Step-by-step description of the process of adoption from Bulgaria:
At present the State and Territory Central Authorities perform intermediary functions in intercountry adoption in Australia.
- The competent State or Territory Central Authority sends to “Family National Association” the dossier of the candidate-adopters, which includes all the documents required for their registration;
- Once the dossier has been received and translated, our team prepares a petition, which is filed to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice along with the candidate-adopters’ dossier. The candidates get inscribed in the register, which is a list of the waiting prospective adopters with active status. The inscription in the register takes place within a 2-month period following the receipt of the candidates’ documents at “Family National Association”, provided that the documents are in the legally required form.
- The waiting period for a referral starts from the moment the candidates get registered. The waiting period varies in each specific case. It depends on the characteristics of the children, who are available for adoption at the time (for instance, age, gender, health condition) and on the characteristics of waiting candidate-adopters (namely, their general preferences, desired age of the child, the number of waiting candidates).
- The Intercountry Adoption Council reviews the applications following the order of their registration and refers the children to the candidates who are suitable for them. Once a child is referred for adoption, a package of documents is prepared, which is referred to as “referral”. Those documents are provided to “Family National Association”, who arrange their translation and then send them on to the competent State/Territory Central Authority. The package includes a referral certificate, a certificate with a full-length photo of the child and a detailed report about the child, which is prepared in accordance with Art.16 of the Hague Convention. Once the competent State/Territory Central Authority ascertain that the referral corresponds to the candidates’ eligibility and suitability, they bring it to their attention. In case the referral does not correspond to the candidate-adopters’ profile, the Central Authority return the documentation to the sending country and do not provide the information to the candidates.
- The next step is for the candidates to meet the child. The meetings with the child take place for 5 working days. During that time a specialist from our team accompanies the candidate-adopters and provides translation services and support to them.
- If the candidates refuse to adopt the child, the waiting period for a referral starts all over again. However, they could keep their position in the register in case they have not been informed about some significant health issues the child has, if the characteristics of the child referred to them do not correspond to the preferences they have stated, or in case they have applied to adopt a special needs child and subsequently they decided not to adopt that child.
- If the candidates want to proceed with the child’s adoption, they should sign the necessary paperwork, which is provided by “Family National Association”, and that usually happens while they are in Bulgaria. In order for the adoption procedure to continue, the respective State/Territory Central Authority correspondent to the candidate-adopters’ place of residence in Australia, have to issue their consent for the continuation of the procedure.
- After that the dossier is sent to the Sofia City Court. An attorney from our team represents the candidates before the court and performs all procedural actions by the time the court decree for the adoptions becomes legally effective.
- Once the court decree becomes legally effective (7 days following the court hearing), “Family National Association” assist the candidates with obtaining a certificate of compliance under Art.23 of the Hague Convention, a new birth certificate and a passport of the child.
- The adopters should travel to Bulgaria so as to pick up their child and complete the process of issuance of permission for the adopted child to enter Australia. The adopters can choose between two options: to apply for a Bulgarian international passport and an Australian visa for the child, or to apply for Australian citizenship and an Australian passport for the child. In case the adopters choose the first option, they file an application for an adoption visa to a regional office of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. They will then forward the documentation for processing to the regional office of the Department which is competent to process it with regards to the respective sending country. The adopters could also send the application for an adoption visa directly to the processing office of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Once the application for an adoption visa of the child is received, the child is to go through a mandatory medical examination so as to check if the child’s health condition meets the health requirements introduced by Australia. The clinic in Bulgaria that the Australian government has authorized to perform the medical examinations for immigration purposes is the “Vita” clinic in the city of Sofia. Some of the mandatory tests the adopted children have to undergo are the following: a general medical examination, a chest X-ray (in case the child has reached the age of 11 years), a HIV/AIDS test, a hepatitis B test, and any other tests that the medical specialist possibly requires. The only condition that could not be disregarded is the presence of active tuberculosis in the adopted child since currently tuberculosis is the only disease that the Department of Health and Ageing have stated as a public health risk for migration purposes and the only disease indicated in the Migration Regulations from 1994. In order for the adopters to be able to apply for Australian citizenship and an Australian passport for the child respectively, there is a mandatory condition for one or both of the adopters to be an Australian citizen(s), for the competent authority in the sending country to have issued the certificate under Art.23 of the Hague Convention, and for the adoption to have been acknowledged in Australia. Since there is no Embassy/Consulate of Australia in Bulgaria, the competent authority who should take a decision in view of the issuance of an adoption visa/ granting Australian citizenship, is the Australian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, or the Australian Embassy in Athens, Greece.
