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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee June 2011 Sofia


This is a report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC). The European Roma Rights Centre developed the methodology for the research upon which this study is based and provided substantive comments and input in the development of this report. Slavka Kukova was the main researcher on behalf of BHC and the author of this report. Vyara Ivanova (BHC) and Desislava Petrova (BHC) contributed to the field research. This publication was produced within a project entitled “Protecting the Rights of Romani Children in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia�, implemented in partnership by the European Roma Rights Centre, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, osservAzione and the Milan Simecka Foundation. This publication was funded by the European Commission through its Fundamental Rights and Citizenship programme. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. The European Commission is not responsible for the use of the information contained herein.

Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Author: Slavka Kukova Design & Preprint: VLL ISBN 978-954-9738-31-5 June 2011, Sofia


Table of Contents

1. Introduction......................................................................................................................................... 5 2. Methodology....................................................................................................................................... 6 3. Executive summary........................................................................................................................... 8 4. Socio-economic situation of Roma in Bulgaria....................................................................... 9 5. Legislative and policy framework for child protection in Bulgaria.................................. 12 5.1. At-risk children.............................................................................................................................. 14 6. The Bulgarian child protection system..................................................................................... 18 6.1. Relevant authorities and responsibilities.................................................................................... 18 6.2. Funding........................................................................................................................................... 21 6.3. Gaps and problems for Romani children in the child protection system ........................... 24 7. Overrepresentation of Roma in the child protection system ............................................ 27 7.1. Availability of data and data protection..................................................................................... 27 7.2.The proportion of Romani children in state care .................................................................... 28 7.3. Factors contributing to the over-representation of Romani children................................... 30 7.3.1. Characteristics of Romani women who abandon their children in institutions............................................................................... 34 7.3.2. Parental rights after institutionalization................................................................................ 38 7.3.3. Reasons for the institutionalization of Romani children................................................... 38 8. Adoptions........................................................................................................................................... 42 8.1. Adoptions of Romani children................................................................................................... 44 9. Disability............................................................................................................................................ 46 10. Conclusions..................................................................................................................................... 49 11. Recommendations......................................................................................................................... 52 12. Bibliography.................................................................................................................................... 55 13. Testimonies...................................................................................................................................... 58


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Abbreviations

CPA...............................................................................................Child Protection Act CPD................................................................................ Child Protection Department FSSCF....................................... Facility for Social Services for Children and Families HCDPC............................................... Home for Children Deprived of Parental Care HCID............................................... Home for Children with Intellectual Disabilities HMSCC.................................................... Home for Medico-social Care for Children MLSP................................................................. Ministry of Labour and Social Policy RSAD............................................................. Regional Social Assistance Department SAA....................................................................................... Social Assistance Agency SACP........................................................................State Agency for Child Protection SAD............................................................................... Social Assistance Department

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

1. Introduction This research was performed in two phases – a legal and policy analysis, carried out in MayJune 2010, and а field research, performed in June-August 2010. The legal and policy analysis reviewed the legal and policy framework for placing children in institutions providing care and determined whether or not that framework specifically encourages or discourages the placement of Romani children in those institutions. The field research identified the reasons for placement and overrepresentation of Romani children in child care institutions and compared the treatment of at-risk or institutionalized Romani children to the treatment of non-Romani children. To a limited extent, the research also focused on the other services and forms of care provided to Romani children, such as foster care, adoption, placement with relatives’ families, reintegration within biological families, prevention of abandonment and social assistance to families at risk. The researchers identified as Roma persons who identified themselves as such and who are perceived as Roma by others. The research only examined childcare institutions where children are placed under the Child Protection Act, when this placement is justified by endangerment or risk of endangerment. These are the institutions for children deprived of parental care, institutions for severely disabled children and institutions that provide medico-social care to children. The first and second type of institutions are run by municipalities and funded by the State1, while the third type of institutions is run by the Ministry of Healthcare.2 Since 1944 the Bulgarian State has promoted a wide network of childcare institutions, not just for children without parents but also for poor or disabled children. Thus 34,122 children were living in Bulgarian institutions in 1999, which constituted 1.78% of the country’s population of children.3 This staggering figure meant that Bulgaria had one of the highest shares of institutionalised children in Europe.4 Since 2000, official State policy5 has been aimed at reducing the number of children living in institutions by applying disputable measures, which have proven largely ineffective. Although it is widely-known that Romani children are overrepresented among at-risk children and children placed in institutions in Bulgaria, no official legislative, policy or report document mentions this phenomenon. This rendered our research necessary and hopefully it will inform future policy making.

1

Bulgaria, Social Assistance Act, Art.18a, para.1. Bulgaria, Health Act, Art.117. 3 UNDP, World Bank, Social assessment of child care in Bulgaria, 2000. 4 UNICEF, Moving from residential institutional care to community-based social services in Central and Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union, 1995, p.24, available at : http://siteresources.worldbank.org/ DISABILITY/Resources/280658-1172671461088/MovingFromResTobis.pdf. 5 All strategic policy documents are available only in Bulgarian here: http://sacp.government.bg/ programi-dokladi/strategii-programi-planove/. 2

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

2. Methodology Field research was performed in the regions of Sofia, Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Sliven and Varna. Three researchers visited each location and conducted interviews at two or three childcare institutions, local social assistance departments, child protection departments, Romani children and families, Roma NGOs, activists and social services providers, contacting 25 to 35 persons in each region. 6 In order to conduct the interviews, the researchers had to ask for official permission from the Social Assistance Agency and the mayors of each region where the childcare institutions are located. All but one institution (Home for medico-social care for children aged 0 to 3 in Varna) agreed to the interviews. Most of the interviewees from institutions and services were interested in receiving the interview questions in advance, and the questions were duly sent. 6

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The interviewees in Sofia were: Serdika Social Assistance Department (SAD); Serdika Child Protection Department (CPD); Vuzrazhdane Social Assistance Department; Vuzrazhdane Child Protection Department; Home for medico-social care for children aged 0 to 3 (HMSCC) in Serdika region; Home for medico-social care for children aged 0 to 3 in Vuzrazhdane region; Home for children, deprived of parental care aged 3 to 7 in Dragalevci region; Home for children, deprived of parental care aged 7 to 18 (HCDPC) ‘Asen Zlatarov’; Home for children, deprived of parental care aged 7 to 18 ‘Pencho Slaveikov’’; Centre for Social Support (CSS) in Serdika; Centre for Social Support in Slaveikov (the latter are run by NGOs, providers of consultation and therapy services); Fourth Special School for Children with Intellectual Disabilities (auxiliary school), Centre for health and social services run by and NGO ‘Health and Social Development’ in the Fakulteta roma neighbourhood, a lawyer from Equal Opprotunities (Roma NGO), Romani children in the homes for children, deprived of parental care aged 7 to 18, Roma families in Fakulteta Roma neighbourhood, Romani families from Centres for temporary placement of adults (CTPA) in Krasna Polyana and Lyulin regions, Romani adults who were raised up in children institutions. The interviewees in Pazardzhik were: Social Assistance Department (SAD); Child Protection Department (CPD); HMSCC in Pazardzhik; HCDPC aged 3 to 7 in the village of Lesichovo; HCDPC aged 7 to 18 in the town of Bracigovo; Facility for social services for children and families in Pazardzhik (run by the NGO ‘Institute for social activities and practices’); ‘Napreduk’ – Roma NGO; ‘Budeshte’ – Roma NGO; Romani families in the Iztok Roma neighbourhood and Romani children in institutions. The interviewees in Plovdiv were: Social Assistance Department (SAD); Child Protection Department (CPD); HMSCC in Plovdiv; HCDPC aged 3 to 7 in the village of Zelenikovo; HCDPC aged 7 to 18 ‘Rada Kirkovich’ in Plovdiv; Centre for temporary placement of adults ‘Mladost’; Segregated school “Pencho Slaveikov’ in Stolipinovo, Roma NGO, Romani families in the Stolipinovo Roma neighbourhood and Romani children in institutions. The interviewees in Sliven were: Social Assistance Department (SAD); Child Protection Department (CPD); HMSCC in Sliven; HCDPC aged 7 to 18 in the village of Asenovec; Protected home for young adults with disabilities leaving institutional care in Sliven, Facility for social services for children and families in Sliven; Romani medical doctor; Romani health and education mediators; Romani families in the Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood and Romani children in institutions. The interviewees in Varna were: Social Assistance Department (SAD); Child Protection Department (CPD); HCDPC aged 3 to 7 in Varna; HCDPC aged 7 to 18 ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’ in Varna; Facility for social services for children and families in Varna; Centres for rehabilitation and social integration for Roma children (run by Vladislavovo Foundation); Centre for rehabilitation and social integration for children with disabilities ‘Karin dom’; Romani families in the Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood, activists working on Roma education and empowerment and Romani children in institutions.


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Some institutions and service providers presented their whole team working on preventing children abandonment or dealing with ‘at-risk’ children cases while others only designated one person to be interviewed. Identifying the families with at-risk children or whose children were placed in institutions required the researchers to personally ask around in large Romani neighbourhoods, as social workers and service providers did not provide such information, although some seemed willing to do so. They explained that the difficulties related to interviewing families include the potential refusal of consent or their constant migration. However, the social workers at Child Protection Departments (CPD) pointed out certain streets in each Romani neighbourhood where the biggest number of families and at-risk children resided. These families often did not have their current place of residence registered as their official address. When interviewing Romani families or children, the researchers did not ask for personal data that could be used to identify the interviewed persons. The team was interested mainly in their explanations of child protection procedures and their involvement and attitude towards them. Romani families in large Romani neighbourhoods often asked the researchers for additional information regarding their institutionalised children and their rights to social assistance or employment, thus many interviews lasted longer than expected. Some interviewees did not speak much Bulgarian and the researchers used interpreters to conduct the interviews. The research did not identify any Romani NGOs working to deinstitutionalize children, although several Romani NGOs were visited and interviewed. The researchers also asked interviewees for possible solutions to the problem of institutionalisation of Romani children and this report summarises the suggestions received.

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

3. Executive summary The child protection system in Bulgaria was reformed over the last ten years through the introduction of the concept of the child’s best interest, decentralization of the management of institutions and social services, deinstitutionalization and development of community-based services for children and families. The Child Protection Act and its by-laws were developed to accommodate these concepts. Municipalities and NGOs set up community-based services and introduced measures to prevent institutionalization of children at risk. However, the current research found that the child protection system does not efficiently identify and protect the interests of the at-risk children in Bulgaria. Childcare institutions and community-based services exist in parallel while institutions still receive more State funding compared to the new services. The financial and social assistance provided by the State to at-risk children and families does not meet their needs and is not an effective remedy against the institutionalization of children.7 Romani families and their children prevail among the beneficiaries of social assistance and their access to education, employment and healthcare is not fully ensured. Romani children are overrepresented among children in state institutional care, although no official statistics concerning this have been published. Project researchers visited 15 children’s institutions in which a total of 809 children lived, of whom 510 were Romani. The main reasons for their institutionalization appear to be family poverty, lack of constant and sufficient income for parents, low educational level of the parents, migration of the parents in search of employment and income, risky housing conditions, lack of community-based services for Romani children and families tailored to their specific needs and lack of effective prevention mechanisms for pregnancies and abandonment among Romani women. To tackle these problems the State childcare bodies should collect reliable data about Romani children and the reasons for their abandonment. They should also ensure real access to healthcare for Romani women as well as an effective access to education to Romani children and employment and social assistance during periods of unemployment to Roma in general. To deinstitutionalize Romani children the State should provide adequate financial support to Romani families who are willing to take care of their own children and shorten adoption and foster care procedures.

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8

Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Nadezhda roma neighbourhood. Sliven, Bulgaria: 28- 29 July 2010; Interviews with Roma families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, in Tokaito (Iztok Roma neighbourhood). Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 8 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Roma neighbourhood, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Roma neighbourhood, Bratska Druzhba street. Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk and families who have children in institutions, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood. Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010.


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

4. Socio-economic situation of Roma in Bulgaria According to the 2001 census, there were 370,908 Roma in Bulgaria, equivalent to 4.7% of the country’s total population which was 7,928,901,8 making Bulgaria the European country with the highest percentage of people who self-identify as Roma. Unofficial estimates, however, place the Roma population at around 8-10% of the total population, based on data from sociological polls, labour offices, and social assistance services.9 The research did not find any official figures on the number of Romani children in Bulgaria. The current government, which started its mandate in July 2009, recognised the socioeconomic problems among the Romani population, as did previous governments. In its 20092013 Government Program for the European Development of Bulgaria10 a separate chapter is devoted to the social integration of Romani persons in disadvantaged social situations through improvement of housing conditions and access to quality pre-school and school education of children and students whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian. According to the National Strategy for the Child 2008-2018 adopted by the previous government, the child mortality rate was 9.7 in 2006 %, and remains higher among some ethnic minority communities and especially Roma. The strategy, however, does not provide any precise figures.11 The strategy states that the basic reasons for this statistic are worse material living conditions, more 8

„Population as of 1 March 2001 divided by provinces and ethnic group“ (in Bulgarian). National Statistical Institute. 2001. http://www.nsi.bg/Census/Ethnos.htm. (last accessed on 30 November 2010). 9 Estimates from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior vary between 600,000 and 750,000, although nearly half of Roma traditionally self-identify as Turkish or Bulgarian. 313,000 self-declared in the 1992 census (Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov, The Gypsies of Bulgaria: Problems of the Multicultural Museum Exhibition (1995), cited in Patrin Web Journal). According to Marushiakova and Popov, „The Gypsies of Bulgaria“, Sofia, 1993, about 194,000 people declared Roma identity in 1956; in 1959 – 214,167; in 1976 – 373,200. In 1980, due to the obvious and significant difference between the number of Bulgarian citizens self-identifying as Roma and the large total population with a physical appearance and cultural particularity similar to Roma, the authorities took a special census of all people defined as Roma through the opinions of the neighbouring population, observations of their way of life, cultural specificity, etc. – 523,519. In 1989, the authorities counted 576,927 people as Roma, but noted that more than half of them preferred and declared Turkish identity (p. 92-93). According to the estimates of Marushiakova and Popov, the total number of all people with Romani ethic identity plus all people of Roma origin with different ethnic self-identification around 1993 was about 800,000 (p. 94-95). Their 1995 estimate was 750,000 ±50,000. Some international sources mention the estimates of some unnamed experts, who suggest 700,000 – 800,000 or higher than figures in the official census (here, UNDP‘s Regional Bureau for Europe). These mass non-Roma ethnic partialities are confirmed in light of the last census in 2001 – more than 300,000 Bulgarian citizens of Romani origin traditionally declare their ethnic identity as Turkish or Bulgarian. Other statistics: 450,000 estimated in 1990 (U.S. Library of Congress study); at least 553,466 cited in a confidential census by the Ministry of the Interior in 1992 (cf Marushiakova and Popov 1995). Other sources claim up to 800,000 Roma in Bulgaria. (see http://international. ibox.bg/news/id_1678295403). 10 http://www.government.bg/fce/001/0226/files/03.11.2009FINAL-ednostranen%20pechat1.pdf (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 11 Bulgaria, Council of Ministers, National Strategy for the Child 2008-2018, p.5, available in Bulgarian at: http://sacp.government.bg/programi-dokladi/strategii-programi-planove/strategia-zakrila-deteto2008-2018/ (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 9


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

difficulties encountered accessing health care and, especially among the Roma, significantly lower education levels. According to a survey of 1,527 Romani households conducted by the sociological agency Fact Marketing, there was a person living with a disease in about 80% of the households; there was a chronically ill person in half of the households; and two or more chronically ill persons in one-fifth of the households.12 The same survey points out that Romani women and children are a special at-risk group in terms of healthcare. The survey does not compare Romani to non-Romani families. Among children up to 15 years of age 15.1 % live in poverty, while the average for the 1664 age group is 12.3 %. Risk of poverty is highest for children with a single parent or living in a family with many children, respectively 31.1% for the first group and 28.6 % for the second. Additionally, the risk is increased for children of ethnic minorities, especially Roma and Turks.13 Again no precise figures on the number of Roma or Romani children living in poverty exist in official policy documents. According to the data from the 2002 UNDP survey “Avoiding the Dependency Trap – a Human Development Report on the Roma Minority in Central and Eastern Europe”, 44.4% of Roma in Bulgaria indicated social assistance as the usual source from which the household received money during the past six months and 20.2% indicated social assistance as the source that provides most of the money for the household.14 There is no exact and systematic official data on the number of Roma among beneficiaries of social assistance. However, a number of surveys, as well as some estimates made by Bulgarian officials, suggest that Roma are heavily overrepresented among the beneficiaries of social assistance.15 Bulgarian law guarantees state-provided health insurance for socially vulnerable individuals. Eligibility for state-provided health insurance is conditioned on eligibility for social assistance for the poor or eligibility for unemployment benefits. A large number of socially vulnerable individuals, and a disproportionately large number of Roma among them, do not receive social assistance for the poor and are not registered as unemployed.16 According to official estimates, around 46% of Roma are not covered by health insurance.17 Exclusion from the health care system has a disproportionate impact on the health of Romani women, especially as concerns reproductive and maternal health. Romani women who do not have health insurance cannot avail themselves of pre- and post-natal medical services.18 12

