Bulgaria and Roma Adoption

Spence-Chapin’s Bulgaria adoption program has placed children with permanent, loving families since 1995. During this time, we’ve come to discover Bulgaria as one of Eastern Europe’s treasures; a country steeped in tradition, but with modern sensibilities.

BulgariaBulgaria’s history is vast and its culture rich. Bordered by Romania in the North, Serbia and Macedonia in the West, Greece and Turkey in the South and the Black Sea in the East, Bulgaria is centrally located on key land routes from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.The size of Tennessee, Bulgaria is the 14th largest nation in Europe and boasts wondrous landscapes ranging from lowlands and river valleys, to mountains of varying elevations.

The first Bulgarian state was formed in the late 7th century when The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled to assert its autonomy against the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Turks, eventually succumbing to the rule of both.

sofiaIn recent history, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People’s Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990 and a democratic constitution was instituted in 1997. Today, Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy and is on the international stage as a member of the European Union, NATO, Council of Europe and a founding member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Bulgarians take great pride in their literature, arts, music, and architecture which is mainly of Thracian, Slavic, and Bulgar heritage, with Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Persian and Celtic influences.

Oilcape

Visitors and citizens alike enjoy the wild, wooded mountain ranges dotted with villages, vibrant cities, and long sandy beaches hugging the Black Sea Coast. Bulgaria is home to over 200 museums and architectural wonders such as Byzantine Medieval fortresses, Thracian sanctuaries and tombs, and a multitude of churches, monasteries and mosques. The landscape features mineral springs, picturesque beaches, and the highest point of the Balkan peninsula, Musala (9,596 ft.), lending itself to spa retreats, water sports and hiking.

romachildren

Image courtesy of Ron Corso © 2014 Ron Corso

But underneath the rich sights and sounds, there is an imbalance. Bulgarians are the main ethnic group and comprise 84.8% of the population, with Turkish and Roma (Gypsy) minorities comprising 8.8 and 4.9 percent. Oftentimes discriminated against, the Romani are descended from low-caste Indian migrants who immigrated to Bulgaria during the Middle Ages. The Romani practice nomadic lifestyles based around selling their wares and skills, and as such, must combat an entrenched social stigma. The Romani experience a high rate of child abandonment due to poverty and limited resources such as health care, public transportation and sanitation. Unfortunately, Roma children in need of homes are usually on the losing side of stereotypes and discrimination and are typically not adopted domestically by Bulgarian families.

Image courtesy of Ron Corso © 2014 Ron Corso

Image courtesy of Ron Corso © 2014 Ron Corso

Spence-Chapin partners with ANIDO, a Bulgarian non-governmental organization licensed by the Ministry of Justice, Bulgarian’s central authority for adoption. The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice maintains a waiting child registry of over 1,800 children that are primarily Roma. Bulgaria prioritizes finding families for these vulnerable children. Those available for adoption are school-age, sibling groups, and children with medical issues.

Call us to learn more about adopting from Bulgaria – 212-400-8150 or
info@spence-chapin.org
.

You can read one parent’s story about her Bulgaria adoption experience.

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Bulgaria

1. Bulgarians shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no.

nod yes

2. Bulgaria produces 70% of the rose oil in the world, which is primarily used in fragrances but is also known for being great for your skin.

rose oil

3. Founded seven thousand years ago, Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is the second oldest city in Europe and the biggest and most developed city in Bulgaria.

Sofia, Bulgaria

4. Spartacus, gladiator and escaped slave during the time of the Roman Empire is from modern day Bulgaria. Roman ruins have been unearthed throughout Bulgaria and excavations of artifacts continue to this day.

spartacus

5. Bulgarians have led the way in technological advances, including the invention of the first electronic computer, digital watch and car air bag.

1st electronic computer

6. People often think Bulgaria was part of the former Soviet Union as their Communist party aligned with the Soviet government. Communism ended in 1989 in Bulgaria and the government is now a parliamentary democracy and part of the European Union. The current Prime Minister of Bulgaria is Boyko Borisov; Borisov is also known in Bulgaria for being the oldest professional football (soccer) player.

