Can the fate of the difficultly adopted children be easier?
Can the fate of the difficultly adopted children be easier?
Dozens of abandoned Bulgarian children are being adopted abroad through the fast runaway because of the lack of candidates here.
On September 6th, Mark and Melisa McGregor who adopted two 7-years-old twin girls from Bulgaria back in 2011, will appear before the Court in Missouri in order to answer questions related to the regular abuse over the two children. Then it will become clear also the future of the two sisters who at the moment are under the protection of the Department for Children and Families. According to the Bulgarian consular in Chicago, Ivan Anchev, other than the criminal court hearing there will be a civil court hearing for the guardianship for the two children. Then it will be decided if they will remain under the protection of the State of Missouri until they become 18 years of age or if they will be placed with licensed US foster family or in specialized institution.
The case with the twins is not typical as in the intercountry adoptions there are dominantly stories with happy ending. The story of the two sisters though has raised many uncomfortable questions without an answer: can our government follow the realistic situation in which the children are being placed into in their new country (McGregor were convicted for abuse earlier in 2013)? Are procedures for adopting a child in specifically challenged conditions reliable enough? Can these children find a home at much earlier age so their adjustment to be easier?
Until their adoption in USA A. and M. - then 7-years-old, are growing in the miserable almost barracks - looking conditions in one of the many at that point existing orphanages. One of the children is with special needs but in the cases of biological brothers and sisters who are in proved emotional close relationship, they are being registered together for adoption. Initially they have been registered in the list of the relevant region (at that point there is still no national registry). After that they wait in the list for intercountry adoption through the regular program and in the very end they are entered within the list of waiting children. The last one is something like fast runaway for the children who are undesirable in Bulgaria - it is for children who have needs of more care because of different specifics in their development; children with multiply conditions; children who are already over the early childhood age and their values and character have being integrated within the surrounding cultural identity. Before going to the lists of the Ministry of Justice, the children are waiting for six months to be placed with adoptive parents who are Bulgarian citizens. The adoptive candidates living abroad stay in special list through the regular process at least 6-7 years. Many of them even do not get to the point to have the child they have been waiting for so long and they give up. For such a long time many things can happen in somebody`s life, as noted by the accredited agencies for intercountry adoptions. The total number of the agencies at the moment is 36 and the presence of such agencies is required since 2003 when Bulgaria became part of the Hague Convention for protection of the children. Each agency works in cooperation with a similar organization in the relevant foreign country where the adoptive candidates come from.
The adoption of the waiting children is the last chance for many adoptive candidates living abroad, but the same is valid also for the most undesirable and sick children in Bulgaria. The profiles of the children are being published in special list on the website of the Ministry of Justice. And for the adoptive families coming through this program the procedure is much simpler. It is enough the adoptive family to present an application in which they to declare their desire to adopt the specific child. If the Intercountry adoption Committee on the base of the presented documents decides that the family is suitable, they give them a period of six months during which they to collect all the needed documents which in the end take part from a very solid dossier and are result of profound research of the family within their own country.
For the most undesirable children here the chance to find home abroad is a great luck. It is not a secret that around 90 percent from the abandoned Bulgarian children are coming from the minority groups, from marginal communities and others may have severe physical and mental disabilities. It is known that in 99 percent of the cases the foreign families are welcoming to their homes Bulgarian children from Roma origin. According to the statistics every year the number of the abandoned children here continues to be constant. In 2018 the children abandoned by their parents were 1058 when 400 of them have been abandoned right after the birth. The measures taken for the children to be reunited with their biological families do not give always good result as well as their placement in foster families - this is a controversial practice which was started initially with good intentions.
The adoptive candidates are half of the number of the children who are registered for adoption. The Bulgarian families would prefer to have white-skinned and healthy child and they would prefer they to adopt them until they are still young babies. Not few of the abandoned children though who are at this early age are drowning in the foster system and the institutions and they appear in the registries for adoption once they become teenagers. At that point it is easier for the children to go quickly to the waiting list - as it happened for the two sisters A. and M. because there the children are at the age of 7 and over. According to the statistics most of the children find new families in USA, Italy, Spain and Germany. The US families do not have prejudices in relation to ethnicity and age of the child, neither in relation to their special needs, physical disabilities, or the challenging higher age.
According to data collected from Agency for Social Assistance in the end of last year the children who were registered for adoption are 1919- from them 968 are healthy and 951 were with disabilities. The total number of the adopted children in Bulgaria is 539. In the end of last year the children placed in foster care were 2205 when the new cases were 1162. One part of these children lost their chance to be adopted because they were not registered for adoption on time, including because of the resistance of the foster parents. The reports placed on the website of the Agency for Social Assistance for 2018 are indicating that last year 193 foster families were deleted from the registry and for 40 percent of those the reason for that was the bad care provided to the children or the demonstrated resistance towards the adoption.
“The foster care was initiated in 2008 as alternative of the institutions. With time though the foster family became alternative of the adoption and this is already violation of the laws and the rights of the children. In the Law for protection of the child is written that when the child is abandoned the first step to be taken is attempt for them to be reintegrated in their biological family. The second step is placement in the family of relatives and if this is not possible, then the next step will be adoption procedure. Everything else is only temporary protection. But here the foster family became permanent care and form of employment for our little villages and towns”, indicated Neli Gancheva, attorney, who is also president of “Anido” - one of the accredited agencies working in the field of the intercountry adoption, including for families from USA.