Bulgaria, Fact Marketing, Ensuring Access to Health Care of Minorities 2002-2003, Sofia, 2004, p. 17. Bulgaria, Council of Ministers, National Strategy for the Child 2008-2018, p.4, available in Bulgarian at: http://sacp.government.bg/programi-dokladi/strategii-programi-planove/strategia-zakrila-deteto2008-2018/ (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 14 UNDP, Avoiding the Dependency Trap – a Human Development Report on the Roma Minority in Central and Eastern Europe, p.94. 15 ERRC, BHC, Written Comments of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the European Roma Rights Centre Concerning Bulgaria for Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at its 74th session, December 2008, www.bghelsinki.org/upload/resources/BHC_ ERRC_Bulgaria_CERD74_bg.pdf (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 16 Ibid. 17 Bulgaria, National Council for Cooperation on the Ethnic and Demographic Issues, Health Strategy Concerning People in Disadvantaged Position, Belonging to Ethnic Minorities, p.2. The document is available at: www.ncedi.government.bg/en/HealthStrategyENG.htm (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 18 ERRC, BHC, Written Comments of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the European Roma Rights 13

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

The Employment Agency reports that 17,862 Romani persons seeking jobs were employed in 2009 although it was expected that only 3,000 Roma would be employed.19 Out of these 17,862 Romani persons 10,988 were employed temporarily under the program ”From social benefits to employment”. As a result of the activities of 105 Romani labour mediators (trained in 2008 and 2009) 11,873 non-active and discouraged Romani persons were registered at the Employment Agency offices in 2009 as ‘seeking jobs’; 1,669 of them found some work, 132 were involved in literacy and qualification courses and 1,537 were employed. 20

Centre Concerning Bulgaria for Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at its 74th session, December 2008, available at: www.bghelsinki.org/upload/resources/ BHC_ERRC_Bulgaria_CERD74_bg.pdf (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 19 Bulgaria, National Council for Cooperation on the Ethnic and Demographic Issues, 2009 Monitoring report on the implementation of the National Action Plan under the ‘Decade of Roma inclusion 2005-2015’, p. 29, available at: www.nccedi.government.bg/page.php?category=87&id=1260 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). The Employment Agency does not provide information on the type of employment it provided to Roma. The field research showed that in order to gain access to the monthly social assistance of around 20 Euro Roma need to work 14 days per month and this possibly is the employment provided for them mentioned by the Employment Agency. 20 Bulgaria, National Council for Cooperation on the Ethnic and Demographic Issues, 2009 Monitoring report on the implementation of the National Action Plan under the ‘Decade of Roma inclusion 2005-2015’, p. 29, available at: www.nccedi.government.bg/page.php?category=87&id=1260 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 11


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

5. Legislative and policy framework for child protection in Bulgaria Child protection policy is developed and adopted by the Council of Ministers and the State Agency for Child Protection. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior have specific obligations under the Child Protection Act, as do regional governors and municipal authorities. However, there is no single authority responsible for the implementation of child protection policy in Bulgaria. The adoption of the Child Protection Act (CPA)21 significantly contributed to raising child policy as a priority for the Bulgarian Government after 1999. A Strategy and an Action Plan for the Protection of Children’s Rights in Bulgaria for the period 2000-2003 were adopted in December 2000 and later updated by the National Strategy for Child Protection 2004-2006. Their main objectives were to improve the living conditions of children in Bulgaria, to ensure the protection of their rights regardless of their ethnic background, to harmonize the legal framework of child protection with the requirements of the European Union and to elaborate a uniform State policy in the field of childcare and services. The National Strategy for Child Protection 2004-200622 highlighted that there were 11,834 children living in childcare institutions, where the quality of care was low, in 2002. The strategy envisaged the reduction of the number of institutionalized children by developing effective and sufficient communitybased services for families and children tailored to the needs of the population, raising the quality of life for institutionalized children and restructuring the childcare institutions that provide alternative care. It was expected that 30% of childcare institutions would be restructured, the percentage of children living in institutions would be reduced by 10%, 30% fewer children would be admitted to institutions, and community-based services would be developed by the municipalities to serve the needs of the local population. The State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) monitored all childcare institutions in 2004 and 2006. In 2007 it concluded that there was a decrease in the number of children living in institutions: from 12,609 in 2001, 11,915 in 2002, 10,875 in 2003, 10,284 in 2004, 9,776 in 2005, to 8,653 in 2006.23 According to the SACP this reduction was due to the implementation of child protection measures other than placement in institutions, such as placement with relatives or reintegration in the biological families. According to an NGO the reduction is due to 21

Bulgaria, Child Рrotection Act (Закон за закрила на детето), adopted on 13.06.2000, last amended on 2.07.2010, available with all versions only in Bulgarian at: http://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2134925825 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 22 Bulgaria, Council of Ministers, National Strategy for Child Protection 2004-2006, http://sacp.government. bg/programi-dokladi/strategii-programi-planove/strategia-zakrila-deteto-2004-2006/ (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 23 Bulgaria, State Agency for Child Protection, 2007 Annual Report on the Activities of the State Agency for Child Protection, p.3, available at: http://sacp.government.bg/programi-dokladi/dokladi/ (Accessed: 30 November 2010). The data on the number of children in institutions provided by the State Agency for Child Protection and the Social Assistance Agency at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy always differ from each other for unknown reasons. 12


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

demographic reduction of the general child population in Bulgaria.24 However, the National Strategy for the Child 2008-201825 states the same objectives and measures as the previous strategy. It estimates that over 80% of children living in institutions in 2006 had families that were unable to take care of them. The strategy also points out that the main reasons why children are placed in institutions are the economic, psychological and social problems that their families face while raising their children as well as the lack of alternatives to the institutional care. The main risks for the children in these families are the quality of life/ standard of living, the family environment and access to education. The strategy recommends that the State adopt preventive and protective measures to reduce the risk of poverty and to uphold the family as the best environment for the child. All annual National Programmes for Child Protection adopted by the Council of Ministers since 2003 were intended to ensure the conditions for respecting the rights of all children in Bulgaria with a view to promoting their welfare and supporting their families. The first goal of each was the reduction of the number of children in specialised institutions and improving the living conditions within those institutions. This was meant to be achieved by developing new alternative forms of care and community-based services for children and reforming the institutions and services aimed at helping children acquire social skills.26 However, none of the national programs mention any concrete amount of funding, concrete responsibility among authorities and persons and concrete deadlines for implementation of the envisaged measures. This is why the national programmes did not achieve their objectives, and why they repeat the same activities and measures every year. None of the ministries responsible for child protection publishes a clear budget for the implementation of concrete measures of the national programs for child protection. No clear and detailed report on the implementation of these programs was ever produced and published. An important step forward in the process of providing better care for children in Bulgaria, however, was the National Strategy “Vision of Deinstitutionalisation of Children in Bulgaria� approved and adopted on February 24th 2010 by the Council of Ministers.27 The action plan includes implementation of five projects: deinstitutionalization of children from homes for children with disabilities, deinstitutionalization of children from homes for medico-social care, deinstitutionalization of children from homes for children deprived of parental care, developing foster care and career development for social workers. 24

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Assessment Report on the Conditions and Perspectives of the Institutions for Children in Bulgaria and of the Progress made in Implementing the Government Obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2006, p.53-55, available in English at: http://old.bghelsinki.org/ index.php?module=resources&lg=en&id=0&cat_id=18#2006 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 25 Bulgaria, Council of Ministers, National Strategy for the Child 2008-2018, p.9, http://sacp.government. bg/programi-dokladi/strategii-programi-planove/strategia-zakrila-deteto-2008-2018/ (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 26 The other priority areas concern the creation of better conditions for children on the streets, improvement of the efficiency of measures aimed at protecting children from violence, abuse and other forms of exploitation, ensuring guarantees for equal access of children to quality education, monitoring the rights of children and the quality standards of services for children, maintaining a national information system in the area of child protection. 27 Available at: http://sacp.government.bg/programi-dokladi/strategii-programi-planove (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 13


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

5.1. At-risk children Under Article 10 of the Child Protection Act every child has a right to protection in support of his/her normal physical, intellectual, moral and social development and to protection of his/her rights and interests. The Act prohibits any limitation of rights, or any privilege, on the grounds of race, nationality, ethnic background, sex, origin, property status, religion, education, convictions and disability. The Child Protection Act (paragraph 1 of the Transitional provisions) defines ‘children at risk’ as children whose parents are ill, unknown, deprived of parental rights or who cannot take care of the children; children who are victims of abuse, violence, exploitation and any other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment within and outside the family; children whose physical, mental, moral, intellectual or social development is at risk; children who suffer from disability or hard-to-treat diseases and children who are at risk of dropping out of school or who have already dropped out of school. The referral mechanism for children in institutional care is regulated in the Child Protection Act and the Rules for its Implementation. According to the Rules, child protection is provided after Social Assistance Departments assess a signal at the residence of the child who needs protection. The signal might be submitted by the child, the parents, other persons, state bodies and legal entities.28 The social worker at the relevant Child Protection Department researches and assesses the signal by collecting information about the family and the child from the school, kindergarten, childcare institution, relatives, friends and neighbours as well as from other Social Assistance Departments, general practitioners (child’s personal doctor) and other sources as necessary.29 Afterwards the social worker opens a case only if he/she finds that the child is at risk.30 The deadline for initial research and collection of information is ten days after the signal is received and the deadline for case assessment is four weeks.31 Based on the assessment the social worker prepares an action plan which includes long-term and shortterm goals, activities for their implementation and protection measures.32 The action plan is communicated to the parents/guardians/persons who take care of the child, if this does not violate the child’s rights and serves the child’s interests. The social worker discusses the plan in regular meetings (at least one every six months) with all interested parties (family/relatives/ guardians).33 The social worker is obliged to open a file for the child with all documents on his/her case. The goal of the protection measures in the family environment34 is to support 28

Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 9, para.1, 2. Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 14. 30 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 15. 31 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 16. 32 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 16a. 33 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 16a. 34 Pursuant to Article 23 of the Child Protection Act the measures for child protection in family environments are: provision of psychological, legal, pedagogical support for the parents, referral to community-based social services, appropriate consultation and provision of information to the child, consultation on social assistance and social services issues, cooperation on the improvement of the social and material conditions of living, social work to facilitate the relationship between the parents and the children, assessment of the child’s individual needs and capacity in order to be referred to the most appropriate school, help finding a job for children over the age of 16, help and assistance in adoption procedures and assistance to adults who take care of children in the 29

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

the family and the child so that the child can be raised by the family.35 The family/guardian/ substitute caretaker might refuse to cooperate in the implementation of these measures and then the Social Assistance Department’s director might issue obligatory instructions.36  Pursuant to Article 25 of the CPA, a child may be placed outside his/her family when: the parents are dead, unknown, deprived of parental rights or have limited parental rights; the parents/guardians do not take care of the children for a long period of time without a valid reason; the parents/guardians are permanently unable to raise the child and when the child is a victim of violence in the family; or there is a serious danger of harm to his/her physical, mental, moral, intellectual or social development. In 2009 a new paragraph was added that placement outside the family should be applied only as a protection measure after the exhaustion of all other options for protection in the family unless placement outside the family is a matter of emergency.37 This was introduced in 2005 in the Rules for Implementation of the CPA. The placement of the child with relatives or close family friends, foster families, residential community-based social services or in institutions is performed by the district court.38 While the court hears and decides on the case the Social Assistance Department (at the child’s place of residence) temporarily places the child in the above-mentioned services with an administrative order.39 There is no limit to how long the child stays in an institution under the administrative order. Court proceedings for placements do not start automatically but the SADs are obliged to initiate them within a month after the actual placement. The SAD, prosecutor or parent are entitled to file an application at the district court to activate these protection measures. The application of SAD for this placement should contain a report on the situation of the child and his/her relatives, declarations of consent from the relatives who would take the child in and a list of the foster families that can raise the child. The table below shows the application of protection measures by the Child Protection Departments for at risk children in Bulgaria from 2006-2009. 40

implementation of their functions. Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 18. 36 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 18, para.4. 37 Bulgaria, Child Protection Act, Art.25, para.2. 38 Bulgaria, Child Protection Act, Art. 26. 39 Bulgaria, Child Protection Act, Art. 26. 40 Social Assistance Agency, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Annual reports on the activities of the Social Assistance Agency, available in Bulgarian at: www.asp.government.bg/ASP_Client/ClientServlet?cmd=add_ content&lng=1&sectid=12&s1=207&selid=207 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 35

15


Prevention of abandonment cases

Successful prevention cases

Reintegration cases

Successful reintegration cases

Cases of placement with relatives

Adoption cases

Foster care

Children, placed in institutions

Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

2006

3,877

897

2,653

886

1,308

634

32

3,133

2007

3,616

1,503

2,505

1,332

1,230

708

61

2,771

2008

3,102

1,218

2,397

1,427

1,296

674

91

2,391

2009

3,597

1,277

2,469

1,400

1,435

746

112

2,479

Measures to prevent abandonment of children are provided for in a separate bylaw.41 They are determined and implemented by the local Social Assistance Departments. The measures to prevent abandonment and placement in institution are temporary and should be applied for a period of up to 12 months.42 Reintegration measures are also temporary and should be applied for no longer than 18 months. Measures to prevent abandonment of children are to be applied when one or more of the following circumstances is present: application to the Social Assistance Department for placement of the child in an institution; placement of another child in the family in an institution; the parents’ wish to place the child in an institution; no constant income and/or house in the family; disability of a member of the family or the child him/herself; unstable conditions for the child’s physical and mental development; presumed neglect of the child or the presence of another risky environment.43 Measures to prevent abandonment of children are urgently applied when there is an immediate risk of abandonment of the child when one or more of the following circumstances are present: parents of a newly born child in the maternity ward express the desire to abandon the child or place the child in an institution; abandonment of the child in the maternity ward by the mother; a child placed in a hospital is not sought by his/her parents within 7-days after the treatment period ends or other circumstances.44 Measures to prevent abandonment are 41

Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Art. 3, adopted on 22 August 2003. 42 According to the Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Article 2, (paragraphs 2 and 3) the prevention of abandonment and reintegration take place through implementation of measures for child protection in family environments (listed in footnote 34 above) and provision of social services. 43 Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Art. 4. 44 Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Art. 5. 16


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

applied when a pregnant woman is at risk of abandoning her child when one or more of the following circumstances are present: she is under the age of 18; she is not married; she has no income or/and house; she has mental health problems and/or communication problems; she has one or more children at risk; she was a victim of violence; she has one or more children with disabilities or other reasons.45 Measures for reintegration are applied when the child is placed in an institution, foster family or with relatives and did not discontinue contact with his/her parents; the parents express the wish to care for the child; the parents are able to ensure appropriate conditions for the physical and mental development of the child and there are no other children at risk of abandonment in the family.46 After a successful case of reintegration the social workers involved monitor the child for a period of six months. 47 Foster care is applied in the short-term to support the biological family for up to one year.48 Long-term foster care for longer than one year is provided in cases when the biological parents are deceased, unknown, deprived of parental care, or have limited parental rights; when parents do not take care of their children without a valid reason and over a long period of time; when parents are not able to take care of the children for a long time; when placement back in the biological family is not possible or when adoption is not possible.49 Urgent placement in a foster family is applied when the child’s life and the health are in danger: in a disastrous situation; after police protection; when the child is a victim of trafficking or violence or when the child is younger than 3 years of age.

45

Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Art. 6. 46 Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Art. 17. 47 Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for implementation of measures for prevention of abandonment, placement of children in institutions and their reintegration, Art. 25. 48 Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for application, selection and choice of foster families and placement of children in them, , adopted on 4 December 2006, Art.3, para.3. 49 Bulgaria, Ordinance for the conditions and procedure for application, selection and choice of foster families and placement of children in them, Art.3, para.4. 17


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

6. The Bulgarian child protection system 6.1. Relevant authorities and responsibilities

Pursuant to the CPA, the State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) was set up at the Council of Ministers and became operational on 1 January 2001. Its chairperson is a specialized body of the Council of Ministers responsible for management, coordination and control in the field of child protection (Article 17, CPA).50 According to Article 3, paragraph 3 of the CPD state child protection policy is determined by the Parliament based on the Council of Ministers’ proposed national strategy for child protection. To implement this strategy the Council of Ministers adopts National Programs for Child Protection which are prepared by the minister of labour 50

Subsequently, the powers of the chairperson were expanded by an amendment to the CPA in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009 to empower SACP to annually draft and adopt National Programmes for Child Protection, to license and control the activities of providers of social services for children, to carry monitor compliance with the rights of children, including children living in institutions, to draft legislation concerning children’s rights, etc.

