Republic of Bulgaria ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption on 31st January 2002. The Convention was enforced and became part of the Bulgarian legislation on 01.09.2002. The newly adopted Family Code and legislative acts in relation to it provide numerous guarantees in the intercountry adoptions process for protection of child’s interest, its basic rights and in accordance with art. 21 of the Convention on Child’s Rights.
The Central Authority under the Hague Convention is the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for all the activities, related to the intercountry adoptions.
The Intercountry Adoption Council (IAC) at the Ministry of Justice has important consultative powers in relation to the international adoptions. The IAC is a permanent body,that has sessions on a weekly basis and among its main functions is to approve the matchings of the children.
According to Bulgarian legislative acts in force, intercountry adoption procedure is facilitated exclusively via accredited bodies having obtained permission from the Ministry of Justice and duly registered as such in the public register maintained by the Ministry of Justice. “Happy Family” NGO is such body.
Subsidiarity of Intercountry adoption
Under the provisions of art. 110 of the Family Code, a child with habitual residence in Republic of Bulgaria can be adopted by a person with habitual residence in another country only after all possibilities for adoption by prospective Bulgarian adopters are exhausted and the child is entered in the register under art. 113, par. 1, item 1 of the Family Code.
Each child available for adoption between 1 and 18 years of age is entered in the Register for adoptions in the respective Social Welfare Directorate at the place of residence of the child.
Within one month after the child has been entered in the register, the Adoptions Council of the Regional Social Welfare Department is obliged to identify suitable prospective adoptive parents, according to art. 95, par. 1 of the Family Code.
If, 6 months after the child has been recorded in the regional register no suited adoptive parents habitually residing in Bulgaria have been approved, or no less than three sets of prospective adoptive parents habitually residing in Bulgaria have been identified and none of them have applied for adoption, the information for the child is automatically sent to the Ministry of Justice (acting as Central Authority for Intercountry Adoptions) for determining a suitable foreign adoptive parents.
A child with habitual residence in Republic of Bulgaria can be adopted by a person with habitual residence in another country only in case the child is entered in the National Register maintained by the Ministry of Justice.
A child with habitual residence in Republic of Bulgaria can be adopted by foreign citizens only under the terms of a full adoption.
Twins are adopted together as a rule; they may be adopted separately only in exceptional cases. Siblings are also adopted together if they are emotionally attached to each other.
Subject to Art. 113, par. 1, point 1 of the Family Code within 60 days from the entering of a child in the Register, the IAC reviews the applicants to select a suited prospective adopter in compliance with the criteria set out in art. 95, par. 1, namely: following the chronological order of prospective adopters appearing in the Register, their preferences and any circumstances of significant importance to the child's interests.
The following information should be provided for each child that is filed in the Register to the Ministry of Justice: personal details of the child, ethnic origin, registered address, full information regarding child’s health condition, the names of the parents and information about their contact with the child, name of siblings and information about the relationship between the child and its siblings.
Entering the Applicants in the Register of the Ministry of Justice
Foreign citizens who wish to adopt a Bulgarian child should provide by Accredited organization in Bulgaria (“Happy Family“ NGO) an application to the Ministry of justice and the documents required by the law for their entry in the public register of Ministry of Justice - the respective documents in Section I from “Documents”. The application shall be considered within one month period after its submission. In case the necessary set of documents is complete and in accordance with the legal requirements, the candidate shall be entered in the National Register maintained by the Ministry of Justice.
In case there are any faults or incomplete sections in the application and attached documents, the Ministry of Justice shall inform the adopting party and forward instructions for their removal within one month. In case the faults are not eliminated within the above mentioned period, the batch shall be closed and all documents shall be returned to the candidate.
Receiving a Proposal
After the applicants are entered into the National Register maintained by the Ministry of Justice, a proposal for a child with a profile within the applicants’ range of acceptance can be expected. It is difficult to specify a period of time within which the proposal will be received - this depends on the age of the child to be adopted, his/her health condition, etc. It is important to know that Bulgarian law does not specify any time frames on receiveing a proposal (referral).