Boyko Borisov

7. Bulgarian cuisine is largely Mediterranean. Food staples include giant stuffed grape leaves; a feta-like white cheese; salads of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers and parsley, tossed with vinaigrette; and tarator, a combination of Bulgarian yogurt, cucumber, olive oil and garlic. Bulgarian yogurt has a unique taste due to the herb-rich pastures Bulgarian cows and sheep graze and the bacteria used to make it. Lactobacillus bulgaricus, the local strain of bacteria used in Bulgarian yogurt, is so popular that its biggest importers include the European Union, United States and Japan.

bulgarian salad

8. Some of the oldest trees in the world can be found in Bulgaria’s forests which cover 35% of the land; most of the forest has been designated with environmental protection by the European Union.

Bulgarian forest

9. Bulgaria is located in southeastern Europe. Considering its size, Bulgaria has a huge variety of topographical features, including over 540 rivers, mountain ranges, and beaches along the Black Sea.  The southern part of Bulgaria bordering Macedonia and Greece experiences Mediterranean climates while other regions experience a broader range of seasonal changes in temperature.

map of Bulgaria

10. “Name Days” are celebrated in addition to birthdays in Bulgaria. As a matter of fact, most Bulgarians value their ‘Name Day’ more than their birthday. A Name Day, or “Saints Day” is celebrated by people named after a particular Saint (e.g. everyone named Peter celebrates Saint Peter’s day).

happy name day

 

Click here to learn more about our Adoption from Bulgaria program online.

 

 

Reasons Roma Children Need Loving Families

kids

Roma people represent around 12 million of Europe’s overall population and Bulgaria is home to the third largest population of Roma in the world. We see this reflected in the large population of Roma children in need of families in Spence-Chapin’s Bulgaria adoption program. Though the Roma are an estimated 5% to 10% of the general population in Bulgaria, around 60% of the children in need of permanent families are of Roma descent. Why are such a large number of Roma children in need of adoptive families?

_49096443__49044278_europe_roma_popnTo begin scratching the surface of why many Roma children are waiting for families in Bulgaria, exploring the larger scope of Romani history is an important first step. The Roma make up the largest and most vulnerable ethnic group in Europe. After migrating from India over a thousand years ago, the Roma people have endured oppression and discrimination. Yet quite remarkably, they have been able to preserve Romani language and culture.  You may be more familiar with a commonly used term for Roma – “gypsy”. This term is an outdated and historically inaccurate word stemming from a time when Roma people were thought to have come from Egypt. As the term has negative and derogatory connotations, the most widely accepted term today is Roma.

article-2486333-1922058400000578-107_964x635Centuries of structural discrimination and social exclusion have led to the difficulties that Roma people are faced with today, leaving Roma children vulnerable and, at times, in need of loving homes outside of their birth families. The most prevalent issues faced by Roma families include discrimination, poverty, and limited access to education and medical care. While it can be difficult to picture the realities of what social exclusion may look like for a Roma child in Bulgaria, poverty is the most common reason Roma children are over-represented in child care facilities. The World Bank estimates that the poverty rate for families of Roma descent is 6.7 times greater than non-Roma in Bulgaria. Housing conditions illustrate a powerful snapshot of what living in poverty can look like for a Roma family. While sewage and water supply are available to 93% of the Bulgarian population, 50% of Roma families have no sewage and over 30% of families do not have access to a water supply system.

romanogrenci[1]Regular school attendance can be difficult for Roma children due to circumstances caused by poverty. Issues include a lack of transportation, caring for younger siblings and experiencing discrimination in the school system. Teenagers who experience unplanned pregnancy are also faced with difficulties not only in school attendance but also with their health due to a lack of medical care access. This culminates in only 13% of Roma people with high school diplomas compared to 87% of employed non-Roma Bulgarians.

gypsiesLower levels of education lead to higher levels of unemployment and combined with the discrimination faced when seeking work, the Roma experienced an unemployment rate of 59% in 2010 while the national average for unemployment in Bulgaria was 11.6%. Since joining the European Union in 2007, many Roma who have not been able to find employment in Bulgaria have migrated to other European countries for job opportunities. This can create a difficult decision for parents who may not be able to parent their children as they leave the country and then choose to make an adoption plan.

Another factor in the over-representation of Roma children who are adopted internationally highlights the discrimination the Roma people receive within Bulgaria. If a child cannot be raised with their birth family, it is the best choice for a child to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country. Due to a long history of falsely held beliefs and discrimination against the Roma population, Bulgarian families may choose to adopt ethnic Bulgarian children, leaving Roma children waiting longer to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country.

