CHILDREN AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION
By law, the children available for adoption in Bulgaria are at age between 0 and 18 years.
However, the most common ages of children referred are between 2 and 7 years. The older the child, the shorter the waiting period for a child referral. Please note that the children under two years of age are still a rarety. Referrals for children above 7 years of age are being received much faster, especially for boys, who are currently more numerous than girls.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTIVE PARENT
Bulgarian legislation does not set any significant restrictions to candidate-adoptive parents. They must be above 18 years of age and be at least 15 years older than the adoptive child. They have to meet all legal requirements of their country of residence.This is the rule stated in the Family Code but the Intercountry Adoption Council firmly abides by the following age criterion: "There should not be more that 50 years age difference between the adoptee and the younger spouse in a married couple and there should not be more that 55 years age difference between the adoptee and the older spouse in a married couple. When a child is adopted by a single adopter, the lower age difference (of 50 years) should be considered."
Single candidates may also apply for adoption.
SPECIAL NEEDS PROGRAM AND GENERAL ADOPTION PROGRAM
In the adoption process of a child from the Special needs list a family decides to commit to the child, sends the respective application paperwork, it is submitted to the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry then reviews it and approves the family, who thus become officially matched with the child. Then the family is given 6 months to prepare their dossier for Bulgaria, send it in and have it submitted to the Ministry. Once the dossier is submitted, the Ministry registers the candidates with priority since they are adopting a particular child from the Special needs list and then, following the registration, makes the official child referral to them at the first possible meeting of the Intercountry Adoption Council.
In the general adoption process a family prepares their dossier for registration, sends it to Bulgaria, it is submitted to the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry registers the candidates within 1 month following the dossier submission, and then the waiting period for the family begins. It is here that the approximate waiting periods below apply.
There is no exact waiting period for a referral specified in the law. The process is rather dynamic as it depends on the number of candidate-adopters in the Register and their child preferences on one hand, and the number of children available and their characteristics on the other (age, gender, health state).
Based purely on our experience, we predict approximately the following waiting periods, depending on the children’s age:
For healthy children up to 3 years of age - around 3 years
For healthy children up to 5 years of age- around 2 years
For healthy children between 5 and 9 years of age - up to 1 year
For healthy children above 9 years of age - around 2 to 6 months
If relatively minor correctable problems in the above-written groups of children are accepted by the adoptive parents, the period will be reduced.
If more serious correctable problems are accepted by the adoptive parents referrals can be expected within several months.
Each additional requirement (e.g. gender or origin of the child) prolongs the waiting period.
TIME FRAMES OF THE PROCEDURE
Based on our experience, we would expect the following time frames involved in the procedure, in case there is no delay in the work of the Bulgarian competent authorities:
HOW LONG DOES IT USUALLY TAKE BETWEEN TRIP 1 AND TRIP 2?
It usually takes about 4 months.
This period involves the following steps:
- Consent of the foreign Central Authority; including a preliminary visa interview in US procedures;
- Explicit consent given by the Bulgarian Minister of Justice;
- Transferring the adoptive parents’ dossier to court;
- Court hearing;
- Obtaining copies of the court decision which has become effective;
- Obtaining a certificate under Art. 23 of the Hague Convention;
- Issuing a new birth certificate of the child;
- Making the first steps for the issuance of the child's new passport.
HOW LONG DOES IT USUALLY TAKE BETWEEN THE 17C CONSENT (FOR U.S.: ARTICLE 5 LETTER) BEING ISSUED AND GOING TO COURT?
It usually takes about a month from the issuance of the foreign Central Authority consent to going to court.
This period involves:
- Explicit consent given by the Bulgarian Minister of Justice;
- Transferring the adoptive parents’ dossier to court.
HOW SOON CAN A DATE FOR THE COURT HEARING BE APPOINTED?
There is no specific time frame for this.
To set a date for a hearing is necessary for:
- The Ministry of Justice to send the adoptive parents’ dossier to court.
- The Court to set a date for the hearing. Usually, the court will schedule a hearing for 1 to 4 weeks after receiving of the dossier.
The FNA petition to the court, which is also considered by the Ministry of Justice, always insists on urgent consideration of the application due to the necessity for the child's prompt placement in a family environment.
Please be aware that based on their work-load and organization, the authorities alone determine when and in what terms to perform the relevant actions.
WHAT IS THE USUAL TIME FRAME FROM COURT HEARING TO PICK-UP?
From the date of the court hearing to the pick-up trip goes about a month and a half.
During this period:
- The court decision becomes effective (7 days following the court hearing);
- Certified copies of the court decision are obtained;
- A certificate under Art. 23 of the Hague Convention is granted;
- A new birth certificate for the child is issued;
- The issuance of the child's new passport is prepared.
WOULD BULGARIA ACCEPT ADOPTIVE CANDIDATES WHO HAVE SOME HEALTH ISSUES?
First of all, candidate-adopters should have a permission/approval to adopt, obtained in their country of habitual residence, and should have provided all the other documents, which are necessary for their registration as adopters in Bulgaria. If that requirement is fulfilled but the adopters' Home Study contains some information that the prospective adopter(s) suffers from a disease, an additional medical certificate would be needed, in which the respective medical specialist gives their opinion regarding the adopter's medical condition and their eligibility to adopt in view of this medical condition. This additional medical certificate is renewed and submitted to the Ministry of Justice on a yearly basis, while the family's adoption is in progress.
