parents relinquish their rights.
All orphans are placed on a registry for six months while Bulgarian officials work to place the child domestically. After this period of time the children are eligible for international adoption. Most of the children are of Romani ethnicity or Turkish descent. Because of their mixed ethnicity and minority backgrounds they are often passed over for adoption by Bulgarian families and become available for international adoption.
The Bulgarian orphanage system is divided into age groups: 0-3, 3-7, and 7 and up. In regards to the quality of the orphanages, it varies depending on the facility.
Ages of the children available for adoption vary depending on the agency advocating for them. In general terms children ages two to fifteen years of age are available. Families must be open to adopting a boy or a girl.
There are two possible program options with Bulgaria. The first is a healthy child referral program, which could take up to 2-3 years waiting for a referral once the paperwork is registered in Bulgaria.
The second option is special needs waiting children. This option begins with identifying a child from a special needs waiting list. Many children with various special needs from extremely serious to correctable are currently waiting for families. Sibling groups are also available. The wait time for special needs children is significantly shorter.
As with any country the first step after finding an agency is to complete the homestudy process. Once the Dossier is completed, the agency sends it to its Bulgarian representative for translation and authentication and then the dossier is submitted to the Ministry of Justice (Bulgarian Central Authority) for registration. The Ministry registers the candidates within 2-3 months following the dossier submission, and it is at this time the waiting period begins.
Ratchev describes the waiting period, “There is no exact waiting period for a referral specified by the Central Authority. The process depends on the number of candidates in the Register and the number of children available and as well as their age, sex, health etc. The waiting time for a referral may vary between 1 and 3 years. This is an approximation, but our representatives inform us that longer waiting periods (2 - 3 years) are for children who are between the ages of 2 and 5. For children between ages of 5 and 9, the waiting time is up to 1 year.”
The Ministry of Justice will send referral papers through a partner agency in Bulgaria back to the states. Ratchev explains the next step, “The referral of the child is presented to the adoptive parents who are given 14 days to decide whether they would like to go forward with the adoption of that particular child. Upon accepting, the parents will be given travel dates for their first trip to meet the child in person.”
The ‘bonding’ trip to Bulgaria is required within two months of accepting the referral. One or both parents are required to make this trip and the stay in country is typically 7 days. This is a period of time where parents are able to begin bonding with their child and talk with the orphanage workers. Over roughly the next four months legal matters and court dates, where parents are not required to be present, will take place. A second trip of about 7 days occurs about five months after the first trip. Some agencies can arrange an escort for the second trip if requested.
• Adoptive parents should be between 25-55 years of age or older.
• Couples must be married a minimum of one year.
• Adoptive parents should be at least 15 years older than the child they wish to adopt.
• Adoptive parents should be no more than 45 years older than the child they wish to adopt.
• Adoptive parents should not have more than 4 children already in the home, unless willing to adopt an older or special needs child.
• Single women and single men are allowed
• Financial proof that parent/parents can support the child are necessary
• Adoptive parents should not have any major criminal violations. Agencies advocating for Bulgarian adoptions.