Hundreds of years of oppression have created an environment where Roma children are more vulnerable to factors that leave children in need of a family. While the reasons any Roma child in Bulgaria are in need of a family are complex, Spence-Chapin’s mission is simple – to find families for the most vulnerable children. We are committed to the idea that all children deserve a forever family, regardless of their age or medical condition.  There are thousands of school-age children, sibling groups, and children with special needs languishing in orphanages and foster care in Bulgaria.  These children blossom when given the opportunity, support, and resources to live within the stability and safety of a permanent loving family.

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To learn more about adoption through our Bulgaria program or to view profiles of Waiting Children in Bulgaria ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at info@spence-chapin.org..

 

Waiting Children in Bulgaria

re-sized bulgaria photo
The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice maintains a waiting child registry that lists over 1,800 older children, siblings, and children with special needs who are eligible for international adoption but have not yet found families. Bulgaria prioritizes finding families for the most vulnerable children and updates the waiting child registry monthly.

During our recent visit to Bulgaria we were struck by how many healthy sibling groups are waiting for families. Children are primarily Roma, an ethnic minority within the country, and are typically cared for in institutional settings although foster care is increasingly more common. Families open to adopting siblings recognize that sibling groups have diverse histories and ages, with the oldest child being at least 8 years old. It is our hope to find homes for many of these children with loving American families. In addition to siblings, there are many children with significant special needs who are waiting for families. In Bulgaria, some of the most common special needs include hydrocephaly, moderate or severe cognitive delays, down syndrome, and spina bifida.

Due to the priority of the Ministry of Justice to place the most vulnerable children with adoptive families, we expect families to experience a quick match time – between 6-12 months. Families open to adopting siblings may be matched within a few months of submitting their paperwork to Bulgaria. Once a child has been identified, the inter-country adoption intermediary, ANIDO, has the opportunity to visit the child to gain more information and to take photos and videos. When a family’s paperwork has been submitted to Bulgaria, their application is prioritized and the legal process of finalizing the adoption comes into effect.

Families interested in learning more about the history and trends in Bulgarian adoptions can see up-to-date statistics from the US Embassy in Sophia or the Department of State. The Bulgarian adoption program has seen an increase in placements in the past few years, showing the country’s commitment to de-institutionalization and finding permanency for the children in their care.

Spence-Chapin is committed to finding permanent families for the world’s most vulnerable children. We are reducing financial barriers for adoptive families who open their lives and hearts to a school-age child/sibling group with special needs.

Learn more about Spence-Chapin and our Bulgaria program.

 

A Helping Hand in Bulgaria

adoption bulgariaGuest post from Lizanne C., a Spence-Chapin adoptive parent.

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I waited what felt like an eternity for the phone call. I was emotionally and financially invested in what would be the most meaningful event in my life – the adoption of my little boy. The long journey was frustrating and the waiting was a real test of my endurance and patience.

But then, I got THE call. I had to drop everything quickly – my job, my family, my friends, and my life as I knew it.

Adopting as a single mom,  I flew to Bulgaria the first time alone. I was very anxious about navigating in a foreign land about which I knew virtually nothing. After a touchdown on Bulgarian soil, I could only hope that my street smarts, my intellectual wherewithal, and the good Lord would guide me rather than my emotions.  But, like the poem, “Footprints in the Sand”, there was ANIDO. During what could have been the most difficult, frustrating, and frightening experience in my life, ANIDO was there to carry me.

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Celebrate Roma Culture at the Gypsy Festival

For a fresh, modern take on Romani culture, don’t miss the events during the  8th Annual New York Gypsy Festival, starting September 8th and running through the 30th.

This festival celebrates the Romani diaspora, a people widely spread throughout the world, to transcend barriers of location, language, and status, for a true celebration of roots and ethnicity in music, art, and dance.

 

 

 

 

The film screening of A People Uncounted, a 2011 documentary about the Roma will surely be a festival highlight. It uncovers the rich, and sometimes painful, history of the Roma, who, now, are commonly referred to as Gypsies. The critically acclaimed, feature-length film was directed by Aaron Younger and edited by Kurt Engefh.

The Gypsy Festival will present a special screening of this film on Tuesday, September 18th @ 6:00pm

Watch a preview for A People Uncounted, here: