In early 2018, Vesta, one of MLJ’s partner agencies in Bulgaria, asked for our assistance to suggest potential curricula for a working group in which they were participating. The group of Accredited agencies in Bulgaria wanted to address the pre-preparation of children in Bulgaria for both domestic and international adoption.
Consisting of representatives from many authorities and institutions, such as the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Ministry of Health, National Agency for Protection of the Children, National Association for Social Support, Association of Foster Parents in Bulgaria, accredited agencies, the Mayor of Sofia, and others, the group worked tirelessly for many months. The idea of the program was that all the institutions and people involved in the daily care of the children would cooperate with outside specialists, such as psychologists, and with accredited agencies to ultimately provide better preparation for the children for adoption. Their goal was to make sure that the children are being provided with accurate and realistic information on the adoption procedure itself, help them understand the difference between a foster care family and an adoptive family, and help them be better able to cope with their fears and doubts about being adopted. With great enthusiasm, I shared some of the best practice information being used in the U.S.A.
On September 25, 2018, the working group proudly released Methodical Guidelines for Preparation of a Child for Adoption. This document provides guidelines and a questionnaire to be used by professionals who work with children who have been entered in the Bulgarian Registry and are eligible for adoption. Its overall goals are to facilitate adoption success and address each child’s specific case. The working group was detailed in listing areas to address:
- This training “allows the child to create new connections, attachments and trusting relationships.”
- The child will “receive emotional support for the purpose of a painless adoption into the new environment.”
- The child’s opinion is important on matters which concern him.
- The child should have the “right to shape his/her own perspectives…in compliance with age and level of maturity of the child.”
- The “child [should] be clearly and unambiguously informed about the alternative care.”
- The child should “receive support in forming his own perspectives” including seeking support from the community service providers.
- It is crucial to “clarify and ensure understanding of adoption” with the child.
- Vulnerable children who have been deprived of parental care and institutionalized need “necessary pre-adoption and post-adoption support.”
Other areas which were included in the report addressed considering the child’s previous relationship with his biological parents as a starting point of the preparation process. Children are to be reassured that placement outside of their home is not due to the child’s fault or his behaviors; rather, it is due to his family having a different set of expectations. He (the child) has a right to have loving parents and a forever family. If being placed in foster care, this is explained as a temporary arrangement and the foster parents’ role is discussed. The biological parents are not to be discussed negatively in front of the child.
When beginning the program, the child will work with a psychologist on areas of trauma, rejection, self-esteem, identity beyond his biological or foster parents, exploring feelings, and fears about adoption. Monthly, he will be observed by the foster care social worker where they will build trust and rapport, help the child develop a positive attitude about his future adoption and create a Lifebook to address his personal history, feelings, separation, and future plans. Children in each of the four variants or groups will have particular methods of training, topics of discussion, resources, supportive services, and timeframes aimed at maximizing the child’s developmental age and ability to understand. The 4 Variants are: Age 0-7; Older than 7; Severe or Multiple Physical or Mental Disabilities; and Sibling Groups. The work group has made every effort to assure the special needs of each group are being met in curriculum design, training timelines, consent to adoption, communication, sibling bonds, medical needs, mental health, supportive services, and foster parent support.
Bulgaria and this esteemed work group are to be commended for their many efforts in this area! They recognize the importance of adequately preparing a child for adoption as one of the best ways to assure the success of that adoption. They understand that children need such supportive services early in their adoption journey to help them build a positive opinion of themselves and address their prior feelings of parental rejection. Bulgaria operates their adoption program efficiently and ethically, not only by being a Hague Convention country, but also by expanding their services to reach every child available for adoption, regardless of age, mental/physical special needs or membership in a sibling group. MLJ Adoptions International is proud to work with Bulgaria and Vesta for international adoption and was excited to have contributed to this wonderful new education program!
If you want to pursue an adoption in Bulgaria, contact MLJ Adoptions International!