By evaluating the information for every single child, IAC selects prospective adopters from the register of waiting families. By making its decision the IAC is guided by the chronological order prospective adopters were recorded in the Register, their preferences for a child, the prospective adopter's ability to ensure the physical, mental and social well-being of the child, as well as any information about the personality of the adopters and other circumstances pertaining to the adoption.
IAC sends formal proposal to the Minister of Justice to approve a suitable adoptive parent- foreigner. The Minister of Justice gives his approval of the adoption or stating his reasons to decline such. In case the candidate is approved for the adoption of a certain child, the Minister of Justice issues an Approval certificate for starting the adoption procedure. The above mentioned certificate together with a report for the child and his/ her picture shall be sent to the central authority in the accepting country /of the adopting party ordinary residence/ and to the Accredited organization in Bulgaria (“Happy Family” NGO).
Travel to Bulgaria and personal contact
Within two months after receiving the report, the adopters should organize their travel to Bulgaria, make personal contact with the child for at least 5 days in the respective institution, in which he/she is placed and express their consent or refusal for the procedure to continue. During the contact the adoptive parents will be accompanied by a representative from Accredited organization in Bulgaria (“Happy Family“ NGO).
In extraordinary cases, if the prospective adopters are unable to meet the child in person due to illness, financial difficulties, business commitments or difficulties in travel arrangements, only one of them shall meet the child and/or the contact could be a shorter period of time. In this case the adopters shall justify and explain why they have been unable to meet the child in person and provide a notarized declaration that they accept any risks relating to the child’s origin and future physical and mental state and development.
Accepting the Proposal
Within the same period of two months, adopters should explicitly provide their written consent or refusal for the procedure to continue.
In case adopters provide their consent for the procedure to continue, after meeting the child in person, in order to testify their willingness to adopt the child, the applicants, while still in Bulgaria, should sign in front of a notary the respective documents in Section II from “Documents”. The signing of these documents could take place in their country of residence. After returning to their country of residence, the applicants should prepare and send to the Accredited organization in Bulgaria (“Happy family“ NGO) the respective documents in Section III from “Documents”.
Within the same two-month period, Accredited organization in Bulgaria (“Happy Family“ NGO) has the obligation to present to the Ministry of Justice all these documents, translated into Bulgarian and apostilised and to start the legal adoption procedure. As an exception, the two-month term can be prolonged by one month due to unforeseen circumstances.
Rejecting the Proposal - Consequences
The prospective adoptive parents have the right to reject the proposal for adopting an identified child. The rejection should be done in a written form and should be motivated, containing a statement for further participation in adoptive procedures and the characteristics of the child they wish to adopt. In case of rejection in written form the prospective adoptive parents loose there position in the Register and will be entered under a new number. The prospective adoptive parents can keep the same number under which they were entered in the Register only by decision of the IAC and if their rejection is due to established health problems of the child, about which the adoptive parents were not initially informed or in case the proposal does not correspond with the child characteristics they demanded. If within two months the Ministry of Justice does not receive an answer from the prospective adoptive parents, they will be automatically removed from the Register.
Consent of the Minister of Justice and the legal adoption procedure
The Minister of Justice formally approves the adoption procedure and 7 days after the written consent is received, the file is duly sent to the Court.
The application for adoption is reviewed by the Sofia City Court within 14 days of its submission. After hearing the procedural representative of the adopters /the lawyer provided by “Happy Family” NGO /, the Court announces its decision. The decision enters in force 7 days from its announcement by the Court.
After the decision is enforced, Metropolitan Municipality issues a new birth certificate for the adopted child /generally the term is 7 business days/ on the grounds of the submitted certified copy of the Court decision. The adopters are entered as child’s parents in the newly issued birth certificate. The old certificate of birth becomes void automatically.
After the new birth certificate is obtained, the personal details of the minor child are submitted in the national database of the Ministry of Interior. This procedure generally takes 3 business days and after that an application for passport of the adopted child can be submitted.
The passport is issued within 3 days from the application.
Legal and Procedural Cost