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 10 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 10 years of age are being received much faster, especially for boys, who are currently more numerous than girls.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTIVE PARENT
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. Our services include two referrals per each adoption case.
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 absoltely healthy children up to 5 years of age - around 6 years
- For absolutely healthy children up to 7 years of age- around 4-5 years
- For absolutely healthy children between 7 and 9 years of age - around 3-4 years
- For absolutely healthy children 10 years old or up - around 2 to 6 months
- For a sibling group where one of the children is 10 years old or up- around 1-3 months
If relatively minor health issues/developmental delays in the above-written groups of children are accepted by the adoptive parents, the period might be reduced.
If more severe health issues/developmental delays 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. Following a conversation with the Ministry of Justice in May 2014 we found out that currently the number of boys registered for adoption prevails the number of girls. All prospective adoptive parents should keep that in mind. Information about any subsequent changes with regards to this will be provided when available.
For the prospective adoptive parents who apply for children included in the program for children with special needs or at higher age, the above-stated waiting periods are not valid. In the so-called special needs program, the prospective adoptive parents apply for the adoption of a specific child/ren/sibling group and after they are matched (which usually happens about a month following the submission of their application), they are given a 6-month deadline to complete their dossier. This deadline could be prolongued by 3 months if a copy of the prospective adoptive parents' home study report gets submitted to the Ministry of Justice.
***2020/2021 UPDATE***: Please note that the above estimation is exclusively based on our work experience before the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic. For the time being we are unable to make any specific predictions about possible timelines despite the fact that the adoption process has not stopped and is ongoing, albeit with more difficulty and while adhering to all measures against the spread of the epidemic.
HOW TO MAIL DOCUMENTS TO FNA:
We regularly receive packages with documents mailed to us via DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT, etc. courier services that deliver the package to our door. If a package is sent with another courier service and gets held at customs, in order to receive it we have to send a member of our staff to the customs office so that the package gets released and handed over which is quite inconvenient, time-consuming and accumulating extra expenses for us. Thus, if a mailing service different from the ones listed above is used and the package gets held at customs, FNA will request from the sender to cover the accumulated additional expenses for having the package released and received.
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. In view of the fact that the Sofia City Court did not admit the possibility for the final consent of the Minister of Justice to be signed by the Deputy Minister of Justice, in many cases the timeframe could reach up to 6 months, namely due to that procedural specifics.
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, the medical certificate must include more detailed information and the respective medical specialist should give their opinion regarding the adopter's medical condition and their eligibility to adopt in view of this medical condition. It is advisable that in those cases the medical certificate is renewed and submitted to the Ministry of Justice on a yearly basis, while the adoption process is in progress. In the medical certificate, the doctor's signature and seal have to be notary certified (so the notary's seal, signature,etc. should practically follow the doctor's signature on the medical certificate).
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.
MOST FREQUENT DIFFICULTIES WHEN ADOPTING OLDER CHILDREN
- cultural differences - teenagers who have been raised in a family environment have completely different behavior from the children at that age who have been raised in institutions or foster families. Whereas children raised in families feel the support of their parents and have their example to follow from the very beginning of their lives, institutionalized children have to survive by themselves and thus they have the confidence of independent individuals, who are often reluctant to obey their new parents' will. That is why the bans/restrictions/rules, etc. imposed by adopters are most often interpreted as somewhat "hostile acts" by children at that age. We believe adopters should try to first be friends with their adopted children and remain close to their emotions, needs and wishes.
- change in the child’s attitude towards the adoption process- As per the Bulgarian legislation, children who have turned 10 years of age are summit to court so as to share their opinion about the adoption and children who have turned 14 years of age are summit to give their consent to be adopted by the specific adoptive parent(s). FNA is not in a position to provide any kind of guarantees about the children’s positive attitude towards the adoption. Although we do our very best so as to make a thorough research about the child’s attitude towards the adoption by getting in touch with the social worker(s), orphanage staff, etc upfront, there is no way that FNA could actually guarantee that an adoption procedure would be successful. For example, a child might state they do not like their adoptive family for some reason. It is also possible for the child to change their mind during the process and even if they are positive before the family's arrival and during their personal meetings, the last hearing on what the child has to say about the adoption is the court hearing.