18


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

and social policy and the chairperson of the State Agency for Child Protection. Pursuant to the CPA there shall be no restrictions of children’s rights or any privilege on the grounds of race, nationality, ethnic background, sex, origin, property status, religion, education, beliefs or disability (Article 10). The Act provides for special protection of children at risk, children with exceptional talents and other vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities. Promoting the welfare of children is a basic priority of the Bulgarian state policy provided for in the Constitution and the national laws, which fully reflect the principle of the child’s best interests. A National Council of Child Protection was set up at the State Agency for Child Protection. It has consultative and coordinative functions and was established to involve deputy-ministers of all relevant ministries in child protection, as well as childcare and child protection nongovernmental organizations in policy and legislation planning, drafting and implementation.51 There has been a general Ombudsman in Bulgaria since 2005 but he has not emphasised children’s rights consistenly so far. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Science (MEYS) and the municipalities are responsible for providing education to all children aged 6-7 to 16 years, including children with disabilities (Article 34 and Article 36 of the Public Education Act).52 The Ministry drafts the legislation, allocates funding, controls and manages activities and provides methodological guidance to schools in Bulgaria. The national policy on school education is prepared by the Council of Ministers and adopted by the Parliament. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) is responsible for providing institutional and community-based social services and social assistance to children and their families (Article 4 of the Social Assistance Act).53 Social assistance policy is determined by the Council of Ministers. Under the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy there is a central Social Assistance Agency (SAA) responsible for the methodological guidance of local social assistance structures and the supervision and control of their activities (Articles 5 and 6 of the Social Assistance Act). Social assistance is provided to children through support to children or their parents/guardians (assistance is either financial or in the form of social services such as consultations, therapy, group work on a certain problem, provision of inkind assitance) as regulated in the Family Children Allowances Act54, the Social Assistance Act and the Rules for its Implementation55 etc. Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 2, of the Social Assistance Act, social assistance is the provision of allowances in cash or in-kind benefits and services necessary for the satisfaction of the basic living needs of citizens in those 51

Bulgaria, Child Protection Act, Art. 18. Bulgaria, Public Education Act (Закон за народната просвета), adopted on 18.10.1991 with numerous amendments, the last amendments introduced on 2.07.2010, available in Bulgarian at: http://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2132585473 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 53 Bulgaria, Social Assistance Act (Закон за социално подпомагане), adopted on 19.05.1998, last amendments from 23.02.2010, available in Bulgarian at: http://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2134405633 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 54 Bulgaria, Family Children Allowances Act (Закон за семейните помощи за деца) adopted on 29.03.2002, last amended on 26.03.2010., available in Bulgarian at: http://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/ 2135441920 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 55 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of the Social Assistance Act (Правилник за прилагане на закона за социално подпомагане), adopted on 1.11.1998, last amended on 2.07.2010, available at: http:// lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/-13038592 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 52

19


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

cases where their labour or property income is not adequate. All Bulgarian citizens, families, and cohabitants who, due to health, age, social or other reasons beyond their control, are unable either individually, or with the help of their legal dependants, to obtain through their labour or property, sufficient income to meet their basic necessities of life have a right to social assistance.56 Pursuant to the Family Children Allowances Act, child allowances are as follows: one-off financial allowance for pregnancy; one-off financial allowance for the birth of a child; monthly allowances for a child until he/she graduates from secondary school, but not after s/he reaches 20 years of age; monthly allowances for raising a child up to one year of age; special allowances for students (aged 7 to 20 in primary and high schools). Children allowances for families are financed with funds from the State budget under this Act. The Social Assistance Agency has departments at the regional and municipal level – Regional Social Assistance Departments and Social Assistance Departments, respectively. The Social Assistance Departments (SAD) are in charge of providing social benefits and referring children and families to social services. Within the Social Assistance Departments, Child Protection Departments (CPD) operate to protect children’s rights, prevent institutionalization (abandonment) of children who are at risk in their families, refer children for adoption, foster care and placement with relatives when their own biological family cannot take care of them.57 The SADs issue administrative orders/proposals for removal of at-risk children from their families and the courts decide on the removal of the children from their families after that.58 The CPDs within SADs work on cases of children placed in institutions and the activities of the institutions themselves. According to the Social Assitance Agency’s 2008 annual report, one social worker works on an average of 112 cases. The salaries of the social workers in the CPDs are some of the lowest in the auxiliary professions sphere and often 56

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) reviewed Bulgaria’s compliance with the European Social Charter in 2004 and in 2006 in terms of social assistance and in both reviews the ECSR concluded that the situation in Bulgaria is not in conformity with Article 13, para. 1. In the 2004 review it concluded that the level of social assistance in Bulgaria is manifestly inadequate and in 2006 the review concluded that the social assistance paid to a person under 65 living alone is manifestly inadequate. The new Art. 12в of the Social Assistance Act adopted on 28 February 2006 introduced a temporal limitation on monthly social assistance payments, which used to be unlimited in time and conditioned only on the needs of beneficiaries. According to 2006 Social Assistance Agency’s report the average number of persons and families who have been supported with monthly social assistance was 100,374. On 15 July 2007 the Minister of Social Policy mentioned that probably 40,000 people would be deprived of their monthly assistance the majority of whom are Roma. In February 2010 the provision in Art. 12в was suspended. 57 In December 2006 the internal regulations of the Social Assistance Agency at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy were amended. This led to the closure of some Child Protection Departments (CPD) within the Social Assistance Departments as the Social Assistance Departments were reduced themselves. They were reduced from 272 to 148 in number. In 63 CPD there is only one appointed person in charge of child protection. In 81 CPD the staff consists of a lawyer (or social worker) and a head of the department. Also see National Network for Children – Bulgaria (umbrella NGO of 48 childcare NGOs), Contribution to the Universal Periodic Review, Sofia, April 2010, “As a whole, the work carried out by the CPD is exceptionally unsatisfactory. This fact is supported by a range of surveys and analysis undertaken by various Bulgarian and international organizations. As of 31.12.2008, there are 750 people who work in the CPDs out of which only 450 are social workers.” 58 Bulgaria, Child Protection Act, Art.26. 20


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

they do not receive any introductory or supporting training or professional supervision.59 The Regional Social Assistance Departments are responsible for making decisions on matching adoptive parents to children registered for adoption. The Ministry of Healthcare is responsible for ensuring healthcare services to children (Article 117 of the Health Act) and is still in charge of the country’s 32 institutions for abandoned babies and children aged 0 to 3. State healthcare policy is determined by the Council of Ministers and implemented by the Ministry of Healthcare. Within each municipality there is also at least one department responsible for children’s social activities and education.60 The municipalities are free to design and autonomously run these services, or entrust their management to service providers in their territory. They also decide how the different authorities in charge of child services coordinate and cooperate on the local level. A process of decentralization in the child protection field started in 2003. Firstly, the 26 social care institutions for children with intellectual disabilities (which used to be managed and funded directly by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy) were subordinated to the mayors of municipalities where they were located, although still funded by the state budget with a fixed annual amount allocated to the municipality. In 2007 the 86 homes for children aged 3 to 18 deprived of parental care were decentralized from the Ministry of Education and Science to the municipalities. These institutions as well as the medico-social care institutions for children aged 0 to 3 operate under the Child Protection Act.

6.2. Funding All childcare institutions are funded by the state budget through municipalities that arrange payments but which cannot change the budget allocated by the state. The State determines a fixed unconditional annual amount per child in an institution regardless of the quality of care provided. The municipalities are obliged to spend it for this purpose. A child placed in an institution for children at the age 0 to 3 cost 330 Euro per month in 2006.61 A child placed in an institution for children deprived of parental care (aged 3 to 18) cost 150 Euro per month in 2006 (in 2009 this amount was increased to 270 Euro). A child in an institution for intellectually disabled children and juveniles cost 300 Euro per month (in 2009 this amount was increased to 324 Euro). In July 2008 the allowance for children living in childcare institutions, deprived of parental care (aged 7 to 18) was increased from 168 Euro to 254 Euro per month, per child 62 and then increased again in 2009 to 270 Euro. In institutions for 59

National Network for Children – Bulgaria (umbrella NGO of 48 childcare NGOs), Contribution to the Universal Periodic Review, Sofia, April 2010. 60 Art.17 of the Local Governance and Local Administration Act. The municipalities were obliged to also set up local commissions on child protection where all local departments of the ministries and local non-governmental organizations participate to draft the municipal child protection policies (Art.20a Child Protection Act, Art.3 of the Rules for Implementation of the Child Protection Act). 61 This amount includes payments to staff (salaries, insurance payments etc.) and provision of food, clothes and utilities. 62 Bulgaria, Council of Ministers, Decision 20 dated on 21.01.2008 issued by the Council of Ministers 21


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

children with disabilities the annual allowance was increased in 2008 (to 291 Euro per month per child) and in 2009 it reached 324 Euro per month per child. In 2009 the total amount allocated for childcare institutions where children are placed under the Child Protection Act procedure was 78,000,000 Bulgarian leva (39,000,000 Euro).63 Parents who take care of their own children or children under protection measures do not receive such allowances from the state. The most common allowance the state allocates to parents who take care of their own children is 18 Euro per month and this is allocated only to parents who make sure their children attend school. For parents of children at risk of abandonment little or no financial assistance was ensured.64 There are no precise governmental reports published on this subject as of today. However, the allocation of financial assistance under the protection measures gives a clear picture of the difference in estimates and reasons for the failure of deinstitutionalization policies. For child and family protection, in-kind or financial assistance might be allocated to prevent abandonment, promote reintegration, or for relatives or a foster family to raise the child.65 Financial assistance can be provided monthly or one-off and it is calculated on the basis of the guaranteed minimal income, determined by the Council of Ministers. Assistance for prevention of abandonment, reintegration, raising the child in a relative’s family or in a foster family is applied when the persons/family live at the same address with the child, the person is a parent or a person who takes care of the child according to the CPA and the parents or the caretakers cooperate with the Social Assistance Department to achieve the aims, determined by the action plan for the child.66 One-off assistance can be applied up to four times a year. It is allocated for a specific unexpected need which is not related to the child, its overall amount can be fivefold of the guaranteed minimal income67 and can be given in-kind or in cash.68 For children who are placed with relatives/close family friends, monthly assistance can be applied if the total average monthly income of all members of the family and children under for division of the activities funded through the municipal budgets in local and delegated by the state and for determination of stadnards for funding of the delegated by the state activities in 2008 (Решение 20 от 21.01.2008 г. на Министерски съвет за разпределение на дейностите финансирани чрез общинските бюджети на на местни и делегирани от държавата и за определян на стандарти за финансиране на делегираните от държавата дейности през 2008 г.), available at http:// www.minedu.government.bg/opencms/export/sites/mon/left_menu/budget/peshenie_MC2008all.pdf (Accessed: 30 November 2010). The Council of Ministers issues such decisions every year, but the decisions for 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 are not available on its website anymore after the new government started its mandate in July 2009. 63 Interview with Elena Metodieva, State Agency for Child Protection. Sofia, Bulgaria: 31 May 2010. 64 Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Outstanding Problems in the Implementation of Bulgaria’s Obligations Under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, Мarch 2008, available at: http://old.bghelsinki.org/index.php ?module=resources&lg=en&id=0&cat_id=18#2008 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 65 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 46. 66 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 47. 67 This is an amount of income that serves as a basis for determination of all financial benefits and social assistance under the Social Assistance Act. The Council of Minister determines this amount and in 2009 it was 65 BGN (appr. 33 Euro). In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 it was 55 BGN (appr. 28 Euro). 68 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 48. 22


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

18 is lower than the fivefold amount of the guaranteed minimal income (this makes currently 165 Euro).69 The concrete amount is determined by the social worker at the SAD and is differentiated according to the age of the child, and again based on the guaranteed minimal income. For a child of up to 7-years-old child, this amount can be 99 Euro; for a child 7 to 14-years-old, up to 116 Euro; for a child 14 to 18-years-old or up to 20 if the child studies up to 132 Euro.70 Foster families are remunerated under a labour contract. A foster family receives 130% of the minimal monthly remuneration for one child (160 Euro), 140% (172 Euro) for two children, and 150% (185 Euro) for three or more children.71 There are also monthly payments for meeting the child’s needs: 99 Euro for a child up to 7-years-old, 116 Euro for children ages 7 to 14, and 132 Euro for children ages 14 to 18 or up to 20 if the child studies. 72 To receive all payments, the eligible persons should apply to the SAD director and should present their ID documents, the child’s birth certificate and the order from the SAD director or the court decision for placement of the child.73 The director of the SAD issues a decision to approve or refuse the amount within 20 days. How the financial assistance is spent is monitored by social workers, who report every six months on monthly and one-off assistance, during the next review of the action plan. In 2006 financial assistance paid for protection measures under the CPA amounted to 4,042,541 Bulgarian leva (2,073,097 Euro) for an average of 5,348 cases per month on prevention of abandonment, reintegration, placement with relatives and foster care. In 2007 financial assistance amounted to 4,599,603 Bulgarian leva (2,358,770 Euro) for 5,009 cases: monthly payments to relatives in 3,237 cases and foster care in 82 cases; one-off payments for 1,145 cases of prevention of abandonment, 263 cases of reintegration in biological families, 762 cases to relatives and 59 cases of foster care. In 2008 financial assistance amounted to 5,488,932 Bulgarian leva (2,814,836 Euro) for 3,585 cases.74 In the 2009 budget of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under Program 6 “Protection of children through a transition from institutional to alternative family care”75 the social benefits (under the Child Protection Act) amounted to 6,000,000 Bulgarian leva (approximately 3,000,000 Euro) and for 2010 this amount reached 7,400,000 Bulgarian leva (3,700,000 Euro). In 2009 the same Ministry allocated under Program 9 “Support of families with children” for monthly allowances for children studying up to the end of high school (age of 18) under the Family Allowances Act a total of 411,461,600 Bulgarian leva (211,005,948 Euro) and for 2010 it was 30,000,000 Bulgarian leva (15,000,000 Euro) less. The monthly allowances for children of up to one year of age in 2009 amounted to 32,884,000 Bulgarian leva (16,863, 589 Euro) and for 69

Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 49. Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 49, para.2. 71 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 57в. 72 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 50. 73 Bulgaria, Rules for Implementation of Child Protection Act, Art. 52. 74 Social Assistance Agency, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Annual reports on the activities of the Social Assistance Agency, available in Bulgarian at: www.asp.government.bg/ASP_Client/ClientServlet?cmd=add_co ntent&lng=1&sectid=12&s1=207&selid=207 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 75 Alternative family care is foster care, placement in relatives‘ and friends‘ families and placement in family type centres. 70

23


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

2010 it was 13,000,000 Bulgarian leva (6,500,000 Euro) less. Under Program 10 “Integration of people with disabilities� monthly allowances for children under the Integration of People with Disabilities Act in 2009 amounted to 40,320,000 Bulgarian leva (20,160,000 Euro) and for 2010 it was expected to be 13,000,000 Bulgarian leva (6,500,000 Euro) less. Thus children under one year old and children with disabilities would suffer the most from cuts to the 2010 state budget. The state monthly allowance for raising a child up to the age of 20 if the child attends school in 2009 and 2010 is 35 BGN (around 18 Euro). In its 2009 annual report the Social Assistance Agency76 reported that the SAD worked on 3,597 cases of prevention of abandonment of children out of which only 1,277 cases were successful. Out of 2,469 reintegration cases, 1,400 children were placed back in their biological family and 746 were adopted. Another 1,435 children were placed in the family of their relatives and 112 children were placed in foster care. At the same time 2,479 children were placed in institutions.

6.3. Gaps and problems for Romani children in the child protection system The field research found the following gaps and problems for Romani children in the child protections system: • Child protection departments and schools seem to be reluctant or helpless in involving Romani children in schools/kindergartens. Neither the sanctions (fines77 and seizure of social welfare payments to unemployed parents78) for parents who do not let their children attend schools, nor the supposedly regular verifications by education inspectorates, nor the risk of losing family social assistance if children do not attend school seem to be effective measures, mainly because they are not implemented properly. The Romani families explained their reluctance to let their children go to school as due to fear of abuse by non-Romani children or abduction for marriage, lack of clothes, shoes, transportation or the fact that they did not finish education themselves and do not perceive education as valuable. 79

76

Social Assistance Agency, 2009 Annual report, p.20, available at: http://www.asp.government.bg/ ASP_Files/APP/Otchet-ASP-2009-OBOB-final1.htm (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 77 Art. 47 of the Public Education Act provides that parents and guardins who do not ensure mandatory school attendance of their school age chilidren should be fined 20 to 100 BGN (10 to 50 Euro). This measure must be applied by the relevant municipal authorities. 78 Art. 7, para.2 of the Family Children Allowances Act provides that parents are eligilble to receive monthly payments for their children among other conditions if the children attend school regulary. 79 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Romani neighborhood, Bratska Druzhba street. Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Romani ghetto. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families in Nadezhda Romani neighbourhood. Sliven, Bulgaria: 29 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families in Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood. Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 24


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

• Police and prosecution offices do not investigate cases of domestic violence, early marriages and recruitment for trafficking for the purpose of prostitution in Romani ghettos.80 Thus there is little or no prevention of children abuse, early pregnancies and unexpected migration that leads to abandonment of children. • Pregnancies among Romani women are not registered and monitored because of lack of access to healthcare which is due to lack of access to health insurance.81 Access to health insurance is ensured either when the person is registered as unemployed or when he/she receives social assistance. Romani families whose children are placed in institutions either did not have access to employment or social assistance at all or are not entitled to them anymore (temporary social assistance was introduced in 2006 and when the temporary term is over people are not entitled to assistance anymore). Even if a Romani woman did not want the pregnancy she learns about it too late because of lack of access to healthcare and delivers the child. When she realises she may not be able to afford to take care of the child, she might ask social workers or hospital workers to place the child in institution.82 • Lack of employment and social assistance also leads to migration within Bulgaria and abroad of many young Romani people who leave their children to be raised by their parents/ relatives. But when the parents also travel in search of employment, have their own small children or get ill, they may place these children in institutions.83 • The majority of the interviewed families whose children live in institutions do not receive social assistance, do not have jobs, are not educated at all or enough to be able to work, and are not supported to even improve the material conditions in which they live or to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Child Protection Departments do not have access to (or do not use) means which can prevent placement of Romani children in institutions. They cannot support the Romani family at risk sufficiently to ensure a safe environment for the children.84 The attitude of the child protection system towards applying one-time financial assistance in cases of risk of abandonment of the Romani baby seems to be negative and this measure is not applied often. Coordination between maternity wards in hospitals and social workers in the CPDs is not good in some regions (Varna, Sofia): the cases are reported very late, there 80

The research revealed that women who abandon their children are often victims of domestic violence, trafficking or were married before the age of 18. 81 Lack of health insurance makes Romani women more anxious when they deliver their children and according to health mediators in Sliven they abandon their children in the hospital fearing they would be asked about it and would be sanctioned for not having it. 82 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Romani neighborhood, Bratska Druzhba street. Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Romani ghetto. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families in Nadezhda Romani neighbourhood. Sliven, Bulgaria: 29 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families in Vladislavovo Romani neighbourhood. Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 83 The research did not reveal the exact numbers of Romani children affected by this form of institutionalisation but child social workers in Varna, Pazardzhik, Sliven and Plovdiv pointed out this is a growing trend. 84 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD. Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD. Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 25


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

are difficulties with identifying the mother if she already left the hospital, the workers in the hospital are not in confident relationships with the mothers and cannot identify their will to abandon the child.85 • Prevention of unwanted pregnancies and abortion are not accessible to Romani families as organizations and service-providers work on this issue on a project basis and when the project is finished Romani women cannot rely on these measures anymore. Romani men do not use condoms and Romani women predominantly fear using diaphragms or cannot afford the price of buying them. As Romani women are not educated and lack health insurance they learn about their pregnancies too late or if they learn early enough and do not want the child, they have to pay between 75 and 100 Euro for an abortion, which they can rarely afford. 86 All these facts are preconditions for child abandonment. • Various problems were identified in the coordination and cooperation between NGOs, service providers and the CPDs, Romani NGOs and child protection departments, schools and child protection departments. The CPDs rely on the NGOs that provide services to manage problems of preventing the placement of children in institutions and reintegration, foster care, training of adoptive parents (where it exists) but very often the assessments of the CPDs and NGOs of the needs of the family or child at risk differ.87 Romani NGOs do not work with CPDs on implementation of protection measures for Romani children.88 Schools refer cases of drop-outs to the CPDs but they do not have the capacity to work on drop-out prevention and refer this to NGOs that provide educational services to such children.89 This does not seem to be a sensible solution to the problem as the schools remain unadapted to the needs of Romani students and the CPDs and service providers are not aware of all drop-out cases.

