1. The Parents
Heterosexual married couples, single women, and single men are allowed to adopt from Bulgaria; however, they do not knowingly place children with LGBTQ+ parents. In addition to meeting the USCIS requirements, Bulgaria requires prospective adoptive parents to be at least 15 years older than the adoptive child 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
Children from about 12 months of age to 18 years of age with moderate to non-correctable special needs wait in Bulgaria. Due to the domestic clearance process for international adoption, this program has almost no infant referrals, healthy or otherwise. Referrals of children who are both physically healthy and typically developing are quite rare. The effects of developmental trauma are prevalent in referrals from Bulgaria, whether due to poor orphanage care, neglectful or abusive circumstances in the families of origin, or both.
There are frequently sibling groups available for adoption; however, keeping the sibling groups together is not always a high priority. The Bulgarian government specifically focuses on placing older children and children with special needs. Therefore, prospective parents will wait longer if they have specified an infant, toddler, or child who is “as young as possible.” In 2022, most children placed were in the range of 5 to 12 years old.
Most children are of Roma (Gypsy) or Turkish descent. Occasionally, children of Bulgarian heritage 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 children in Bulgarian state care have been abandoned due to social stigmas and a lack of support for single mothers. Other factors for relinquishment to the orphanages include poverty, birth defects, or other anomalies diagnosed at birth. Many kids available for international adoption were relinquished, abandoned at birth, or removed from the home due to abuse and neglect. This tends to be especially true for older children/sib groups who are often physically healthy but suffered developmental trauma in their birth families’ care. Children with birth defects or anomalies diagnosed at birth tend to be the youngest children available because the parents abandon them or relinquish their rights immediately.
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 on the USCIS resource page for Bulgaria.
Submit your adoption application to your Hague-ratified adoption service provider (agency). Once approved, work with that agency to complete your adoption home study report. Your agency helps you assemble, notarize, and submit your required dossier documents to USCIS. Once approved, the dossier goes to a Bulgarian adoption agency licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice for approval 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. Referral wait times for relatively healthy toddlers and preschoolers can now be as long as 8 years from dossier registration. Most referrals issued in 2021 for relatively healthy children to 36 months of age were presented to families who had registered their dossiers before the end of 2014. In the traditional referral program, average wait times can be 4 years from dossier registration for children with special needs of varying degrees. However, toddlers with Down syndrome are referred with an average wait of 6 months from dossier registration.
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, the file will often 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. The second trip takes about two weeks and is typically about 3-4 months after the first.
6. The Program
The Bulgarian adoption program is gaining 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.
In 2022, 84 children were placed from Bulgaria into adoptive homes. This compares to 108 in 2021, 99 in 2020, and 134 in 2019. In 2022, approximately 40% of the children placed were boys, and 60% were girls.
7. The Cost
The Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Fee for 2022 for the Bulgaria program was $37,875.00, according to the State Department’s FY2022 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 $25,000 to $45,000 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 rarely 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 delays, behavioral and learning disorders, varied intellectual and physical disabilities, blindness, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and genetic syndromes or conditions. In the younger waiting children, there are commonly more complex multi-disabilities reported.
9. The Post-Adoption Reports
Per Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice requirements, the adoptive caseworkers must create and submit 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 The Hague Convention also requires compliance.
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
- US Department of State Intercountry Adoption from Bulgaria
- US Department of State Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, FY 2022
- US Department of State Adoption Statistics
- Creating a Family’s International Adoption Resource Page
- Agape Adoptions Bulgaria Program
- Hopscotch Adoptions Bulgaria Program
- World Links International Adoption Agency Bulgaria Program
This information is current as of September 2023 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