- “Family National Association” should receive a total of 4 post-adoption reports regarding the child’s development and condition – each of them is to be sent at every 6 months, for 2 years following the admission of the adoption.
Specific requirements regarding the documents for inscription in the register that are prepared for the candidate-adopters with habitual place of residence in Australia:
- Permission for adoption - issued by the respective State/Territory Central Authority in the form of an approval to adopt;
- A document, certifying that the candidate-adoptive parents have not been deprived of their parental rights, issued by respective State/Territory Central Authority;
- Home study report, prepared by an authorized social worker/psychologist at the respective State/Territory Central Authority;
- An updated Home study report or a document certifying the lack of any changes in the circumstances described in the report, prepared by an authorized social worker/psychologist at the respective State/Territory Central Authority;
- A document about the health condition of each of the adopters, prepared by a Doctor of Medicine.
- Criminal record certificates of the adopters, issued by the Australian Federal Police in the form of a National Police Certificate;
- A marriage certificate (for candidate-adopters who are married), issued in the form of an extract from the marriage registry, kept by the respective State/Territory in Australia;
- Authorization of representation from the adopters to the Bulgarian accredited organization that represents them;
- A declaration of information from the candidate-adopters under Art.20, clause 10 of Ordinance No.2/24.10.2014;
- A declaration from the candidate-adopters regarding the characteristics of the child they would like to adopt, and also regarding their motivation for adoption.
Requirements for Candidates
Requirements towards the candidate-adopters, as per the Australian legislation:
The basic requirements towards the candidate-adopters are similar in the different states and territories. A mandatory condition for all states/territories is for the candidate-adopters’ habitual place of residence to be in the same state/territory. There are some other specific requirements, as follows:
- For the state of New South Wales: A compulsory requirement is for couples to have lived together for at least 2 years. Single candidate-adopters can also apply for adoption. A pregnant candidate could not apply for adoption. If a candidate-adopter gets pregnant during the adoption process, the application should be put on hold by the end of the pregnancy. The minimum age of the adoptive applicants is 21 years. Adoptive applicants should be at least 18 years older than the adopted child. In case that the adopters already have a child in the family, they should wait for at least 10 months to pass before they could apply for the adoption of another child.
- For the state of Victoria: Couples should have lived together for at least 2 years. Single candidates are allowed to apply for adoption only if some special circumstances are present. The age requirements for the adopters residing in the state of Victoria were removed following the amendment of the legislation in 1998. However, it is specified that their age and health condition should be suitable and they should have the capacity to raise the adopted child by the time the child reaches the point of independence, while taking into consideration the possible age limitations regarding the applicants that are applied in the sending country. Whenever there is already a child in the adopters’ family, the state of Victoria requires that there is at least 2-year age difference between the children.
- For the state of Queensland: A compulsory requirement is for couples to have lived together for at least 2 years. An additional requirement is for at least one of the applicants to be an Australian citizen and also for the female applicant not to be pregnant at the time of filing the application. Single candidates can also apply for adoption. The minimum age of the adoptive applicants is 21 years. Male candidate-adopters should be at least 18 years older than the adopted child and female candidate-adopters should be at least 16 years older than the adopted child, unless the child has special needs. In case the candidate-adopters already have a child, that child should reach the age of 12 months before they could file an application for adoption. The applicants are not allowed to initiate another adoption procedure before 12 months have passed since the previous placement.
- For the state of Western Australia: The couples from Western Australia, who are willing to adopt a child, should have lived together for at least 3 years. Single candidate-adopters could also obtain a permission to adopt a child. At least one of the candidates in a married couple should be an Australian citizen. A child could not be placed in the family in case the female applicant is pregnant. The minimum age of the adoptive applicants is 18 years. There is a requirement for maximum age difference: In case the candidates apply for adoption for the first time, the younger applicant could not be more than 45 years older than the adopted child, and the older applicant could not be more than 50 years older than the adopted child. In case the candidate-adopters apply for another, subsequent adoption, the maximum age difference between the child and the adopters is 50 years and 55 years respectively. In case of single applicants, the maximum age difference with the adopted child is 45 years for applicants who apply for adoption for the first time, and 50 years for applicants who apply for adoption for a subsequent time. If there is already a child in the adoptive family, the adoptee should be the youngest child in the family and the age difference between the adoptee and the child in the family that is the closest in age should be at least 12 months, while at least 2 years should have passed since the latest child placement in the family.
- For the state of South Australia: The state of South Australia allows both married couples and cohabiting couples to apply to adopt a child together. At least one of the applicants in a couple should be an Australian citizen. The couples should have lived together for at least 3 years. Single candidate-adopters can also apply but some special circumstances need to be present so that a child is placed with them. There is no minimum or maximum age for the adopters residing in the state of South Australia, but their capacity to raise the adopted child is assessed by the competent authorities. Whenever there is a child in the adoptive family already, the state of South Australia requires for that child/children to have been part of the family for at least 12 months, and the family could not add another child to the family through adoption before 2 years following the latest placement in their family have passed.
- For the state of Tasmania: Adoptive applicants should have habitual place of residence in the state of Tasmania as well as Australian citizenship. In cases where a couple applies for adoption, at least one of the candidates should be an Australian citizen. The couples should have lived together for at least 3 years. The female applicant should not be pregnant at the time of the adoption. Single candidate-adopters could be allowed to apply for adoption if some special circumstances are present. The only limitation in terms of the candidate-adopters’ age is the requirement for minimum age difference of at least 18 years with the adoptee. In case there is already a child in the adoptive family, the state of Tasmania requires that there is at least 2-year age difference between the children, with the adopted child being the youngest child in the family.
- For the Australian Capital Territory: Adoptive applicants should have habitual place of residence in the Australian Capital Territory and at least one of the candidates should be an Australian citizen. The couples should have lived together for at least 3 years. The female applicant should not be pregnant. If the female applicant gets pregnant during the adoption process, the adoption process would be terminated and the family’s application could be reactivated no sooner than 18 months following the birth of the baby the family is expecting. Although that is not stated in the legislation, as part of their practice the Department which performs the functions of Central Authority under the Hague Convention have introduced a requirement for the candidate-adopters filing an application for adoption for the first time to have reached the minimum age of 25 years. There are no other limitations in terms of age. The candidate-adopters who would like to adopt again should file an application for their next adoption at least 12 months after the previous child placement in their family and there should be at least 2-year age difference between the children.
- For the Northern Territory: At least one of the candidates should be an Australian citizen. Married couples, who have been married for at least 2 years, are allowed to apply for adoption. In case the female applicant gets pregnant, the family’s application is to be withdrawn, although this limitation is not part of the legislation. Single candidate-adopters are allowed to adopt if some special circumstances are present. The following age limitations have been introduced: the candidates should have reached the minimum age of 25 years and they should be at least 25 years older than the adopted child. In cases where the adopted child will be the first and only child in the family at the time, the age difference between the child and the adopters should not exceed 40 years. In cases where the candidate-adopters have experience in child care, the maximum age difference is 45 years. Exceptions are possible if some special circumstances are present and depending on the assessment of the competent authorities. As per the requirements of the Northern Territory, the candidate-adopters could not add more children to their family before 2 years have passed from the last placement in their family.