85

Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD. Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interview with Petya Petrova, social worker, Centre for social support – Serdika. Sofia, Bulgaria: 22 June 2010. 86 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Romani neighborhood, Bratska Druzhba street. Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Romani ghetto. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families in Nadezhda Romani neighbourhood. Sliven, Bulgaria: 29 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families in Vladislavovo Romani neighbourhood. Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 87 Interview with Rumyana Yordanova (and 7 officers), director, Facility for social services for children and families. Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD. Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region. Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010; Interview with Petya Petrova, social worker, Center for social support – Serdika. Sofia, Bulgaria: 22 June 2010. 88 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD. Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD. Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 89 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD. Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD. Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 26


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

7. Overrepresentation of Roma in the child protection system 7.1. Availability of data and data protection Upon a special request sent by the research team, the State Agency for Child Protection provided data on the numbers of Romani children living in state care indicating that Romani children are overrepresented in state care in Bulgaria. According to the written reply sent on 1 June 2010,90 as of 31 December 2009 there were 3,440 children aged 7 to 18 living in the Homes for Children Deprived of Parental Care (HCDPC) out of whom 1,705 (49.6%) were Romani children. In the Homes for Medico-social Care for Children aged 0 to 3 (HMSCC) there were 2,334 children, out of whom 1,190 (51.0%) were Roma. In the Homes for Children with Intellectual Disabilities (HCID) there were 956 children, out of whom 314 (32.8%) were Roma. It is worth mentioning that the processing of personal data which discloses the racial or ethnic origin is prohibited by Article 5 of Protection of Personal Data Act (PPDA), with few exceptions including where the data subject gives his or her consent.91 The CPA does not contain any provisions which would enable the collection and processing of data on ethnic origin. All staff members of institutions, including social workers and service providers, stated that Romani children are overrepresented in childcare institutions although the issue was never raised officially and they were not able to show reliable data proving this. Note that ‘overrepresentation’ as a term was not known to staff and social workers and it was defined explicitly by the researchers. It was misunderstood only as prevailing in number in comparison to the numbers of non-Roma children. Institutional staff interviewed estimated that they take care of more Romani children than non-Romani children. The majority of social workers in Child Protection Departments reported that they record data on ethnicity if the families (most often the mothers) explicitly give information about their ethnic origin. The fathers of at-risk Romani children are often mentioned as ‘unknown’ on the birth certificates and social reports.92 However, social workers do not deliberately 90

Written reply 05-00-5, dated 1 June 2010, signed by the chair of the State Agency for Child Protection Nadya Shabani. 91 Bulgaria, Personal Data Protection Act, Art. 5, para.2 (23.12.2005). Processing of sensitive data would not be prohibited if: personal data controller is doing so as an implementation of legal obligations under the employment legislation, if the data subject gave his/her consent, if the processing is necessary for protection of life or health of the data subject or other person and the condition in which the person is found does not allow him/her to express consent or there are legal obstacles for that, an NGO is processing such data while performing its lawful activities and with certain protection if the processing is related only to the members or persons with which it contains permanent relationship for its purposes, the data cannot be disclosed to third persons without the consent of the person to whom they relate; processing is related to publicly announced data by the data subject or is necessary for estimation, exercising or protection of rights in judicial order, processing is necessary for the purpose of preventive medicine, medical diagnostics, provision or management of healthcare services, if the data is processed by a medical specialist, bound by law to professional secrecy, or another person bound by law to professional secrecy, processing is done only for journalistic, artistic, literary purposes and does not violate the right to personal life. 92 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka 27


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

collect data on ethnicity of client families/ at-risk children. But the forms from the State Agency for Child Protection requires that such data be collected. The template of the social report also contains this requirement but the social workers interviewed stated that it is not obligatory to fill it in if the families do not explicitly define their ethnicity.93 The practice of filling the template varies from region to region and from social worker to social worker: in Pazardzhik, Plovdiv and Sofia this does not seem to be a regular practice, but in Sliven and Varna social reports contain such information. Some social workers in Sliven and Pazardzhik record the ethnicity of the families at risk although the families may not explicitly state their ethnicity.94 To do so the social workers judge by skin colour and place of residence (Romani neighborhoods) of the families. Some social workers stated that they always record data about ethnicity but the children’s institutions that receive their reports denied this to be true. This fact might be due to the significant turnover of social workers at Child Protection Departments and the various practices they applied.

7.2. The proportion of Romani children in state care Municipal childcare institutions provide information on the ethnicity of the children in their care to the State Agency for Child Protection once per year. Childcare institutions for children aged 0 to 3 are subordinated to the Ministry of Healthcare and they also provide such information. However, the staff in childcare institutions complained that sometimes such information is not recorded by the Child Protection Departments in the social reports with which each child is placed and as they do not work with the parents it is difficult for them to judge and report on the ethnicity of the children.95 When interviewed they replied that they do not treat children differently depending on their ethnicity and try to have the same attitude towards all children.96 The staff in institutions also stated that it is most difficult to determine the origin of children who are abandoned in maternity wards as information about Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD. Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 93 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD. Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD. Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD. Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 94 Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD. Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 95 Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci. Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010, Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’. Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD. Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010. 96 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010; Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010; Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), village of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010. 28


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

the parents is missing in their documentation.97 In rare cases, in the regions of Pazardzhik, Plovdiv and Varna, Roma identify themselves as Turks.98 According to social workers they are less likely to place their children in institutions than Roma who speak Romani/Bulgarian and identify themselves as Christians.99 The table below presents in figures the overrepresentation of Romani children in the childcare institutions visited under the current project:

HCDPC (aged 7-18)‚ ‘Asen Zlatarov’, Sofia HMSCC (aged 0-3) ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia HCDPC (aged 7-18) ‘P.R.Slaveikov’, Sofia HCDPC (aged 3-7) Dragalevci, Sofia HMSCC (aged 0-3) ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia

Total number of children

Number of Romani children

Number of children with disabilities

Number of Romani children with disabilities

48

30

no data

no data

39

17

17

9

7

2

2

1

62 50

more than 33 more than 26

43

17

20

no data

HCDPC (aged 7-18) ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv

68

41

no data

no data

HMSCC (aged 0-3), Plovdiv

104

more than 52

44

more than 22

34

28

no disabled children

-

54

49

18

10

HCDPC (aged 3-7), village of Zelenikovo, Plovdiv region HMSCC (aged 0-3), Pazardzhik 97

Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010; Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010; Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), village of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010. 98 Interview with Nadya Taneva, director, Social Assistance Department (SAD), Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, in Tokaito (Iztok Roma neighbourhood), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 8 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk and families who have children in institutions, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood, Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 99 Interview with Nadya Taneva, director, Social Assistance Department (SAD), Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Margarita Georgieva, chairperson, ‘Vladislavovo’ Foundation, running two Centres for rehabilitation and social integration of Romani children, Maksuda, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhoods, Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010. 29


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

HCDPC (aged 3-7), Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region HCDPC (aged 7-18) ‘Vasil Petleshkov’, Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven HCDPC (aged 4-18), Asenovec, Sliven region HCDPC (aged 3-7) ‘Drugarche’, Varna HCDPC (aged 7-18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna

25

22

2

1

76

47

6

5

71

62

23

12

66

more than 41

4

no data

39

21

no disabled children

-

30

24

7

3

7.3. Factors contributing to the over-representation of Romani children All CPDs stated that more Romani children are at risk than non-Romani children. They explained this phenomenon in terms of poor living conditions (lack of enough space, lack of water and electricity), lack of regular income, unemployment among adults, lack of social assistance, low rate of literacy, larger numbers of children per family and the higher birth rates among Romani population.100 The Child Protection Departments in Sliven and Sofia stated they currently receive more signals for children at risk in general and of Romani children in particular than in the past and the placements of children in institutions has increased.101 In Pazardzhik, Plovdiv and Varna a higher number of at-risk children are referred to communitybased services and not placed in institutions.102 Compared to non-Romani children, more Romani children enter state care institutions.103 This is due to the fact that Romani children cannot benefit from consultant community-based services such as therapies, educational services and trainings as the services are not located in Romani ghettos where the children and their families live and do not provide the material, healthcare or social assistance they need. Some local NGOs which provide relevant services in Romani ghettos stated that they cannot apply for EU structural funds and operational programs to become sustainable because they cannot prove the availability of reimbursement funds (practically, the requirements for the 100

Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 101 Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010, Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 102 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 103 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 30


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

application for these programs are set in a way that only municipalities are eligible since they have at their disposal such funds which can be invested during the project and reimbursed afterwards).104 Another organisation provided information that the social services for parents and children at risk are considered by the Romani people as a supplementary education for Romani children. The parents send their children there as in a study-room, because there is no school in the afternoons and there is no one to support the children in coping with the language barrier or with the study material.105 There are no other centres for children such as library clubs or interest clubs. The social workers in the Social Assistance Departments and Child Protection Departments stated that in general, foster care, adoptions and placement in home settings are still very rare – compared to the number of placements in institutions.106 As there was no specific data on Romani children in each department it was impossible to collect precise data on alternative placements. In most departments the majority of the children who were adopted in 2009 and 2010 were Roma.107 There are few foster families: 5 to 8 in the region of Plovdiv,108 Sofia and Sliven and over 20 in the regions of Pazardzhik and Varna. The social workers could not provide data on the number of Romani children in foster care but stated that some of the children in foster care are Roma and some of the foster families are Romani (there are 23 Romani foster families caring for Romani children in Rakivoto in the Pazardzhik region and out of 27 foster families in Varna, 10 take care of Romani children).109 According to an association conducting field work with Roma in Varna foster care is not supported by all social workers in the child protection system in Varna. Some think that the subjective attitude of social workers hinders the referral of children to foster care and the adequate selection of foster parents. Thus children that could be protected through foster care are either left without protection or are institutionalized. The association has encountered social workers who refused to open cases 104

Statement of Ilian Rizov, chairperson, association “Sauchastie”, round table, Varna,Bulgaria: 4.2. 2011. 105 Statement of Margarita Georgieva, foundation “Vladislavovo”, round table, Varna, Bulgaria: 4.2. 2011. 106 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 107 Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010 – According to Mrs Tahova 35 children were adopted in 2010 in Sofia, out of whom 25 were Roma; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010 – According to Mrs Kezheva 80 % of the adopted children (10) during the period October 2009June 2010 were Roma; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010 – According to Mrs Krusteva seven children were adopted during the first half of 2010 and the adoptive parents wanted to adopt ‘white’ babies; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010 – Around 27 children were adopted during 2009-2010 but the exact number of Roma among them is unknown. 108 Five foster families in Plovdiv out of which only one takes care of a Romani child. 109 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 31


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

for at-risk children because that would entail more work that they could not take on. The Association often sends signals about at-risk Romani children to the local Child Protection Department (CPD) after it has already prepared a service for the particular child, but the CPD does not want to work on every case.110 In some regions placement with relatives was developed most among the alternatives to institutionalization. The social workers apply this placement for Romani children if they have families willing and able to take care for the children. The cases vary a lot and concrete data on the number of Romani children in the care of relatives was not presented. In the Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia and in Pazardzhik the number of such children is gradually increasing because their mothers find jobs abroad.111 In Plovdiv this is not a popular measure for protection as relatives also have many children and do not have the means to take care of more children. In Sliven and Varna around 30-35 children (the majority of whom are Roma) are placed in the families of their grandmothers.112 However, the Child Protection Departments expressed their suspicions that in some of these cases the children are not at risk, but that this placement is a source of additional financial support (ranging from 30 to 75 Euro per month) and this is why relatives apply for it. Placement with relatives is applied more as a preventive measure to the institutionalization of Romani children, which is why directors of institutions did not report about such placements of children who were already institutionalized. 113 The majority of children left without parental care are still placed in childcare institutions as the network of alternative services is underdeveloped and insufficient to serve all children in need. Romani children prevail, ranging from 50 to 80% of all children in each institution visited during research.114Most Romani families leave their children in state care stating that 110

Statement by Ilian Rizov, chairperson, Association “Sauchastie”’, round table, Varna, Bulgaria: 04.02. 2011. 111 Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010, Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 112 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 113 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 114 The researchers visited 15 children institutions in which the total of 809 children lived out of whom 510 were Roma. Interview with Zornica Gorcheva, director, HCDPC ‚ Asen Zlatarov‘, Sofia, Bulgaria: 16 June 2010 – there were 48 children out of whom 30 were Roma (no information was provided about diabilities). Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 15 June 2010 – there were 39 children in the home out of whom 17 Roma (according to offical document but are more in practice); 17 of all children were disabled out of whom 9 were Roma. Interview with Nadya Dzhunova, director, HCDPC ‘P.R.Slaveikov’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 23 June 2010 – there were 62 children ouf of whom more than 33 were Roma; 7 children were disabled out of whom 2 were Roma. Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010 -there were 50 children ouf of whom at least 26 were Roma; 2 children were disabled, one of them was Roma. Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010 – there were 43 out of whom 17 were Roma; 20 children were disabled but no information was provided about the number of Roma among the disabled children. Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010 – there were 68 children out of whom 60 % were Roma; no 32


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

their intention is to take the children back in the family after an uncertain period, ranging from several months to several years.115 According to social workers and staff in childcare institutions, Romani women very rarely leave their children for adoption and this is more likely to happen when the child is born with a disability. This phenomenon is explained by the long-term state policy to raise children in institutions without considering them as children at risk and the positive attitude of the Romani parents towards this service.116 Since the new child protection legislation entered into force in 2000, childcare institutions were supposed to host only at-risk children. However, the interviews showed that only 7-8 years after this legislation was amended did the practice start to change and social workers information was provided about disabled children. Interview with Dr Kazadnzhieva, director, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010 – there were 104 children, out of whom at least 52 were Roma; 44 of the children were disabled and more than 22 of them were Roma. Interview with Ivanka Koleva, director, HCDPC, village of Zelenikovo, Plovdiv region, Bulgaria: 13 July 2010 – there were 34 children out of whom 28 were Roma; there were not children with disabilities. Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010 – there were 54 children out of whom 90 % were Roma, around 18 children were disabled out of whom more than 10 were Roma. Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), village of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010 – there were 25 children out of whom 22 were Roma, 2 children were disabled, one is Roma. Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010 – there were 76 children out of whom 62 % were Roma; 6 children were disabled out of whom 5 were Roma. Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010 –there were 71 children out of whom 62 were Roma, 23 children were disabled out of whom over 12 were Roma.Interview with Teodora Vladikova, social worker, HCDPC, village of Assenovec, Sliven region, Bulgaria: 27 July 2010. Interview with Tatyana Krusteva, director, and Tanya Petkova, social worker, HCDPC ‘Drugarche’ (aged 3-7), Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010 – there were 39 children out of whom 21 were Roma; no children had disability. Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010 – there were 30 children out of whom 24 were Roma; 7 children had disability, 3 of them were Roma. 115 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010; Interview with Nadya Dzhunova, director, HCDPC ‘P.R.Slaveikov’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 23 June 2010; Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Dr Kazadnzhieva, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010; Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), village of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010; Interview with Tatyana Krusteva, director, and Tanya Petkova, social worker, HCDPC ‘Drugarche’ (aged 3-7), Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010. 116 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Yana Staneva, director, Facility for social services for children and families, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Rumyana Yordanova (and 7 officers), director, Facility for social services for children and families, Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 33


