1. The Parents
Heterosexual married couples, single women, and single men are allowed to adopt from Bulgaria. USCIS requires parents to be at least 25 years old and at least one parent must be a citizen if adopting as a married couple. Further, Bulgaria required that prospective adoptive parents must be at least 15 years older than the adoptive child. Bulgaria does not knowingly place with LGTBQ+ parents. Applicants must be in generally good health, with no serious, chronic diseases or other life-threatening illnesses. Individuals with a medical condition, including mental health diagnosis, may be considered and should work with a Hague-ratified agency to proceed.
2. The Family
There are no restrictions on the number of children already in the home of the receiving family. There are no specific restrictions on annual income or financial status. However, families must meet 1.25 times the U.S. poverty guidelines, as this is a requirement of USCIS in all intercountry adoption cases.
3. The Kids
The healthy children who are available for adoption, or those with minor needs, typically range from ages 8 to 15 years old. “Waiting children” or those with more significant diagnoses or needs are usually from 1 to 8 years old. There are frequently sibling groups available for adoption, however keeping the sibling groups together is not always a high priority. The Bulgarian government tends to specifically focus on placing older children and children with special needs; therefore, there is a longer wait for healthy infants or toddlers.
Most children are of Roma (Gypsy) or Turkish descent. Occasionally there are children of Bulgarian heritage, but they usually have identified special needs diagnoses. Families may not request a specific ethnicity, but they can choose an age range and a gender. The wait for girls is longer than the wait for boys.
Most of the children in Bulgarian state care have been abandoned due to social stigmas and lack of support for single mothers. Other factors for relinquishment to the orphanage system include poverty, birth defects or other anomalies diagnosed at birth. Most of the kids available for international adoption were relinquished or abandoned at birth and have not been removed from the home due to abuse and neglect.
4. The Process
Because Bulgaria is a Hague Convention participant, the process follows the guidelines outlined by those parameters. Generally, the process follows these steps, and specific details of the process can be found at the USCIS resource page for Bulgaria.
Submit your adoption application to your chosen Hague-ratified adoption service provider (agency). Once approved, work with that agency to complete your adoption home study report. Your agency then helps you assemble, notarize, and submit your required dossier documents to USCIS. Once that is approved, the dossier goes to a Bulgarian adoption agency that has been licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice for approvals and then to be matched for a referral. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for issuing referrals.
Once you receive and accept the referral of a specific child, further documentation and approvals for that child are completed. Typically, referrals for healthy children take up to 3 years, while referrals for children with identified needs or diagnoses take about 3-12 months from dossier submission to the Ministry of Justice.
The Bulgarian referral files tend to be detailed medical/social histories. Currently, the files are among the most comprehensive in international adoption. In addition to written records, quite often the file will include pictures and a video of the child interacting in a social setting. After immigration paperwork for the child is filed and approved, arrangements will be made to travel to give you time to meet your child. Your US agency will also work with you to file the final paperwork, to assure that the child you have agreed to adopt can immigrate legally with you at the end of your process.
5. The Travel
Bulgaria requires two short trips, one to meet with the child, and one to pick your kid up at the end of the adoption process. The Bulgarian agency arranges for a chaperone who speaks English and will accompany you to the child’s orphanage and official appointments. The first trip lasts one week in Bulgaria. You are not required to be in-country for the final court proceedings – the Bulgarian agency represents US parents in the adoption court. Your second trip is to escort your new child home with the proper legal documentation in hand. The second trip takes about two weeks, and is typically about 3-4 months after the first trip.
6. The Program
The Bulgarian adoption program is growing in popularity because of its non-restrictive eligibility requirements. It’s especially attractive to those interested in older child adoption. As a Hague-compliant program, it is considered stable and predictable. 134 children were placed in US homes through the program in 2019.
7. The Cost
The Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Fee for 2019 for the Bulgaria program was $14,025.00, according to the State Department’s FYE 2019 Annual Report. This does not include documentation and notarizations required for a dossier or education fees. Therefore, families should expect their total cost to range from $22,000 – $30,000 plus travel expenses.
8. The Needs
Alcoholism is known to be a serious social and medical problem in many Eastern European countries. International adoption clinics have reported higher incidences of FASD in former Soviet bloc countries. An FASD diagnosis is almost never made in Bulgaria or included in a child’s medical files, although some children are diagnosed once they have been adopted.
Other common needs in the medical files or referrals include unknown developmental delay, behavioral and learning disorders, intellectual and physical disabilities, blindness, autism spectrum disorder, and Down syndrome.
9. The Post-Adoption Reports
Per Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice requirements, adoptive parents must complete four post adoption reports to be filed at 6-, 12-, 18- and 24-months home.
Many agencies will provide these reports as part of their adoption provider services. Please inquire with your agency or home study provider about this process and the financial aspects of those services.
These reports must include your child’s developmental progress and pictures. Post-adoption reports are a serious commitment, as compliance is also required by The Hague Convention.
Creating a Family always urges families to comply with post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your cooperation contributes to the program’s stability and adds to Bulgaria’s history of positive experiences with US citizen parents.
10. The Additional Resources
- The US Department of State Intercountry Adoption from Bulgaria
- The Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption
- Creating a Family’s International Adoption Resource Page
- Agape Adoptions Bulgaria Program – a Creating a Family Education Partner
- World Links International Adoption Agency Bulgaria Program – a Creating a Family Education Partner
- Spence Chapin Services to Families and Children Bulgaria Program – a Creating a Family Partner
This information is current as of June 2021 and represents our best estimates and approximations only. Depending upon your individual circumstances, even the widest ranges can vary greatly. Please always refer back to your chosen adoption service provider for specifics regarding your process.
This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency approved to place from this country for the most current information.
© Creating a Family
Image Credit: Paradox.Photo; Sami C