Bulgaria to Ban Child Abandonment
Child abandonment will be forbidden by Bulgarian law within the next three years, the country's Deputy Social Minister Valentina Simeonova has announced.
"The Social Ministry and the Child Protection Agency are planning discussions with the Justice Ministry about some legal changes, according to which doctors, who consult mothers to abandon their children with disabilities, should be treated as criminals and punished with imprisonment," Simeonova said.
She has explained that a political decision has been made on closing all orphanages and institutes for abandoned children with physical and mental disabilities within 15 years.
Operational program "Regional Development has ensured EUR 20 M for this purpose. Another EUR 23 M are expected to come from the program for Human Resources Development.
Currently, there are 131 institutes in Bulgaria, accommodating 6,336 children. In 2001, the number of institutions was 165 and the children who lived there was 12,609.
The first closed institutions would be the ones for children with disabilities. Their number is 24 and their inhabitants are 1,386. Even though 300 of them are already adults, they still live in the institution because they cannot take care of themselves.
According to the new plans of the Social Ministry, they should be taken out of the institutitons in the next three years. Some of them would be taken back to their biological families and other would be accommodated in protected houses for 8-10 people. Psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers would be available for them all the time.
The next step of the reform includes the accommodation of the 450 children above three years of age who still live in institutions for children below three years of age.
The head of the Child Protection Agency, Nadya Shabani, has announced that all the children will be assessed by October 15 and will be accommodated in compliance with their health condition.
"A team of 276 expert from the agency is already working of the children assessments," Shabani said.
The last phase of the reform envisions the accommodation of children between 7-18 years of age.
Bulgaria's Deputy Social Minister has announced that they are planning the implementation of modern social services, which would help children from institutions change their living environment more easily.
"They will be accommodated only in big cities, so that qualified professionals could take care of them," Simeonova said and added that professionals have already began special trainings on the modern services.
She has also explained that new stimuli for foster parents are considered, in order to continue the development of foster parenting.
According to her, adoptions have also increased by 1/3. In the beginning of August, the children, registered for full adoption were 3,360.
Amendments to the current legislation envision a ban on returning already adopted children by their adoptive parents. Simeonova has stated that there are about 10 such cases in Bulgaria every years.
"The psychological traumas from returning an adopted child are drastic," she said.
The deputy minister pointed out that special attention would be paid on preventing child abandonment. She explained that there will soon be teams for family consultations, early identifying of mothers inclined to abandon their babies, consultations of pregnant women and for supporting mothers of children with disabilities.
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