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

start to explain this to Romani parents.117 Since October 2009, children who were abandoned in institutions might be adopted without the consent of the biological parents if the parents did not show any interest in the children within six months after they were placed in an institution. Actions taken to implement this amendment of the Family Code showed that in Pazardzhik, Varna and Sofia more Romani children were registered for adoption and some were already adopted.118 In Varna, Sliven and Pazardzhik this amendment made the Romani parents visit their children and show interest in them but without a ‘real’ intention to take them back in their families and care for them. 119 The differences between Romani and non-Romani parents (as explained by staff in institutions and social workers) were that non-Romani parents are less willing to leave their children to be raised in institutions. If they do so they would rather leave the children for adoption either because they have a disability or because the pregnancy was not wanted by the woman.120 Many non-Romani children are left in institutions because their parents live in poverty, are ill/ imprisoned/use drugs or/and abused the children.121 7.3.1 Characteristics of Romani women who abandon their children in institutions The interviewees working in the SADs, CPDs and children’s institutions pointed out that it is very hard to outline a particular trend in the mechanisms of institutionalization of Romani children as their personal histories and families are very different. The research focused on the characteristic features of Romani women whose children live in institutions: age, region, social status, employment, educational status, relationships in the family, etc. The social workers, service providers and staff in institutions described several profiles of Romani women who leave their children in institutions voluntarily or whose children are protected from dangerous environments after intervention by the police or/and the Child Protection Departments. The first profile is of a woman who: • is not educated or finished only the first 3-4 grades in elementary school (but is functionally illiterate); • was married at an early age – 13 to 16; • gave birth to her first child at the age of 13-16; • already has 5-6 children at the age of 28-30; 117

Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 118 Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 119 Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 120 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010, Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010, Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010. 121 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 15 June 2010, Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010. 34


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

• does not have a constant partner; • has never been employed; • lives in poverty, her only income being the social welfare for the children (18 Euro monthly per child which can be stopped if the child is aged 7 to 16 and does not attend school or if the child has not received mandatory vaccinations).122 These women may leave one or several children in institutions as they cannot take care of all of them due to lack of income, proper housing conditions and support from relatives and/or her partner. In some of the institutions visited there were two or three children born by the same+ mother with this profile. The second profile is of a woman over the age of 18 who migrates in search of income and works abroad. She leaves her children (one to three) with her mother or mother-in-law. But after the latter experiences financial, health or other problems they ask the Child Protection Departments to place the children in an institution. These Romani women usually do not visit the institution where their children are placed and lose emotional and mental contact with their children. There is little information about their occupation, but unofficial sources state that it is sometimes prostitution.123 However, they still keep the parental rights for their children who live in institutions. The third profile is of a woman who is aged 30 and over, has at least 5-6 children, is not educated or employed and migrates in the country, living with different partners in different cities and collecting garbage/iron etc. or begging with or without the children.124 The only income of the Romani women interviewed comes from the 18 Euro per month the state allocates for each of their children and an additional 50 Euro per month for children under one for a period of 12 months.125 Some women manage to provide income for the 122

Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria:28- 29 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk and families who have children in institutions, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood, Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010; Interview with Dr Kazandzhieva, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010. 123 Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010, Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010, Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 124 Interview with Zornica Gorcheva, director, HCDPC ‘Asen Zlatarov’, Sofia, Bulgaria:16 June 2010, Interview with Krassimir Medarov, director, Social Assistance Department (SAD) Serdika region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 22 June 2010, Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 15 June 2010, Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010; Interview with Teodora Vladikova, social worker, HCDPC (aged 4-18), village of Asenovec, Sliven region, Bulgaria: 27 July 2010. 125 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Nadezhda roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria:28- 29 July 2010; Interviews with Roma families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, in Tokaito (Iztok Roma neighbourhood), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 8 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Roma neighbourhood, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Roma neighbourhood, Bratska Druzhba street, Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010, Interviews with Romani families at risk and families who have children in institutions, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood, Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 35


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

everyday needs of their children if they have more children so that each year they can receive at least the 50 Euro per month. There is no information available as to whether any particular Romani sub-group is overrepresented among the families and children at risk. The staff in children’s institutions was not generally aware of the situation of Romani parents and is not in touch with most of them. The parents communicate with the Child Protection Departments as the latter are obliged to involve the parents in the implementation of the action plans for the children while the children live in the institutions.126 A few of the Romani parents interviewed were deprived of liberty or begged. There was unofficial information on some of the mothers that they work as prostitutes. For the majority of the mothers, the common characteristic was a very low education level, if any, early marriages, many children, bad housing conditions, lack of employment history, lack of access to social assistance and lack of a supportive environment. The research tried to find out whether the Romani mothers were involved in any pregnancy prevention activities and whether they had access to abortion. The service providers shared information about some project based initiatives that took place during the last five years, such as courses on prevention of pregnancies, family planning and taking care of babies.127 The interviewees from Roma NGOs and service providers did not observe that at-risk Romani women seek such information and knowledge. On the contrary, social workers and service providers stated that pregnancies and children are considered important and precious among Roma and this understanding hinders Romani women from learning about prevention methods.128 The Romani women interviewed said that they were interested in prevention and stopping their pregnancies too but were unaware of the methods. The Romani women who are considered likely to abandon their children do not have health insurance and have no 126

Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010; Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to 3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010; Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), villiage of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010. 127 Interviews with employees of ‘Health and Social Development’ (NGO, providing health and social services in Fakulteta Roma neighbourhood), Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010; Interview with Ivan Pavlov, director, Centre for social support – Serdika, Sofia, Bulgaria: 22 June 2010, Interview with Petya Petrova, social worker, Centre for social support – Serdika, Sofia, Bulgaria: 22 June 2010; Interview with Yana Staneva, director, Facility for social services for children and families, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Dr Panayotov, Roma medical doctor, Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010; Interview with Margarita Georgieva, chairperson, ‘Vladislavovo’ Foundation, running two Centres for rehabilitation and social integration of Roma children, Maksuda, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhoods, Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010. 128 Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010; Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Yana Staneva, director, Facility for social services for children and families, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010. 36


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

access to healthcare. This is how they learn about their pregnancies late and the pregnancy itself is not monitored by doctors.129 Some service providers in Sofia and healthcare mediators in Sliven stated that a few Romani women among their clients had experience with abortions but they had to pay 75 to 100 Euro for this service. Those Romani women who cannot afford this amount deliver the child and leave the baby in the hospital.130 The researchers met women who aborted their children only in the Varna Romani neighbourhood. Prosecution offices in general do not open criminal proceedings on cases of early pregnancies among 12-14-year-old Romani girls who live with adult partners as they do not find enough evidence to establish a crime.131 In Sliven two general practitioners were fined by the State Agency for Child Protection because they did not report the pregnancies of their young patients – girls under the age of 14. Afterwards, for a period of two-three months (April-June 2010) the general practitioners in Sliven region sent 120 signals about pregnant Romani girls to the Child Protection Department in the city.132 Romani children enter the childcare institutions either right after birth or later between the ages of 3 to 9.133 Most of the Romani young adults (20-26) who left institutions were raised in four-five institutions between birth or infancy and the age of 18 or 20, when they finished their higher education.134 Romani children135 interviewed in childcare homes were placed there between the ages of 0 to 10. 7.3.2 Parental rights after institutionalization Romani parents do not lose their parental rights when their children are placed in institutions. Although they might not have visited or showed interest in their children they still are the guardians and hold parental rights under the law. Only in October 2009 was it possible, if those 129

Interview with Natasha Todorova and Sasho Yordanov, healthcare mediators, Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010. 130 Interview with Natasha Todorova and Sasho Yordanov, healthcare mediators, Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010; Interview with Petya Petrova, social worker, Center for social support – Serdika, Sofia, Bulgaria: 22 June 2010. 131 Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010. 132 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 133 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010; Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to 3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010; Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), villiage of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010. 134 Interviews with young Romani adults in the Centre for temporary placement of adults, ‘Sv. Dimitur’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 29 June 2010; Interviews with five young Romani adults in the Youth Village ’Mladost’, Centre for temporary placement of adults, leaving children institutions, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 15 July 2010. 135 The researchers interviewed the total of 40 Romani children living in children care institutions. 37


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

parents did not show interest in their children up to six months after their placement in an institution, to register the children for adoption without the consent of the biological parents. The parents have the right to be notified in various ways for the initiation of this procedure and they can challenge it. However, the practice shows that some parents started showing interest only after notification so that the child could not be adopted.136 Other parents did not get in contact with the Child Protection Departments after notification and their children were registered for adoption. Few Romani parents asked for reintegration of the child back in their family after they learned about the legislative amendment. Some parents cannot be notified as they migrate and do not reside at their permanent address where the notification is sent.137 As this amendment and its implementation is very recent (October 2009-Augist 2010) it is difficult to find out exactly how the rights of the parents are being protected. The researchers did not find parents whose children were already adopted as a result of this procedure. 7.3.3 Reasons for the institutionalization of Romani children The reasons why Romani children are placed in institutions were explained in different ways by social workers and service providers in the different regions. The most common reasons pointed out by the interviewees were: poverty, unacceptable housing conditions (no electricity, no running water, a single room for the whole family), lack of education and employment of the parents, many children in the family, lack of a supportive environment.138 Some social workers stated that poverty cannot be the only reason for institutionalisation of children. They found that the responsibility of the parents is more important, and gave examples of poor Romani mothers who still take care of their children. Some service providers underlined the lack of a parent’s capacity as a crucial issue in terms of institutionalization.139 Another reason why Romani children are institutionalized is inertia from the past when the State encouraged Romani mothers to leave their children if they are not able to take care of them, and the perception of some Romani parents that the quality of the care in institutions is good or at least better from the housing conditions in the ghettos where they live.140 The 136

Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 137 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 138 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 139 Interview with Rumyana Yordanova (and 7 officers), director, Facility for social services for children and families, Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010; Interview with Yana Staneva, director, Facility for social services for children and families, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010. 140 On 23 February 1968 a Decree for Birthrate Encouragement was adopted in Bulgaria and it was suspended only on 1 April 2002. Its Art. 1 provided that the State pays for the first child delivery 100 BGN (50 Euro), for the second – 200 BGN (100 Euro) and for the third – 250 BGN (125 Euro) and for each of the following children the State paid 100 BGN. The monthly payments under Art. 3 for single mothers were as follows: for the first child 40 BGN (20 Euro), for the second – 60 BGN (30 Euro), for the third – 110 BGN (55 Euro) and for each the following children – 30 BGN (15 Euro). Thus the Decree stimulated Roma women to give birth to more children without marriage. At that time Bulgarian women delivered one or two children in the common case. The Decree is available in Bulgarian at: http://www.bsconsult.bg/pages/NORM/norm2.php?normativ_id=3 (Accessed: 13 October 2010). Interview with Rumyana Yordanova (and 7 officers), director, Facility for social 38


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Romani parents interviewed, though, were not aware of the exact conditions in which their children live in institutions either because they did not visit them, or because they are not acquainted with the conditions during their visits. There is a trend that Romani women who were raised in institutions are more likely to leave their child in an institution.141 A different perspective on poverty as a reason for abandonment of children is that the mothers who work abroad or in the country cannot afford to take their children with them (especially when they work as prostitutes) and this is why children are placed in institutions, because they often are considered neglected.142 The researchers identified many cases of at-risk children in all Romani ghettos visited who had not been identified as such by the child protection system. The risky environment was often related to domestic violence, criminal behaviour of the parents, disability of the child that was not recognised as such, other children living in institutions, or dropping out of school. Some social workers themselves admitted that they do not have the capacity and resources to work with all Romani children at-risk.143 When interviewed, none of the Child Protection Departments were able to report statistics on the implementation of the measures envisaged by the Child Protection Act such as financial assistance in cases of reintegration and prevention of abandonment. They mainly stated that they refer Romani families at risk to social services such as consultation, skill courses for young mothers or training of children who dropped out of school.144 Foster care is not popular in Bulgaria but there are cases of Romani families who provide professional foster care to Romani children. This happens in regions where Romani NGOs are active in popularising this option. Some of the interviewees stated that the salary and the financial assistance provided for the needs of the child is a motivating factor for these families. A trend in this phenomenon perceived negatively, however, according to one interviewee – a director at an institution145 – is that children who did not know the Romani language when placed in a Romani foster family only use Romani language and it is difficult for them to adapt first in the foster family and then back in the institution or with adoptive parents. services for children and families, Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010; Interview with Yana Staneva, director, Facility for social services for children and families, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010; Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010. 141 Interview with Yana Staneva, director, Facility for social services for children and families, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Rumyana Yordanova (and 7 officers), director, Facility for social services for children and families, Varna, Bulgaria: 4 August 2010; Interview with a Romani woman at risk in Pazardzhik ‚Mother and Baby Unit‘, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010, Interviews with Romani women in Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria: 29 July 2010. 142 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 143 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 144 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010, Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 145 Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), villiage of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010. 39


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Social workers had different opinions on the financial assistance provided for prevention of abandonment to biological families or relatives. Some did not advocate this form of support to families because the resources might not be used for the child’s needs, or because the parents might not behave in a responsible way as otherwise they rely only on this financial income and are not active in seeking employment or improving the housing conditions in their homes.146 It seemed during research as if the social workers were free to decide whether this form of assistance should be used. They did not mention any other forms of support they might use to improve the quality of life of the children and families at risk. In some cases, financial assistance is used as an additional income for the family although all adults are able to take care of the children but do not, or hide themselves when social workers visit the house. This is the case when children are placed with relatives – usually grandmothers – only because the family needs income.147 The most commonly used form of financial support is for newborn children whose mothers expressed the desire to abandon them in the hospital right after birth. In these cases the CPDs allocate a one-time payment of around 160 Euro and buy the mother pampers, formula milk, clothes, bedding, and other basic objects the child would need.148 Usually the instructions given by social workers to parents whose children are in institutions but are to be reintegrated contain obligations for improvement of the material, social and financial status of the family. These instructions include obligations: to paint walls, to set up equipment for cooking or running water, to secure safe access to electricity, to have enough beds, to seek jobs, to manage income so that basic needs of the children are met, or to enroll the children in kindergartens/schools. According to social workers and staff in children institutions, reintegration in biological families is a very rare form of protection as the families live in poverty, migrate, have more children after some of the children are placed in institutions and cannot provide a secure environment for the child.149 According to the Social Assistance Agency‘s annual reports the successful reintegration cases were 886 in 2006, 1,332 in 2007, 1,427 in 2008 and 1,400 in 2009.150 There is no data on the number of successful reintegration cases with Romani children and the research did not find any such cases. In some regions cases 146

Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010; Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010. 147 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26.07.2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2.08.2010; Interview with Rumyana Yordanova (and 7 officers), director, Facility for social services for children and families, Varna, Bulgaria: 4.08.2010. 148 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010, Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 149 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria:15 June 2010; Interview with Paolina Gicheva, social worker, HCDPC Dragalevci, Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 June 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Anelia Kirova, director, HCDPC ‘Rada Kirkovich’, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010; Interview with Cvetanka Borisova, director, HCDPC (aged 3 to 7), villiage of Lesichovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010; Interview with Kostadinka Najdenova, director, HCDPC ‘Vasil Petleshkov’ (aged 7-18), town of Bracigovo, Pazardzhik region, Bulgaria: 6 July 2010. 150 Social Assistance Agency, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Annual reports on the activities of the Social Assistance Agency, available in Bulgarian at: www.asp.government.bg/ASP_Client/ClientServlet?cmd=add_ content&lng=1&sectid=12&s1=207&selid=207 (Accessed: 30 November 2010). 40


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

of unsuccessful reintegration were reported where one or two children were deinstitutionalized, then re-placed in institutions after 16-18 months together with their younger sisters/brothers.151 In some of these cases reintegration failed because the child became a victim of violence or abuse. One possible explanation is that social workers at the CPD do not properly assess the risk to the child or that family life is insecure in many aspects and this makes evaluations of its capacity difficult. Another reason why reintegration is only rarely applicable is that the majority of Romani parents cannot be found and involved in child’s action plan. 152 The research also tried to link the institutionalization of Romani children with access to social assistance and inability to pay kindergarten fees (these vary in different regions from 7 to 30 Euro per month). The interviewees from Social Assistance Departments reported a reduction in the number of beneficiaries of social assistance since the legislation was amended in 2006 by the introduction of time limits. However, they were not able to comment whether the fact that Romani families were denied access to social assistance because of this amendment led to an increase of the number of institutionalized Romani children. In the meantime the overall number of children living in state care did not increase. In some SADs social workers stated that Romani families whose children are institutionalized never had access to social assistance.153 Romani interviewees said they do not consider kindergartens as a good place for raising children, do not have experience using them and do not need them as they are free to raise their children themselves.154 They also said that they are afraid their children would suffer abuse in kindergarten. There is not sufficient information available about the kindergartens accessible in or near the ghettos. None of the Romani women interviewed had children attending kindergarten.

