Bulgarian Organizations Make Appeal for Special Needs Children

Bulgarian Organizations Make Appeal for Special Needs Children

What if RainbowKids could no longer show you the faces of children who are waiting for families?  

What if one person, with all the power, believed that families interested in adopting should not be allowed to view children who are legally available for adoption?

Couched in legalese,with the invention of a new term called "soft referrals", that is exactly what is being proposed by the person heading the Office of Children's Issues at the US Dept of State.  The idea is that no family without a homestudy should be allowed to receive information on a legally waiting child.  This is completely contrary to how US Foster Adoption works for waiting children.  Children waiting for adoption in the USA may be viewed by anyone visiting the national database at AdoptUsKids.org, or any of the state websites featuring waiting children in fostercare.

Under new leadership, the Office of Children's Issues has taken radical steps to impose new fees on families wishing to adopt, crushing oversight requirements on adoption service providers, and now a vague instruction to agencies that repercussions may be implemented (retroactively!) should they fail to comply with instructions about sharing information on specific children with interested families.

How many families would adopt a child with Cerebral Palsy, had they not have first seen his or her photo?  There are over FIVE HUNDRED children with CP waiting on RainbowKids.  What chance do these children have of finding families if this new leadership at DOS has their way? ZERO!  

Bulgarian Organizations Submit Letter to US Departement of State on Behalf of Special Needs Children:

The situation at the Office of Children's Issues has become so dire, that 15 Bulgarian Organizations have written a letter outlining how shutting down advocacy for children with medical special needs goes against the Hague Covention.  This letter was submitted this week and may be read below


March 1st, 2018

To whom it may concern

Dear Sir/Madam,

On behalf of the Bulgarian accredited organizations facilitating the adoption procedures of persons with habitual place of residence in the USA, we would like to express our concern and dismay regarding the position of the Office of Children’s Issues that the process of ““soft referral” is not acceptable practice under the regulations and may lead to adverse action”. With this petition we would like to defend the special measures program for the adoption of waiting children from the Republic of Bulgaria and to present you with our arguments in defense of the statement that advocacy and “soft referral” performed through the cooperation between Bulgarian and US accredited organizations is a legitimate and transparent process that is in the children’s best interest.

 1. “Soft referral” is a part of an entirely legal procedure wherein legislation has introduced special measures for the protection and advocacy of children who have been deemed eligible for adoption by the Bulgarian adoption authorities but for whom no suitable waiting and approved prospective adoptive parents have been inscribed in the Register, kept by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. The general term used for such children is “waiting children” with it comprising of both children with medical diagnoses and developmental delays, as well as older children. The Bulgarian legislative body has implemented these measures in strict compliance with the regulations of the Hague Convention on protection of children and co-operation in respect of intercountry adoption (Hague Convention) and the Guide to good practice for the application of the Hague Convention1 with the single goal of providing each child with the opportunity to be “found” by their forever family and be given the chance to be raised in an appropriate, caring and loving family environment. Furthermore, for the benefit of all prospective adoptive parents, the US lawmaker has already complied with the preamble of the Hague Convention and has seen to allowing some exceptions in its own acts so as to protect the right of as many children as possible to grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.2 The procedure wherein Bulgarian and US accredited organizations advocate for children whom the special measures have been undertaken for and according to which “soft referral” is performed between waiting children and prospective adoptive parents is described in detail in the Bulgarian legislation: Art.112, par.6 of the Family Code; Chapter IV, Art.40-44 of Ordinance No.3/October 24th, 2014 of the Ministry of Justice, as well as Order No. LS-04-48/January 25th, 2018 issued by the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Bulgaria. We are certain that supposing you contacted your colleagues from the Bulgarian Central Adoption Authority, they would formally confirm the latter information.


1/ Guide to good practice, Chapter 11, section 11.2, item 517: 517. Accredited bodies in the receiving State might be asked to collaborate to identify appropriate prospective adoptive parents for a child with special needs. In such a case, the State of origin would send details of the child (without identifying information) to the receiving State to help find suitable adoptive parents.