In the last years the adoptive candidates within the registry of the Ministry of Justice became less. At the moment 811 children are looking for their adoptive parents through the waiting children list and 21 of them are in this list for a very first time. 118 children are on different stage of the procedure for adoption. 74 children are with defined adoptive family and for 136 of the profiles the accredited agencies are still looking for candidates. At the same time in the institutions there are still hundreds of children. The massive reform in the social area needs to be finalized in 2025 with the closing of the last remaining 29 orphanages for children and to be created new social services for the kids. The care provided to the children taken from the old institutions will be alternative, in family environment or in close to the family environment, with new services and centers which to be as a smaller version of the old ones.
“In 2005 and 2006 - for two years before entering in the EU, the intercountry adoptions were almost terminated, in order we to demonstrate to Europe that we do not have abandoned children. In the end of 2007 it was evidenced that in the institutions there are 7200 children. After that there was a big increase of the intercountry adoptions. In 2009 the changes in the Family Code allowed even the quicker placement of the children from the institutions to adoptive homes without the written consent by their biological parents to be requested for that, once if the child has been placed through administrative way in specialized institution”, reminds us Neli Gancheva. She tells about the children from the waiting list where there are also such kids who are 16 years of age and who were just moved around between different institutions or different foster families for years. At the moment of their adoption, from the file which is presented in the court, it becomes clear that these children were abandoned right after their birth. But they do enter in the waiting list once they are already teenagers and when they are no longer comfortable for their foster families because of the challenges of the teenage years. At the same time the parents who desperately are waiting with years for a child to adopt become much more tolerant towards the older age of the children. If few years ago for 7- and 8-years -old children adoptive families were hard to be found, now there are adoptive families even for the 16-years-old kids.
Naska is a child with excellent sport skills and talents. In Bulgaria she was playing for the national girlssoccer team and she was having great success. From already a year this girl, who was living her whole live in different institutions, continues to make her dreams come true but in the USA. She was abandoned by her biological mother in 2003 when she was just 1 year of age. In the next two years she was moved from one place to another - in the home of relatives and in Home for medical and social childcare. Then in the next 12 years of her life she changed two different orphanages for children deprived of parental care in the city of Stara Zagora. There she also met her adoptive candidates who came from USA. The girl was registered in the national adoption registry in 2006. But her new mommy and dad did not come from there. Nine years later - in 2015 with huge delay, her dossier was moved to the intercountry adoption registry in the Ministry of Justice with one important note - Naska is a child with negative attitude towards the adoption process.
In order to be provided active measure for finding a family for her a Bulgarian accredited agency for intercountry adoption met Naska in 2017. During even that first meeting with the child the experts discovered that the truth is that the girl has great desire to be adopted and that the information within her dossier is incorrect which is not happening for a first time but also for many other children who are older. In many cases these children were not properly introduced to the adoption process. Or in order to stay loyal to their foster families or the people working in the institutions, the kids do not declare their explicit desire to find their adoptive family. The adoption procedure in USA is an option only for children who are younger than 16 years because the immigration visa for the adoption can be received only if the application is submitted before the 16th birthday of the child. The adoptive parents of Naska managed to submit all their documents only a week before her 16th birthday. And this is how Naska received permission for new life. Around 100 children at the same age from those registered in the Ministry of Justice do not have the same chance. A whole generation is growing now in the new institutions in Bulgarian - Centers from family type of foster families.
Similar adoptions though are often followed by many negative consequences for the teenagers and adjustment which can be very difficult. One part of the children go to their new families with absolutely ruined lives. One of the last cases of NGO Vesta - agency who is working in help for the abandoned children to find their new homes for more than 20 years now, was for a girl who was abandoned right after her birth and went through all of the possible institutions and placement, including such for under-aged criminals.
Four years ago the experts from “Vesta” had another case. An American family who started their adoption procedure of a girl from Roma origin who at that time was 1 year of age. The mother abandoned the child after the birth. Little bit before the finalization of the procedure the child was recognized by her father and the adoption procedure was terminated automatically. “Five years later we received a report for the same child but she was already 6 years of age, with mental delay and 2nd degree burning scars. From there we found out that the child was reintegrated in her biological family but little bit later she was taken by the social workers because the parents could not provide cares for her. She was placed in a home for children without parents and from there she was moved to a foster family.” According to the explanations in her report the girl received the severe burning because she fell in really hot water, which the foster mother was warming up with water heater before giving her a bath. Despite the neglect coming for this lady the child was not moved to another foster family. “This child has not seen a slide before. During the day she used to stay inside closed in a room in which the foster mother was smoking cigarettes all the time. Despite her diagnosis for mental delay the child received the chance to be placed in loving adoptive home”, says Mrs. Kuzeva, attorney.
AND HOW IS THE SITUATION ABROAD
In Bulgaria the documents of the adoptive candidates from abroad are being reviewed closely in the relevant Directorate in the Ministry of Justice, say Association “Gruppo di Volontariato Solidarietà” - branch in Bulgaria. “In Austria for example there is no required post-adoption observation and the regime there is much more liberal comparing to Germany or Italy. In Germany the post-adoption control is within the limits of five years and according to our national laws the years for such observation are two. The governmental structures which are the only one engaged with the intercountry adoption here, do not have the legal methods to enter in the home of the adoptive family and to control them. But because Bulgaria requires that, now before the adoptive family to be registered in Bulgaria, sign a special declaration that they will follow the post-adoption observation rules. According to the Italian, Austrian and German laws the adopted Bulgarian children become their citizens automatically. In this situation Bulgaria can require control only on a volunteering base. Most of the European countries though are tolerant towards the requirements of our government for the two-years-post adoption monitoring.