151

Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010; Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010. 152 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010, Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 153 Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010, Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 154 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria: 28- 29 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, in Tokaito (Iztok Roma neighbourhood), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 8 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Roma neighbourhood, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Roma neighbourhood, Bratska Druzhba street, Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010, Interviews with Romani families at risk and families who have children in institutions, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood, Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 41


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

8. Adoptions Adoption procedures are regulated in the Family Code155 from Article 77 to Article 109 and the related by-laws. International adoptions are regulated by Articles 110-121 of the Family Code. Pursuant to Article 83 and Article 85 Regional Social Assistance Departments keep registers of the children eligible for full adoption and candidate adoptive parents.156 With children placed in childcare institutions whose parents have given their consent to full adoption or whose parents are unknown, the SAD director informs the Regional Social Assistance Departments (RSAD) in writing within seven days of the placement of the child under the administrative procedure for register entry.157 When the parent of a child placed in an institution under the administrative procedure does not contest the placement or protection measure alteration, the SAD informs the RSAD for register entry within seven days after the child has spent six months in the institution. Adoption without the consent of the parents is allowed when the parent does not take care of the child for a long time158 without any valid reason and does not pay allowances for the child (when the child is not institutionalized) or raises the child in a harmful way for the child’s development.159 The parent is summoned to be present at the court hearing on the adoption. Adoption without the consent of the parent is also allowed when the child is placed in an institution (under the administrative procedure) and the parent does not ask within six months (with no valid reason) for alteration of the protection measure of the child and reintegration of the child in the biological family, blocking the placement of the child in the institution or placement with relatives. The parent can apply for the above-mentioned measures during the court proceedings for placement of the child in an institution.160 A child whose parents are dead, deprived of parental rights or placed under plenary guardianship might be registered for full adoption if the guardian makes an application. The director of the RSAD requires a statement on the child’s interests from the SAD and the guardianship body (the mayor of the municipality).161 The parents may also apply at the SAD to register their child in the register for full adoption if this complies with the interests of their child.162 155

Bulgaria, Family Code, entered into force on 1 October 2009. The children are not registered when one of the spouses adopts a child of the other spouse, when grandchildren are adopted by their grandparents or when brothers and sisters of the mothers/ fathers adopt their nephews. The candidate adoptive parents are not registered when the guardian or a relatives’ family that takes care of the child under the Child Protection Act adopt the child. 157 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 84, para.1. 158 ‚Long time‘ is not defined in law but the analysis of the next parаgraph of this article leads to the conclusion that ‚long time‘ means six months and over. 159 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 93, para.1. The two last suggestions refer to children who do not live in institutions. 160 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 93, para.2. 161 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 84, para.3. 162 The former Family Code specified that a child in a specialised institution, who has not been sought within six months after the date they were supposed to be taken, may be entered in the register pursuant to a decision of the local court. Within 14 days by virtue of a proposal of the SARD 156

42


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Adoption applications are filed with the SAD. The SAD conducts an interview (home check) with the candidate adoptive parents. A report is developed and used by the the SAD director to issue permission for entry to the adoptive parents who then register at the RSAD. The permission is valid for two years.163 To adopt a child the consent of several persons is needed: the adoptive parent, the biological parents of the child to be adopted, the spouse of the adoptive parent, and the child to be adopted if he/she is over the age of 14.164 The biological mother cannot give consent for full adoption during the first 30 days after delivery of the child. All persons whose consent is needed for adoption must certify their consent in a written declaration with notary verification of their signature in which they state that their consent is not related to any material/financial profit. 165 The adoption council within the RSAD determines the appropriate parents for each child up to one month after the child is registered. The council is chaired by the director of the RSAD and consists of a lawyer (appointed by the district governor), medical doctor (appointed by the Regional Healthcare Centre), teacher (appointed by the Regional Inspectorate on Education), psychologist (appointed by the RSAD director) and the director of the institution where the child is placed. All members of the council receive remuneration for their participation. The council sits for hearings every month.166 The activities of the council are regulated in special rules, which are adopted by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy. When choosing the right parents for each registered child the council takes into account the preferences of the candidates for parents, the order in which they were registered and other circumstances related to the child’s best interests. Candidates who were foster parents of the child or took care of him/her for no less than a year as relatives might also be considered as appropriate adoptive parents by the council.167 Adoption is allowed only if it is in the child’s best interest.168 The district court according to the location of the RSAD considers the adoption applications and issues decisions. The decisions might be appealed by the adoptive parents, the child if he/she is over the age of 14, the prosecutor and the biological parents of the child in case they did not abandon their child in an institution without seeking him/her within six months after placement.169 The appellate court sits for a hearing on the appeal within 14 days after receipt. Its decision is final. Candidate adoptive parents are ensured conditions to contact the child and the multidisciplinary team taking care of the child. The child is offered to the adoptive parents after the court decision on adoption has entered into effect. director or by virtue of a request of a prosecutor court proceedings are initiated, while pursuant to a request of the parents court proceedings are initiated for entering the child in the register. The decisions are subject to appeal before the district court. Any changes in the circumstances are noted in the register. By exceptions adoptions are allowed even if the parent does not agree, if they consistently fail to take care of their child, and also when they have left their child in an institution and have not sought the child within six months after the date they were supposed to take the child back. (Family Code, Art. 84, para.5.) 163 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 86. 164 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 89. 165 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 89. 166 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 94. 167 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 95. 168 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 97. 169 Bulgaria, Family Code, Art. 98. 43


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

The greatest number of adopted children comes from Homes for Medico-Social Care for Children (HMSCC) as most candidate adoptive parents prefer babies. According to the directors of the HMSCC, a relatively larger share of the children was adopted before 2000 and thus they stayed in the institutions for less time.

8.1 Adoptions of Romani children Due to the failure of the Bulgarian child protection system to help disadvantaged Romani families improve their conditions and avoid child removal or get institutionalised children back into their care, adoption is found to be the most successful way of ensuring that Romaní children do not spend their entire lives in an institutional environment. Other forms of services are not used sufficiently and provide family environments for only a certain period of time. The problem for Romani children is that Bulgarian candidate adoptive parents usually desire to adopt Bulgarian children or at least ‘white’ children.170 During the last five years some have defined their requirement for a child ‘who does not have the typical characteristic features of Roma’.171 According to social workers this means that they prefer to adopt a white child. Thus more and more Bulgarians adopt Romani children who are not dark-skinned although they know their origin is Roma. Over the last five years the number of Romani candidate adoptive parents has also increased, while in the past there were none. 172 Before the new Family Code was adopted in 2009, the legislation provided that children left to be raised in the institutions and not sought by their parents should be registered for adoption only after their parents are deprived of their parental rights by a court decision. The practice here varied depending on the court and the local Child Protection Department. In the bigger cities where most of the HMSCC are located, however, the procedure for depriving the parents of their parental rights was slow and difficult, and this considerably slowed down the adoption procedures.173 The State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) does not report any problems with adoptions and especially adoptions of Romani children. 170

Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010, Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 171 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010, Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. 172 Interview with Victoria Tahova, director, SAD Vuzrazhdane region, Sofia, Bulgaria: 24 June 2010. Interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010. 173 Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Assessment Report On the Conditions and Perspectives of the Institutions for Children in Bulgaria and of the progress made in implementing the government obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2006, p.54, available in English at: http://old.bghelsinki.org/ index.php?module=resources&lg=en&id=0&cat_id=18#2006 (Accessed: 31 May 2010). 44


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total number of candidate adoptive parents registered at the RSAD

2,590

3,220

2,308

2,328

Total number of children, registered for full adoption at the RSAD

2,058

2,260

2,512

2,552

According to SACP data around 650-750 children are adopted annually in Bulgaria and foreign countries. The adoptions for 2004, 2005, 2006 were respectively 645, 642, 634 children. International adoptions in 2006 were 103. Comprehensive analysis on why only 25% of the children registered for full adoptions are actually adopted has never been presented.

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

9. Disability The highest number of disabled children was identified in Homes for Medico-Social Care for Children aged 0 to 3. Among these children, 50% were Romani. The legal guardians of these children are still their parents. If they are placed in institutional care for adoption then the director assumes the role of substitute caretaker, with the rights and obligations of a guardian. Directors of institutions and Romani families stated that the child’s disability is a reason for abandonment/placement in an institution.174 Until the role of ‘substitute caretaker’ was introduced in October 2009, the directors of these institutions acted as guardians. Although the parents were still the official legal guardians, the directors would sign informed consent forms for medical interventions, operations, specialised treatments and examinations. This was the practice when parents could not be found or were unable to understand the need for the intervention due to language/disability/other reasons.175 Most often the child’s disability is cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, sight impairment, spina bifida, etc. Practically, the only available placement option for disabled children at the age of 0 to 3 is these institutions and international adoptions.176 Children over the age of three might stay in these institutions until the age of seven, and if they are not adopted or reintegrated in their families they are moved to institutions for disabled children. While they stay in homes providing medico-social care they do not get pre-school education in compliance with the state standards.177 Only a few of them attend kindergarten in the city. In the Romani ghettos visited, at least one out of every five or six children in a family had some lung problems, asthma, epilepsy or an intellectual disability. In Varna, the CPD explained that many of these children are falsely diagnosed by the local medical commissions because of the benefits: disabled children are entitled to the highest amount of social financial assistance (under the Integration of People with Disabilities Act) compared to all other groups of children.178 In other regions, Romani families and CPDs 174

Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 15 June 2010, Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Dr Kazandzhieva, director, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010. 175 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 15 June 2010, Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Dr Kazandzhieva, director, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010. 176 The legislation and the practice in Bulgaria lead to this conclusion and it was supported by the interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; interview with Radka Kezheva, director, SAD, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 5 July 2010; interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 177 Interview with Dr Valentina Liharska, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Paraskeva’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 15 June 2010, Interview with Dr Kita Hristova, director, HMSCC (aged 0-3), Sliven, Bulgaria: 28 July 2010; Interview with Dr Diana Yancheva, director, HMSCC ‘Sv. Sofia’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 17 June 2010; Interview with Dr Kazandzhieva, director, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010; Interview with Dr Encheva, director, HMSCC (aged 0 to3), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 7 July 2010. 178 Interview with Galya Nikolova, senior expert, CPD, Varna, Bulgaria: 2 August 2010. 46


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

stated that children are often ill (especially with pneumonia, bronchiolitis, asthma, allergies) because of the bad and dangerous housing conditions.179 The only treatment option available is hospitalizaton as it is free for the children and thus they are separated from the dangerous environment. In some regions (Sliven, Plovdiv) mothers do not come for their children after the treatment has been completed, or children are hospitalised so often that the hospitals send signals to the CPDs to initiate procedures for institutionalization of these at-risk children in order to protect their lives and health.180 The Romani mothers stated they cannot afford to buy medicines and especially inhaler devices for asthma (which is considered a disability in Bulgaria). Some tried to ask for one-time assistance from the CPDs to buy them but were not given any assistance.181 When Romani children are born with some malformation/disability they are often placed in institutions for at least one to two years because of the constant medical care needed and the lack of opportunity (lack of space, lack of utilities, poverty, lack of knowledge, many other children in the family) within the family to take special care of the child at home. In all Romani ghettos visited the families interviewed discussed the situation of one or several of their disabled children who spent at least several months after birth in institutional care.182 The researchers interviewed an average of 12 families in each of the five Romani neighbourhoods visited and residential services. Altogether they had about 180 children, of which around 60 had a persisitent healthcare problem or disability. In institutions for adults and children (centres for temporary placement of adults) the researchers found young Romani adults (from ages 19 to 26) who were diagnosed as intellectually disabled at the age of six or seven, studied in special schools and then received vocational training. In only one case a Romani girl was reassessed and moved to mainstream school at the age of nine, as the assessment commission concluded she did not have an intellectual disability. 183 179

Interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010; Interview with Dr Kazandzhieva, director, HMSCC, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Roma neighborhood, Bratska Druzhba street, Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010. 180 Interview with Mrs Stoyanova, director, CPD, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 12 July 2010; interview with Snezhana Krusteva, director, CPD, Sliven, Bulgaria: 26 July 2010. 181 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Roma neighborhood, Bratska Druzhba street, Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Roma ghetto, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010. 182 Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Nadezhda Roma neighbourhood, Sliven, Bulgaria: 28- 29 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, in Tokaito (Iztok Roma neighbourhood), Pazardzhik, Bulgaria: 8 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families whose children live in institutions, Sokol and Shumen streets, Stolipinovo Roma neighbourhood, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 14 July 2010, 17 July 2010; Interviews with Romani families at risk, families who children live in institutions, Fakulteta Roma neighbourhood, Bratska Druzhba street, Sofia, Bulgaria: 30 June 2010, Interviews with Romani families at risk and families who have children in institutions, Vladislavovo Roma neighbourhood, Varna, Bulgaria: 5 August 2010. 183 The researchers interviewed 11 persons in these centres out of whom four had been diagnosed with intellectual disability. Interviews with young Romani adults in the Centre for temporary placement of adults, ‘Sv. Dimitur’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 29 June 2010; Interviews with five young 47


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

In childcare institutions (for children aged seven to 18), groups of three to four Romani children studied in special schools because of their intellectual disabilities. In the ‘Asen Zlatarov‘ HCDPC, in Sofia, there were 48 children, 30 of whom were Romani (no information was provided on the disabled children as the director was new). In the ‘P.Slaveikov’ HCDPC, in Sofia, there were 62 children: over 32 were Roma, seven were disabled out of whom two were Romani. In the ‘Rada Kirkovich’ HCDPC in Plovdiv there were 68 children, 41 of whom were Roma. In the ‘Knyaginia Nadezhda’ HCDPC, in Varna, there were 30 children, 24 of whom were Roma, and seven disabled children out of whom three were Romani. In the ‘Maria Rosa’ HCDPC, in the village of Asenovec near Sliven, there were 66 children, out of whom 62 were Roma and four children were diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, three of whom were Romani. In the HCDPC in Bracigovo near Pazardzhik there were 76 children, out of whom 47 were Roma, six diagnosed with intellectual disabilities out of whom five were Romani. No special care is provided to these children in institutions although they are entitled to a higher annual amount of financial support to meet their special needs. The state, however, does not allocate the money to these institutions: it could allocate it only when these children are placed in institutions for disabled children, as the principle ’money follows the child‘ does not apply and the annual allowance for each child depends on the type of the institutuon he/ she is placed in and not on his/her own needs.184 Some of the disabled Romani children in institutions for non-disabled reported being offended/ignored/abused by other children and the staff does not react at all.185 The staff in these institutions is not qualified to meet the special needs of these children and admit they are a challenge.186

Romani adults in the Youth Village ’Mladost’, Centre for temporary placement of adults, leaving children institutions, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 15 July 2010. 184 Decisions of the Council of Ministers for determination of financial standards for the state funded activities implemented by the municipalities as delegated state activities. 185 Interviews with Romani children living in HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010; Interviews with Romani children living in HCDPC ‘Asen Zlatarov’, Sofia, Bulgaria: 16 June 2010. 186 Interview with Vurbinka Doncheva, director, HCDPC (aged 7 to 18) ‘Knyaginya Nadezhda’, Varna, Bulgaria: 3 August 2010; Interview with Zornica Gorcheva, director, HCDPC ‘Asen Zlatarov’, Sofia, Bulgaria:16 June 2010. 48


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

10. Conclusions Both the State Agency for Child Protection’s official figures and the findings of the current research show that Romani children are overrepresented in state care. The Agency estimated that as of 31 December 2009 there were 3,440 children ages 7 to 18 living in the Homes for Children Deprived of Parental Care (HCDPC) out of whom 1,705 (49,6%) were Romani children. In the Homes for Medico-social Care for Children aged 0 to 3 (HMSCC) there were 2,334 children out of whom 1,190 (51.0%) were Roma and in the Homes for Children with Intellectual Disabilities (HCID) there were 956 children out of whom 314 (32.8%) were Roma. The researchers visited 15 child care institutions in which a total of 809 children lived, out of whom 510 were Romani. State and municipal bodies responsible for child care do not regularly process and publish reliable statistical data on children in state care disaggregated by gender, age, ethnicity, disability, social and family status, although they do collect such data. However, their databases, insofar as they exist, vary and cannot serve as a real basis for the development of long-term, effective policies and legislation. Romani children are not defined as a target group explicitly in any deinstitutionalization policy papers and legislation. The effectiveness of child protection policies is evaluated by the same bodies that implement them – the State Agency for Child Protection and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. This makes it hard to estimate the real effectiveness of the implemented policies. Although deinstitutionalization has been a basic objective of numerous plans, strategies and programs since 2003, it does not occur at the necessary speed and with the available means. This is why placement in institutions remains the only long-term protection measure for endangered children. Prevention measures targeting families at risk, such as financial assistance for a newly born child and provision of social services do not have significant effects on preventing the institutionalization of Romani children. Placement with relatives or foster families is not actively popularised and not applied with the needed speed and effectiveness to constitute a real alternative to institutionalization. All these measures are applied in a relatively small number of cases and their effectiveness on deinstitutionalization is disputed as these institutions still remain open and active. The estimates show that Child Protection Departments manage to successfully apply these measures in less than 50% of their cases concerning at-risk children. Adoptions of institutionalised children are expected to increase in 2010 after the amendments of the Family Code from 2009. Based on experience to date, they seem to be the only family type placement alternative because preventative measures are not successfully implemented and other forms of alternative care are not developed sufficiently. Existing community-based services for children are insufficient in number, distribution, type and staff to serve the needs of the local population. They were developed without advance research and discussions on the local level and the majority of them provide consultation or day-care services but cannot replace institutions in meeting the needs for accommodation of at-risk children. They are not made available in disadvantaged Roma neighbourhoods where many Romani children and families at risk live. 49


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

The system of alternative care and institutional care for children function in parallel. However, more financial and human resources are allocated to institutional care considering that the annual allowance per child was increased significantly over the last five years and the staff of over 6,000 persons takes care of around 7,500 children. The numbers of children admitted to institutions and released from them are similar – the average is about 2,700 children each year for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In general, annual adoptions only account for one fourth of the released children. Reintegration in biological families turns out to be possible in less than 1,500 cases each year. In another 1,300-1,400 cases the children are placed with relatives. Foster care accounted for a total of 300 cases over the last four years. During the last four years fewer than 450 social workers worked on about 3,500 cases of reintegration, placement in with relatives and foster care each year were. The social workers interviewed were not able to provide information on the implementation of these measures with respect to Romani children. However, they stated that reintegration in biological families and foster care occurs very rarely with Romani children. They also stated that more Romani children were placed in institutions and adopted during the last five years. Co-ordination and co-operation between childcare institutions, schools, service providers, Roma NGOs and Child Protection Departments are poor and do protect the best interests of at-risk children. The Romani population in Bulgaria has fewer options for accessing quality education, healthcare, social services and employment. Thus Romani children are more vulnerable for placement in institutions. This is not assessed by state authorities and no measures are targeted at Romani children to effectively prevent their institutionalization. The findings indicate that Roma are overrepresented among beneficiaries of social assistance, unemployed persons and families that have more than three children; that more than 50% of children living in institutions are Roma and more than 80% of children living in institutions come from poor families living in bad material conditions. This leads to the conclusion that Romani children are overrepresented among the children in institutions because of poverty and ineffective legislation and policy measures for deinstitutionalization and support of poor families. The ability of the parents of Romani children in Bulgarian institutions to provide adequate conditions for their children is negatively influenced because of poverty, bad housing conditions, long-term unemployment, low (or no) education level and the existence of more than three children in the family. The interviews with Romani families whose children live in institutions showed that the factors that most often lead to institutionalisation are: poverty, lack of family and husband’s support of the pregnant Romani woman, lack of access to proper and in-time health care, lack of education, lack of any employment experience, lack of knowledge about pregnancy prevention methods and migration. The other factors are related to disability or disease of the child which pose a threat to his/her life if the child lives in the ghetto. Romani families in need whose children are at risk do not receive sufficient support to raise their children by themselves. In the Romani neighbourhoods visited there were numerous cases of at-risk children that did not receive state or municipal attention. 50


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

Once a child is placed in an institution the Child Protection Departments do not work actively on his/her case. The reasons for this are several – low number of social workers in the CPD, low qualification and high turnover of social workers, the dependence of the CPD on the Social Assistance Departments to implement protection measures for children, placement of children from one municipality in an institution of another municipality (following the centralised placement approach of the past) and the migration of the families who do not register themselves at a certain address, whose children may stay in institutions.