2/ 9 FAM 502.3-4(C)(2): Excerpt from Volume ?? of the Foreign Affairs Manual, which is a US regulation, stipulated in pursuance with the legal norms of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) of the USA.

2. “Soft referral” is a procedure wherein the personal information and the best interest of the children are protected in the best possible way.

Advocacy for children for whom the special measures have been undertaken is performed by accredited Bulgarian organizations and their partners in the receiving country in pursuance with all legal requirements and with personal information and location of the children being held in strict confidence.

As per the Bulgarian legislation both prospective adoptive parents who have been inscribed in the Register, as well as prospective adoptive parents who have not yet been registered (i.e. prospective adoptive parents who have not yet finished their dossier and have no completed home study, respectively), may apply for the adoption of waiting children. Thus, the Bulgarian legislation, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Hague Convention, expressly allows for non-identifying information about children to be shared with prospective adoptive parents not yet inscribed into the Register.

The implementation of the special measures in practice since 2009 shows that the procedure in question is an extremely effective means for defending waiting children’s best interest and their only chance to be adopted and raised within a family environment. Oftentimes, the adopters applying for these children are persons who might have had the principle idea and desire to possibly adopt one day but had never undertaken any definite actions in this regard. In general, such applicants decide to make the first step only after “finding” their special child and consequently devoting themselves to their adoption, thus following the process of completing a home study solely for the purpose of adopting this particular child. Despite the fact that during the process of searching for suitable adopters the applicants may be provided with short, non-identifying information, along with photographs and videos of the child, “soft referral” is only permitted by the Bulgarian Central Adoption Authority for particular prospective adoptive parents who along with the application for the child’s adoption have also provided a document, issued by a certain authority or organization wherein it is declared that the adopters have initiated the procedure for the completion of a home study with regards to the adoption of this particular child. For this purpose the applicants also provide the name and contact information of the social worker conducting the process for the completion of their home study. Having initially approved the filed application, the Bulgarian Central Adoption Authority gives the prospective adoptive parents a six-month deadline to present their complete dossier. The adoption procedure is officially initiated through a formal referral only after the adopters have submitted all documents for their inscription in the Register, as required by the Bulgarian legislation. The above information serves to prove that adoption services are provided in a lawful and ethical manner and in accordance with the principle that intercountry adoption should take place in the best interests of children and of preventing the sale or trafficking of children.

3. The US prospective adoptive parents should continue having equal rights with regards to opting between the domestic or intercountry adoption of a child.

The procedure relating to the special measures of the Republic of Bulgaria has to a great extent been modelled on the US domestic adoption system, whose good practices for the placement of older children have been exemplary. Given that the US domestic adoption system permits for information relating to children to be published and for prospective adopters to apply for their adoption having only initiated their home study process, and keeping in mind that the procedure of “soft referral” in the Republic of Bulgaria stipulates similar requirements, the US prospective adoptive parents should not be deprived of the possibility to consider and initiate a procedure for the adoption of a waiting child with a habitual place of residence abroad. From the official statistics of the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice it becomes evident that within the last five years 447 procedures for the adoption of waiting children have been completed under the special measures program by prospective adoptive parents with a habitual place of residence in the USA. Each child has the fundamental right to live and be cared for in a family environment. In many cases the only possibility for children to be provided such an environment is for them to be adopted outside of their country of origin and it is for this purpose that the Hague Convention is created and implemented. In view of the children’s best interest and their right to live in a family environment we plead for the preservation of equal possibilities for US prospective adoptive parents to opt between commencing a procedure for domestic or international adoption by having initiated but not yet finalized their home study process.

It is with the utmost hope that we ask you to consider the above information when discussing the way in which to interpret the practice of “soft referral”. Otherwise, should the position that “soft referral” is an unacceptable practice stands, not only will the US prospective adoptive parents’ rights be damaged, but the best interest and substantive right of every child to live in a family environment will be severely harmed, while “soft referral” remains the waiting children’s only possible chance to be adopted and placed under the care of their forever families.

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