- unpreparedness of the adoptive parents to handle the adopted children's upbringing - In order for cases of unsuccessful adaptation following the adoption to be avoided, FNA, through its foreign partners, only selects well-prepared prospective adoptive parents possessing abilities and resources to raise the adopted children. Our adoptive parents have at their disposal our full support in case of issues or difficulties during the course of the procedure but we do not tolerate nor recommend uncommitted and unprepared prospective adoptive parents as the child's best interest is our top priority.
CONSEQUENCES IN CASE OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS BY US PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE PARENTS
- need for an updated home study report
- need for a new I800A
All of this leads to additional expenses and delays in the procedure. FNA's advice is that, if possible, PAPs should not undertake such changes during the course of an ongoing adoption procedure.
COMPULSORY REQUIRED VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19 FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN (applicable to US adoption cases only)
In November, 2021 it was announced that the US CDC is introducing a compulsory Covid-19 vaccination requirement for visa applicants 12 years of age or older.
Families adopting children who are 10 years of age or younger can still submit the Affidavit Concerning Exemption from Immigrant Vaccination Requirements for a Foreign Adopted Child (Form DS-1981).
For all other cases, the "blank waiver" will not be applicable for the children adopted from Bulgaria because the criteria cannot be met:
- Not age-appropriate - this requirement is not applicable for Bulgaria because the Bulgarian Ministry of Health has permitted vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine for children who are 5 years of age or older
- Not routinely available where the panel physician practices; or Limited in supply and would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive the vaccination - this requirement is not applicable for Bulgaria because there are Pfizer vaccines routinely available and there is no limitation in the supply.
The only applicable option for having a "blank waiver" is when the vaccine is considered "Contraindicated due to a medical condition". This option would be available in the cases where the child has severe special needs and a medical commission on vaccinations in Bulgaria had issued a decree for the child to be exempt from all vaccinations.
The other option that was discussed as generally available is to apply for individual waivers based on religious beliefs or moral convictions by submitting Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. However, in order for such a form to be submitted, the child should have received a refusal for visa first. Also, the review of the form takes quite a long time, possibly even up to an year. All of the above makes this option inapplicable for the adoption cases in Bulgaria because of the extreme delay it could bring to the adoption, especially keeping in mind that the form has to be submitted after the court decree has entered into legal form.
The above requirement has made the Bulgarian Central Authority start requesting that prospective adoptive parents of children 10 years of age or older submit Declarations of consent for Covid-19 vaccination.
All of the above causes additional expenses that are not included in the adoption procedure and must be covered by the adoptive parents.
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 days (5 working days to get to know the child and 1 day (usually in the weekend) spent in traveling to where the child is and settling in). The second trip takes 6-7 days. Note: in case of adoption by US citizens, the second trip takes about 10 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/SHORTER TRIP FOR MEETING THE CHILD
Usually both candidates travel to Bulgaria in order to meet the child after receiving a referral.
In case where there are well-grounded reasons either only one of the adoptive candidates travel to Bulgaria and/or the meetings can last less than 5 days.
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/staying less than 5 days in 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.
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.
WHAT IS FNA'S ROLE IN POST-ADOPTION MONITORING
FNA follows up and reminds the agencies responsible for the post-adoption monitoring about the dates and the timely submission of the post-adoption reports, which we have to present to the Ministry of Justice by the respective due dates.
For any issues that arise during the post-adoption period, FNA is obliged to only notify the Ministry of Justice in writing, whereas the local competent authorities, agencies and specialists support adopters and their adopted children in overcoming the problems they encounter.
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:
- If a package is sent from a country within the EU, no VAT, custom or tax fees are due.
- 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.
The information above has been updated as of February 2019.