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11. Recommendations • The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science and the State Agency for Child Protection should elaborate and introduce a unified database system which would make it possible to collect and process disaggregated data on the age, gender, ethnicity, location, disability and family, health and social status of children in Bulgaria. Their local departments should be obliged to register every change in the status of the child under the indicators mentioned above and to regularly submit statistics to the central authorities (at least annually). • The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science and the State Agency for Child Protection should take into account concrete data collected on children in need when they develop state childcare policies so that the policies reflect the data. Explicit measures for Roma should be included in consideration of the significant overrepresentation of Romani children in state care. • The elaboration of strategies, policy papers, action plans and legislation concerning childcare should be done in coordination with the Ministry of Finance. All ministries, agencies and municipalities responsible for the implementation of children’s rights should explicitly mention in their policy papers the concrete departments responsible for the implementation of every measure envisaged, the concrete deadline for implementation and concrete funding allocated for implementation. • The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, which is the main authority responsible for social policy in Bulgaria, should hire practice-oriented specialists to elaborate policies for providing real and effective support to vulnerable groups for their adequate development and participation in society. The policies currently being developed practically worsen the marginalization of Roma. • The elaboration of childcare policies on the national and the local level should be done with the cooperation of NGOs active and effective in the field of childcare. • All childcare policy papers should contain clear and realistic indicators for the expected outcomes of the implementation of each measure. • All authorities responsible for the implementation of childcare policies should be obliged to publicly report on policy implementation and upload all of their reports on their Internet websites. • State and municipal authorities should carry out comprehensive and targeted research on the dynamics and reasons for institutionalization of Romani children as well as of the social and financial cost this phenomenon causes. Specific measures should be introduced based on the findings of the research to prevent institutionalization of Romani children because of social and economic reasons. • Romani families should be supported by improving their access to education, qualification and vocational training, healthcare services, social assistance, social services and long-term employment. In this way they would be able to take care of their own children and would not rely on state care. The biggest need is for educational programs for Romani parents at risk, childcare training programs, employment programs, family planning programs, 52


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mechanisms and instruments for supporting the family to take care of its own children. Currently there are no such programs and as far as they do not exist the families in need are referred to ineffective consulting services. These and other preventative services should be made available in disadvantaged Romani neighbourhoods.187 • Poverty itself should not be the reason for placement of children in institutions. This prohibition should be regulated in a legal provision in the Child Protection Act. • Foster care should be promoted actively and widely in Romani communities. • The number and qualifications of social workers working on the cases of at-risk children within the Social Assistance Departments should be increased to meet European standards: one social worker should work on 20 to 30 cases (currently one social works on an estimated 112 cases). The remuneration of social workers in the CPDs should be adequate and they should get introductory and support training as well as professional supervision. • Special, detailed legislation on the obligations, rights and functions of social workers involved in cases of at-risk children should be adopted to facilitate their everyday work and make it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of their work on each case. Social work has to be complex, containing and applying mechanisms to meet housing needs, land settlement, ensuring access to healthcare, education, employment and regular income.188 • The funding allocated to prevent abandonment should be at least equal to the funding spent on maintaining children in institutions, and gradually increased while staff is trained, and stimuli to improve the quality of care are regulated and clear standards for childcare provided in legislation. Funding should ‘follow the child’ and should be included in a package of services that are compulsorily provided to poor families and children at risk. The remuneration of foster parents should be increased and a separate financial standard should be elaborated for foster care provision to a child with a disability. • Municipalities should waive the fees for using kindergarten services. Thus Romani children will attend kindergarten, which furthers their development and integration as well as their education. 189 • Schools should be encouraged to enrol all school-age Romani children. Roma NGOs, service providers and CPDs should facilitate this process so that Romani children finish high school. Romani parents should be also motivated to involve their children in the state education system. • Young Romani girls and women should be effectively ensured access to healthcare services. Compulsory national health insurance for mothers of children up to 3-years-old should be introduced, in order to ensure access to health care and access of Romani girls and women to pregnancy termination, prevention and monitoring services.190 • Child protection services and children’s homes should actively recruit Roma into their workforces. 187

Child Protection Department – Varna, round table,.Varna, Bulgaria: 4.02.2011. Child Protection Department – Varna, round table,Varna, Bulgaria: 4.02.2011. 189 Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, round table, Sofia, Bulgaria: 28.01.2011. 190 State Agency for Child Protection, round table, Sofia, Bulgaria: 28.01.2011. 188

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• Community-based services should be made available in Romani communities. Good practices of NGOs working in the Roma communities providing funds for interest-free loans to Roma to build houses should be taken into consideration and these practices should be multiplied. Good practices of NGOs that provide social, education and healthcare services in Romani communities should be also taken into consideration and multiplied. They seem to be successful and Romani people evaluate them positively. 191 • The NGOs that provide services in Romani communities should be given priority for funding.192 The conditions for application to EU programs should be reconsidered so that NGOs performing field work have access to them. • Prosecution against adults who have sexual contact with minor and juvenile girls must be applied in practice to help prevent early marriages and early pregnancy leading to child abandonment in Romani communities. The State Agency for Child Protection suggested several other recommendations193 to this report after reading it and participating in the four round tables that took place in JanuaryFebruary 2011. They are listed below: • Ethno-cultural markers should be provided for in the Bulgarian legislation to be used for elaboration and implementation of policies and practices focused on support for minority children and their families. • Social mediators and their work in Romani communities should be popularized in a way giving them opprotunities to cooperate and assist the solution of the problems in these communities. • Different alternative educational services should be introduced for Romani children at the age of three to four to prepare them for pre-school education. • Teachers should be systematically trained to teach children from different ethnic groups taking into consideration their psycho-social characteristics. • EU operational programs should provide opportunities for activities related to the acquisition of social skills by people from different minority ethnic groups. • Romani organisations should participate in intervention, rather than policy and decision making as the latter should be done by specialists. People from Romani communities need to help with the implementation of already elaborated policies. • Mobile services should be provided to Romani families especially for feeding their babies and children. • Early intervention at the age of 10-12 should be provided for girls involved in early marriages. • An assessment of the resources for social inclusion should be performed, including wellknown Roma who are respected in their communities and can introduce better social models of behavior. 191

National Network for Children, round table, Sofia, Bulgaria: 28.01.2011. National Network for Children, round table, Sofia, Bulgaria: 28.01.2011. 193 Written reply 05-00-5 to the report, dated 8.03.2011, State Agency for Child Protection, signed by the chairperson Nadya Shabani. 192

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12. Bibliography • Criminal Procedure Code; • Family Code; • Child Protection Act; • Protection against Domestic Violence Act; • Public Education Act; • Protection of Personal Data Act, • Social Assistance Act; • Family Children Allowances Act; • Rules on the Implementation of the Child Protection Act; • Rules on the Implementation of the Public Education Act; • Rules on the Implementation of the Social Assistance Act; • Regulation on the terms and conditions of performing measures for prevention of the abandoning of children and their placement in institutions, as well as for their reintegration; • Regulation on the terms and conditions for application, selection and approval of foster families and placing children in foster families; • Regulation on the criteria and standards for social services for children; • Regulation No. 4 on the terms and conditions for keeping and maintaining a register of children for full adoption; • International Acts; • Convention on the Rights of the Child; • European Social Charter (revised); • Programme documents; • 2004-2006 National Strategy for Child Protection; • 2008-2018 National Strategy for the Child; • 2003-2005 National Strategy for Protection of the Rights of the Child on the Street; • Strategy for Education Integration of Children and Pupils from the Ethnic Minorities; • 2005 National Programme for Child Protection; • 2006 National Programme for Child Protection; • 2007 National Programme for Child Protection; • 2008 National Programme for Child Protection; 55


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• 2009 National Programme for Child Protection; • 2010 National Programme for Child Protection; • 2005 National Programme for Prevention and Counteracting Trafficking in Human Beings; • 2003-2005 National Action Plan against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children; • National Action Plan for the Implementation of the Strategy for Education Integration of Children and Pupils from Ethnic Minorities (2004/05-2008/09 school year); • 2003-2005 Action Plan for Protection of the Rights of Children on the Street; • 2003-2005 Plan for Reducing the Number of Children Raised in Specialized Institutions in Bulgaria; • 2003-2006 Action Plan for Implementation of the National Strategy for Preventing and Counteracting Juvenile Delinquency; • 2005-2007 Action Plan to the Health Strategy for Disadvantaged Persons from Ethnic Minorities; • National Action Plan under “Decade of Roma Inclusion: 2005-2015”; • Budgets and financial reports on the budget of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

Reports • State Agency for Child Protection, Annual reports for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Available at: http://sacp.government.bg/programi-dokladi/dokladi/ • Social Assistance Agency, Annual reports for 2006,2007,2008 and 2009. • Alliance of Non Government Organizations working for Child Care Reform, Proposal for Implementation of the Vision for Child Care Reform in Bulgaria, June 2008. Available at: http:// www.bghelsinki.org/index.php?module=news&lg=en&id=1393 • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Outstanding Problems in the Implementation of Bulgaria’s Obligations Under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, Мarch 2008. Available at: http://old.bghelsinki.org/index.php?module=resources&lg=en&id=0&cat_id=18#2008 • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Shadow Report to the Governmental Report on the Implementation of Bulgaria’s Obligations Under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, March 2008. Available at: http://old.bghelsinki.org/index.php?module=resources&lg=en&id=648 • National Network for Children, Twenty Opinions on the implementation of child protection and well-being policies in Bulgaria published on the occasion of the twenty-year anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 2009. Available at: http://nmd.bg/en/ campaign/reports/

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• Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, On the road to maturity, Evaluation of the non-governmental desegregation process in Bulgaria, March 2008. Available at: http://www.romaeducationfund. hu/documents/Bulgaria%20deseg%20report.pdf • European Commission, 2005 Comprehensive report on Bulgaria, October 2005. Available at: http://www.bghelsinki.org/resources/intreports/comm/mr2005-en.pdf (also previous periodic reports on the pre-accession period). • National Network for Children – Bulgaria, Contribution to the Universal Periodic Review, Sofia, April 2010. • Bulgarian Government, Second periodic report of Bulgaria (due in 1998) before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, submitted on 4 July 2007 by the Bulgarian Government. • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Assessment Report On the Conditions and Perspectives of the Institutions for Children in Bulgaria and of the progress made in implementing the government obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2006. Available in English at: http://old. bghelsinki.org/index.php?module=resources&lg=en&id=0&cat_id=18#2006 • National Council for Cooperation on the Ethnic and Demographic Issues, 2009 Monitoring report on the implementation of the National Action Plan under the ‘Decade of Roma inclusion 20052015’. • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Homes for medico-social care for children, aged 0 to 3, 2001. • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Remedial Schools in Bulgaria, Sofia, 2002. • State Agency for Child Protection, Report on the assessment by the implementation of the criteria for reformation, restructuring and closure of the homes for medico-social care, 2006. • State Agency for Child Protection, Report on the assessment by the implementation of the criteria for reformation, restructuring and closure of the homes for children, deprived of parental care, 2006. • State Agency for Child Protection, Report on the assessment by the implementation of the criteria for reformation, restructuring and closure of the homes for children with intellectual disabilities, 2006.

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13. Testimonies Facility for Social Services for Children and Families (FSSCF), “Mother and Baby” Unit, Pazardzhik 1. N. is a Romani woman aged 20, born in Velingrad. She was placed with her 6-monthold baby in the Facility for Social Services for Children and Families (FSSCF) in Pazardzhik because she and her baby were abused by her boyfriend and his family with which they lived (they are ethnic Bulgarians according to the woman). The baby is from her second pregnancy. She aborted her first child. She was raised in institutional care although she had biological parents. After she was first placed in an institution at the age of five or six she had no contact with her parents until 2007, when the institution’s staff decided to bring her to see her family. Then she realized that her mother had died. N. has ten brothers and sisters but she only knows two of her sisters. She attended kindergarten for several years. At that time she escaped from her family as her father physically abused her, due to his alcohol addiction. He also made her beg in the streets. After her escape she went to the police station in her birth town. After that she was placed in a temporary placement home for children in Sofia. At that time she did not know any Bulgarian. Then she was moved to a temporary placement home in Plovdiv and finally placed in a home for children deprived of parental care in the mountain village of Orehovo. Until the age of 18 she lived in another home for children deprived of parental care in the town of Shiroka laka. She complained that in the Plovdiv home the children stole a lot and she was tortured by the older children who stole clothes and money from her and were verbally aggressive to her. She did not complain of racially motivated treatment in the homes. However, she did not like her peers in the institutions where she was raised. After she turned 18 she was placed in a protected home in Smolian where she stayed for a few years with the intention to prepare herself for independent living. She was registered as unemployed and was involved in a vocational training course. She worked for a while in a shop and got a salary of 125 Euro. Then she met her boyfriend who was living with his family in Smolian. She moved into their house and got pregnant. Her boyfriend started abusing her after using alcohol. His mother and father did not help the woman. The social workers monitored his family and obliged the man to improve the material conditions in their house as they were inappropriate for raising a child and to find himself a job. The woman was expected to stay in the FSSCF for six months and the social workers trained her to take care of her baby and prepared her for reintegration in her boyfriend’s family. 2. A socially neglected Romani woman who has never experienced residential living conditions and has lived in a shaft in a village. She does not have an ID and does not know her own age or the age of her children. She has had four children, but two of them died very early. She has fed the babies with Coca Cola. The woman has no death certificates and does not provide information about the place where they have been buried. She cannot provide information 58


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about the age of the other two children with whom she was placed in the Facility for Social Services for Children and Families (FSSCF). The staff in the FSSCF found their birth certificates and learned they had been born in maternity ward of a hospital. The woman’s last partner died before she was placed in the FSSCF. At the moment of the interview the FSSCF was considering the possibility of placing the children in a foster family but the mother did not like this decision. The woman’s mother is ill with schizophrenia and lives in a village with her other children. The woman cannot live with them.