The Ministry of Justice assesses the candidate-adopter's eligibility to adopt in each particular case. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get a confirmation in advance whether a specific diagnosis/condition would be accepted in a candidate-adopter or not. It is only after all dossier documents are submitted to the Ministry of Justice that the Ministry makes a decision if the candidate-adopter is eligible to adopt from Bulgaria, taking all dossier documents in consideration.
EMOTIONAL PREPARATION OF CHILDREN TO MEET THEIR ADOPTIVE PARENT(S)
This is only possible after the candidates have received the official referral. Only then are the children told that they will be visited by their prospective parents and are psychologically prepared for this meeting. The referral can only be received by registered candidates. Please note that candidates can only be registered after preparing and sending their full dossier.
After a referral, we will invite the adoptive parents to travel to Bulgaria.
The first trip is made in order to meet the child and usually lasts 6-7 days (5 working days to get to know the child and 1-2 days are spent in travel and settling in). The second trip takes 6-7 days. During this trip, the passport and visa (if needed) is issued and the adoption process is completed.
A specialist member of our team will support the adoptive parents throughout the adoption process.
ONE PARENT TRAVEL FOR MEETING THE CHILD
Usually both candidates travel to Bulgaria in order to meet the child after receiving a referral. There is, however, a possibility for only one of the adopters to make this trip.
In these cases, the adoptive candidate(s) who is not travelling to Bulgaria have to sign and send a notary certified declaration stating the reasons for not traveling to Bulgaria. The declaration must also include a statement that the candidate(s) accept the risk related to the origin and the future physical and mental status and development of the child. In this case an Authorization for his/her spouse will be needed.
WAIVING THE FIRST TRIP
If the candidates are not able to travel due to a well-grounded reason(s), a member of our team can meet the child instead. Acceptable reasons by law are illness, financial issues, urgent business engagements or major difficulties in travel arrangement.
In these cases, the adoptive candidate(s) have to sign and send a notary certified declaration stating the reasons for not traveling to Bulgaria. The declaration must also include a statement that the candidate(s) accept the risk related to the origin and the future physical and mental status and development of the child.
Recently the Ministry of Justice has been insistent that the adoptive parents carry out the personal contact with the child before making their final decision for the child’s adoption. Therefore, adoption procedures with having the first trip waived are allowed by way of exception, in the presence of any of the above-mentioned reasons. For that purpose, the Ministry of Justice requires an additional document (apart from the declaration) – a written explanation complied and signed by the adoptive parents and referring to the reasons preventing them from making the first trip to Bulgaria and having the personal meetings with the child.
PICK-UP THE CHILD
In case both are unable to do so, one of the adoptive parents may travel to Bulgaria to pick up the child. In this case an additional Authorization, signed by his/her spouse will be needed.
When the adoptive parents are not able to come and pick up their child, a member of our team can escort the child to the accepting country. In that case, the adoptive parents must sign and send additional documents including an Authorization of representation. Please note that this could result in the need of further administrative or legal procedures in the accepting country after the child’s arrival.
Important note: in the cases where the adoptive parents are US citizens, it is compulsory that they travel to Bulgaria and personally meet the child. In the cases where the first trip of the US adoptive parents has been waived, the escort service is not applicable.
PRESENTS AND DONATIONS
Giving presents to the child and donations to the orphanage is not obligatory but most adopters are willing to do so.
Our advice is to decide on this here in Bulgaria after a conversation with the director of the orphanage, who will give a more accurate picture of the most appropriate present for the child and the needs of the institution.
CAN I SEND PACKAGES AND GIFTS DIRECTLY TO THE ORPHANAGE?
Yes. However, the sender has to comply with the customs and tax rules, applicable in Bulgaria, which are the following:
1/ If a package is sent from a country within the EU, no VAT, custom or tax fees are due.
2/ If a package is sent from a country outside the EU, the following rules apply:
- if a package is sent person-to-person: no custom fee is charged for a package with declared value up to 45 Euro.
- if a package is sent from a company to a person/from a person to a company: no custom fee is charged for a package with declared value up to 15 Euro.
-If the declared value is higher than the above-stated, the package is held in Customs until the recipient comes to pick it up.
- Please note VAT is always due for a package with declared value between 15-150 Euro. If a package carries a declared value above 150 Euro, a custom fee is always due, on top of the VAT.
The additional fees and taxes are payable at the Customs' office upon receipt.
When a package is held by Customs, additional documents and fees are requested from the recipient. Thus the package cannot be delivered straight to the recipient and someone has to visit the Customs office to pick it up, bringing the necessary papers and paying the additional fees.
The orphanages are short-staffed and thus it is diificult for them to allocate someone to go to the local Customs office. They cannot pay any taxes or fees in order to receive a package. Therefore, should they receive a package which is held in Customs, they will be reluctant to go through the trouble of picking it up.
MEDICAL EXAMINATION OF CHILDREN
The candidates may request an extra examination to be held if the child has some health problem that bothers them. It is very important that the adoptive parents strictly specify in advance the type of examination, tests and specialists that they would like arranged. Family National Association will file an application to the Ministry of Justice for their permission and facilitation of those procedures. Such an examination can be organized and held before the visit of the candidate-adoptive parents or during the 5-day stay allocated to meeting the child. The candidates will be responsible for any incurred expenses related to requested examinations.
CAN GAY OR LESBIAN CANDIDATE ADOPT FROM BULGARIA
There are no legal restrictions on the sexual orientation of candidate-adoptive parents. Family National Association has submitted numerous inquiries regarding the matter to our Central Authority. Finally, we have received the written response of the Ministry of Justice. The translation adheres as much as possible to the original text.