Stolipinovo Romani neighbourhood, Plovdiv 3. A Romani woman (R) aged 50 explained (with interpretation from her son) the situation of her own family and her daughter’s (T) family. Her daughter was imprisoned 2.5 years ago and had six children. The father of the children left her. She placed the children in institutional care before she went to prison. They have been living in the institutions for at least five years. One of the children is in a home for delinquent children in the town of Straldzha, the other two are in the ‘Olga Skobeleva’ home for children deprived of parental care in Plovdiv. They are 11, 12 and 14 years old. R., the grandmother cares for her daughter’s other three children who live with her in her home. R’s own son (24) grew up in a home for delinquent children in the village of Dinevo where he studied up to 8th grade. He currently lives in a village and has two children. R. and her husband used to work and he receives a pension which is the only consistent source of income for their family. R. and her husband keep in touch with their grandchildren who are placed in institutions but not regularly. They consider the purpose of this placement to be the provision of education. R. and her husband have not been visited or contacted by social workers from the Child Protection Department. T. is not educated and keeps in touch with her family from prison through letters written by other prisoners. R., her husband, their son, daughter-in-law, their three children and the three daughter’s children live in the same apartment. They have electricity and water. The son and the daughter-in-law with the three children are unemployed. R. registered with the Employment Department but did not keep the registration. 4. F. is a 24-year-old Romani woman, born in a village near Karlovo, currently living in the Stolipinovo Romani ghetto. F. dropped out of school while attending first grade, as her family needed her to take care of her mother’s youngest children. She got married in her village at the age of 15. She was not supported by her own parents during this marriage. Meanwhile her mother died. F. delivered her first child and had four more children with the same partner. Her husband physically abused her and the children. The first child was placed in an institution as his father, drunk, had broken his left hand and F. could not protect the child at home anymore. F. has not seen him since she signed a consent form for her son to be adopted. The Child Protection Department explained to her that after she signed this form she would lose her parental rights and she agreed. F. did not seek help, prosecution or the police. The other four children live with the father and his family. F. escaped from him and moved to Plovdiv. She cared for the one of her sons until he turned three, but her partner took him too. His mother is currently taking care of the children. F. lives with another man in Plovdiv. They do not have children together. He has two children from another woman who lives on the same 59


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street. F. and her partner are unemployed but do not receive social assistance as they are not registered as unemployed. 5. J. is a 16-year-old Romani boy who has lived in the ‘Rada Kirkovich’ home for children deprived of parental care in Plovdiv for several years (he and his family were not able to estimate the exact number of years). J. thought he was placed in the institution because of his family’s poverty. His family did not want to talk to the researchers as they did not see how this could help their difficult situation. J. decided to leave the institution in 2009 and currently lives with his mother and his father in the Stolipinovo Romani ghetto. The mother holds parental rights over J. and she agreed to his decision. His father is his mother’s second husband. J’s brother (at 14) also lived in the same institution and also left. They preferred to live with their parents in spite of better living conditions and vocational training possibilities in the institution. J. studied up to the seventh grade and his brother up to sixth. However, J. stated he is illiterate. J. does not want to study in the local segregated school. He wants to work. J. suffers from a hernia, but he did not seek medical help while in the institution. After he left the institution, he was examined and referred for operation. He is afraid of the operation and also thought he might have problems accessing healthcare as he does not have money to obtain his ID documents. His mother is unemployed and does not receive social assistance. Her new partner collects garbage. J. did not work with the social workers from the Child Protection Department. He was in contact with his family while he lived in the institution, but not regularly. He did not complain of racist treatment in the institution and explained that all children there were Romani. However, he did not make friends among the children. 6. M. is an 11-year-old Romani girl. She lives in the ‘Maria Louiza’ home for children deprived of parental care in Plovdiv together with her two older brothers. The three of them study in the local mainstream ‘Geo Milev’ primary school. Before M. was placed in the home where she currently lives, she spent several years in a home for children aged 3 to 7 in the nearby village Zelenikovo. The children were placed in institutional care because their father was imprisoned and their mother was not able to take care of them and decided to apply for their placement in an institution. She had been promised by her family that she would go back home as soon as her father gets out of prison in one year. Her brothers said that they prefer to live in the institution while she wanted to live with her mother and her family. The three children were interviewed by the researchers in their home in the Stolipinovo Romani ghetto because they live with their family during summer vacations and holidays. Their family consists of their mother, grandmother, grandfather, another daughter and a son-in-law with three children. They (all eleven members of the family) live in a house with two rooms where there is electricity and running cold water. The only official income in the family is the grandfather’s pension of 65 Euro. He also collects garbage with his cart and a horse. 7. U. is a 35-year-old Romani woman. She was born in Sofia and was abandoned when she was a baby together with her twin sister. She is ill with epilepsy and receives a 110 Euro pension because of this disability. She lived in institutional care from her birth until the age of 18. She was moved from Sofia at the age of three to be placed in homes in the regions of Pazardzhik and Plovdiv. After she reached 18, she was placed in the ‘Mladost’ Youth Village (three blocks where young adults leaving state care live temporarily while they learn how to live independently) in Plovdiv where she delivered her son. When he reached the age of one they moved to a flat she rented. U. left ‘Mladost’ because she did not want her son to live in 60


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such an environment. She witnessed domestic violence there by a mother towards her baby, then both her children were placed in an institution and she went to prostitute herself in Italy. U. works in a night club and stated she is satisfied with the salary. U. lives with the father of her son who works in the construction business. She also has a German boyfriend who is the father of a girl she delivered in 2008. The girl died after an unsuccessful operation on a brain tumor in Sofia. Her son, who was 5 at the time of the interview, has problems with his heart valve and has been operated upon. U. did not explain anything about the German friend but stated that he transfers money to her account for her and her son. Her son is not at risk of removal as she provides a safe environment for him, has a job and income, lives in good material conditions and he attends kindergarten. 8. G. is a 26-year-old Romani woman who was abandoned as a baby in the region of Pazardzhik. She was first placed in a home providing medico-social care in the village of Vetren near Pazardzhik, then moved to a home for children deprived of parental care in the village of Lesichovo until she reached the age of 7. Then she was diagonosed with an intellectual disability and was enrolled in the ‘Ivan Vazov’ special school for children with intellectual disabilities in Pazardzhik and lived in the boarding house there. When she was in the third grade the assessment commission decided she did not actually have an intellectual disability and moved her to a mainstream segregated Roma school in Plovdiv. After she finished eight grade, she completed a two year vocational training course in sewing in a facility where young adults with disabilities study and live. G. started work in a specialised factory where people with disabilities work and spent six years there. Then she applied for a job as a professional soldier twice but she has not been approved because of the color of her skin. G. complained of racist treatment in Plovdiv. In 2008 she was placed in the ‘Mladost’ Youth village as she lost her job and had no place to live. In May 2010 she was hired to work as a social assistant in the village’s day-care centre for children with disabilities. 9. N. is a 22-year-old Romani man and his wife R. is an 18-year-old Romani woman. They both lived in the ‘Rada Kirkovich’ home for children deprived of parental care (aged 7 to 18) in Plovdiv and in 2008 moved to the ‘Mladost’ Youth Village in Plovdiv. Their child was born there and is between one and two-years-old. R. was born in the village of Kalekovets (15 km. away from Plovdiv). Her mother and father have hearing and speech disabilities. R. has two sisters older than her who married at the age of 15-16. One of the sisters lives with her family in her parents’ house. Because of their disabilities the parents decided that R. should be placed in an institution as otherwise she would not have been educated. Her parents keep in touch with her and send food to N. and R. N. was also born in a village near Plovdiv. He has four brothers, one of whom also lives in ‘Mladost’. The third brother used to live there but moved to his wife’s parents’ house after he married. All five of them were raised in children’s institutions in Plovdiv. Three of them lived in the ‘Rada Kirkovich’ home for children deprived of parental care (aged seven to 18) together with N. N.’s father left their mother when they were children aged three to four. The mother was in contact with all of them while they lived in institutional care. N. stated that she did not want to care for them. N. finished eighth grade and a vocational training course. Currently he is unemployed but he used to work in the construction business together with other boys from ‘Mladost’ Youth Village. R. dropped out of school when she was in fifth grade as she was needed to take care for her sister’s twins. She did not continue her education after she was placed in a children’s institution and she could not explain why. 61


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‘Knyaginia Nadezhda’ home for children deprived of parental care (seven to 18), Varna 10. Z. is a 13-year-old Romani girl. She was placed in the institution at the age of 11 because she was begging in the streets and was neglected by her family. She studies in third grade at school. Z. has four sisters and two brothers. Her mother graduated eighth grade but is illiterate. Z. does not keep in contact with her mother. According to the social report Z. wants to be in contact with her mother. Z.’s family lived in a one-room house in very bad living conditions and without any income in the Maksuda Romani neighbourhood in Varna. Her mother’s partner was imprisoned, their house burned down and the mother and her children went to live in a friend’s house. After that the mother placed Z. in her cousin’s flat where Z. helped with the care of her children. The cousin made Z. beg in the streets as she did not have any income. The police caught Z. begging and placed her in the ‘Gavrosh’ institution for temporary placement in Varna and then in the ‘Knyaginia Nadezhda’ home for children deprived of parental care (aged seven to 18). According to the social report and the court decision on Z’s placement, Z.’s mother works as prostitute. Z. escaped from the institution several times in 2010. The first time (in March) she and two other girls from the institution decided to visit Z.’s aunt in the town of Provadia. They caught a taxi and after the village of Krivnia the taxi driver requested a sexual service from them. Z. and R. (a Turkish girl) refused but K. decided to provide it. She had sexual intercourse with the driver on the back seat and Z. and R. sat in the front seat of the car. After that they have reached Z.’s aunt’s house, they told her what happened and she called the police. From 17 March 2010 to 01 April 2010 Z. was placed in a psychiatric hospital (the director did not provide information about the reasons for this placement and the reasons were not discussed in the medical documents reviewed by the researchers) and then discharged and recommended to a psychologist. According to the examinations there she had no sexual contact. On 30 April 2010 Z. escaped from the institution again together with a boy (Romani) who also was placed there. They drank vodka and beer under a bridge and the boy had sexual intercourse with R. and Z. was a witness. A passer-by signaled the police and the children were detained again and sent back to the institution.

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Vladislavovo Romani neighbourhood, Varna 11. M. is a 25-year-old Romani woman and T. is a 27-year-old Romani man. They live together but are not married. The family has lived in this neighborhood since 2000. M. did not study and T. finished third grade at school. They have four children and are expecting their fifth child. Their twins are 4-years-old and their two other children are 5 and 6. One of the twins was sent to an institution when he was born because he had poliomyelitis. He stayed in the institution until he recovered his health at the age of 4 and now he lives with his family. The other child who is 5-years-old has epilepsy but the family cannot afford to buy medicines for her. The grandmother helps the young family to raise the children. M. receives 150 Euro monthly in social assistance. 12. D. is a 30-year-old Romani single mother. She finished second grade and registered as unemployed in 2005. But she could not accept any job offers because there is nobody to take care of her seven children. Five of them live with her in a house without access to electricity and water. She receives 110 Euro monthly in assistance for the children and 100 Euro assistance for integration of her son who is disabled (he has valvular disease). The children who live with her are aged 12, 11, 10, 8 and 5. Some of her children attend school. Z. who is 3.5-years-old lives in the home providing Medico-social care for children (aged 0 to 3) in Varna and has a disability. This is why D. placed her in the institution and signed a declaration relinquishing her parental rights and registering Z. for adoption. D. decided to do this as she realised she would not be able to pay special attention to Z. She also wanted to provide her with the care needed as her living conditions were bad, her income was low and there were no services that could help her care for the child. At the time of the interview D. was not interested in keeping in touch with her daughter and did not visit her in the institution. Her son P. is 6-years-old and has a physical disability which makes him unable to walk. This is why he was also placed in the same institution as a baby and was placed after that in an institution in Dobrich. D. signed a declaration for adoption for him too. D. is visited by social workers from the Child Protection Department almost every week as her children are considered atrisk. According to her the workers are satisfied with the environment in her home. 13. B. is a 16-year-old Romani boy, born in Ruse who has lived in the ‘Knyaginia Nadezhda’ home for children deprived of parental care in Varna since 2001. Before that, from 3 to 7 he was raised in the ‘Drugarche’ home for children deprived of parental care. He is not aware of the reasons for his placement in institutions. He studies in 9th grade at school and is involved in vocational training for cooking. B. has seven brothers and sisters. He knows from them that there are more sibilings also in institutions but they do not keep in touch. He has no contact with his mother. His grandfather lives in Varna. He lived with him for about a year but after that he returned to the institution again. He did not have a good relationship with his grandfather and B. escaped many times from his grandfather’s home. In 2010 B. was detained by the police who initiated criminal proceedings (which were later thrown out) against him, alleging he had sexual intercourse with a girl aged 13 who also lives in the same institution.

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Nadezhda Romani neighbourhood, Sliven 14. C. is a 25-year-old Romani woman and her partner is 30. They have three children aged 5, 4 and D. who is 1.5-years-old. D. is a boy placed in the home for Medico-social care for children (aged 0 to 3) in Sliven. This happened two months before the interview. The reason behind D.’s placement was disease for which he was often hospitalised. According to his parents D. has problems with his leg muscles and is not able to stand firmly and walk. While D. was in the hospital, the medical staff explained to his mother that D. is hospitalised so frequently because she does not take good care after him. The parents said that a nurse came to their home and took D. in order to place him in the institution because the Child Protection Department ordered this as a protection measure and they agreed to it. At present the parents visit the child at the institution and think his condition has improved. They intend to take him back home when he recovers. The family has no other income but social assistance received for the children (35 Euro monthly). C. is unemployed and illiterate. Her partner studied until 8th grade, he had a job, but he was dismissed three months ago. Currently he helps other Romani people living in the ghetto to construct, renovate, paint their houses and is paid 7-10 Euro per day for that. The family lives in one room with two beds. 15. F. is a 37-year-old Romani woman who had two partners. She studied for a while, but did not graduate elementary school. She is unemployed and her registration with unemployment has ceased. She has five children from each of her partners. Her daughter Z. (who is the oldest child with her second partner) was placed to an institution for one year and a half because she had asthma and pneumonia. After this time the family took the child back and started to care for her. Z. is at 10 and studies in the segregated school in the ghetto. She is repeating the second grade. F. receives social assistance for the five children from her second husband. Z’s father works at the market. The family together with a daughter-in-law lives in one room with three beds. It was not clear to F. whether the children are still considered atrisk by social workers but she stated that they do not visit her home anymore since Z. was placed back with the family. 16. Y. is a Romani grandmother who has six grandchildren from her daughter K., who is a single mother. All six children are from one father who does not care for them. Three of the grandchildren aged 8, 9 and about 2 live with the grandmother. The other three children, the twins M. and N. who are 4-years-old and the 9-month-old girl R. were placed in children’s institutions. The grandmother requested placement for the twins in the home for Medicosocial care when they were 40-days-old. Their father had two women and did not care for the children. K. lived with him in a tent and they quarreled all the time. The children were placed for a period of three years, after that for six months more and once again for six months pending the court’s decision. K. did not manage to attend the last court hearing where she would have declared her will to take care of her children. Now she has requested the Child Protection Department to let her care for her children at home. R., who is 9-months-old, was placed in a home when she was 2-months-old because her development was threatened by the living conditions and she was hospitalised due to recurrent pneumonia. K. explained that she also wants to take the baby back. But R. was placed in the home for a period of one year. Y. and K. do not want the children to be adopted but only to be raised in these institutions. Their monthly incomes comes from Y.’s pension of 60 Euro and 36 Euro for the two children 64


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

who live with them. Y. and K. do not receive social assistance. They live in a small house – one room with two beds and a TV set. They have electricity and they take water from the neighbors. The Child Protection Department (CPD) considers the children at-risk and visits their home but the women did not mention any prevention activities undertaken by the CPD. 17. S. is a 47-year-old Romani woman who has four daughters: R. aged 30, O. aged 27, M. aged 22 and B. aged 15. She also has two sons aged 26 and 21. The oldest daughter has two children and her husband is in prison. R. delivered her first child when she was 14. After her she delivered twins (one girl with some kidney malformation) and placed them in a home providing Medico-social care for children. She consented to the adoption of her twins and they were adopted. She has a second partner with whom she has two children aged 2 and 4. M. delivered three children and has an intellectual disability. When she was 2-months-old, she was placed in a home providing Medico-social care for children. She lived there until the age of three. The father of M.’s children is ill with a mental disease but he does not live with them. M.’s first child is 3-years-old and she takes care of her. Then M. delivered twins – a boy and a girl and placed them in the home providing Medico-social care for children aged 0 to 3. The boy died but the girl is now 2-years-old and still in the institution. B. is 15 and also has two children. She delivered her first child when she was 12 and now she takes care of him. The second child is 9-months-old and lives in the home providing Medico-social care for children in Sliven. Her partner is 32 but has been in prison since 2008. B. lives on the income of 65 Euro per month. Each of S’s sons has one child. The children are mainly raised by S., the grandmother, and they do not attend school. S. and her husband (the only person in the family able to read and write) are unemployed and are registered as unemployed with the Local Employment Department. But in 2008 they were denied the social assistance they had previously received. Their daughter and sons do not work and live with them in a house without electricity. S. stated that the social workers from the Child Protection Department visit her family when they work on the cases of their children.

Fakulteta Romani neighbourhood, Sofia 18. I. is a 24-year-old Romani woman who was raised in children’s institutions. She has a hearing disability and stated that she had not studied, had never been employed and is not registered as unemployed. She has five children, of whom only two live with her. She delivered her first child when she was 15. At the moment of the interview she was pregnant with her sixth child. I. explained that she tried to ask for an abortion but the medical doctors in the hospital told her she would have to pay for it and she was not able to find 100 Euro. So she kept the child. She is not aware of any other methods of pregnancy prevention. Her last child was born in October 2009 and was placed in the home for Medico-social care in the town of Zlatica as the Child Protection Department considered him at risk because I. had no house but lived in a tent. The other children are placed in homes for children deprived of parental care (aged 3 to 7) in Dragalevci for the same reason – lack of house and any material conditons suitable for raising children which endangers their lives. I. was told by the Child Protection Department that she should show interest in the baby as otherwise they would register him for adoption. She was aware that she can take him back if her material living conditions improve. When 65


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

the baby was placed in an institution she lived in a shed on the other edge of Fakulteta next to Ovcha kupel region. Then she moved to the place where the researchers found her and together with her partner they built two rooms that were not totally finished (there was no plaster on the walls and no installations, the running cold water is accessible only outside the rooms). I. explained that she would like to go and see her youngest child but she cannot afford to pay for the train ticket. She agreed to place him in an institution temporarily after this was suggested by the Child Protection Department and she did not want him to be adopted. Her partner collects metal and paper from the garbage and is not officially employed.

Center for temporary placement, Lulin, Sofia 19. X. is a 29-year-old Romani woman. She was raised in four children’s institutions in northwest Bulgaria from the time she was a baby until the age of 17. She finished eighth grade and then completed a vocational training course for sewing. She worked for four months but she did not receive a salary and then left the job. After she turned 17, she moved to Sofia to search for a job and was placed in a centre for temporary placement of adults as she did not have a place to live. She does not have a family to go back to. Currently X. has two children, a 2-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She does not receive social assistance, only an allowance for children, which is a monthly payment of 36 Euro for both children. She has lived in the centre since 1997 and she has not paid the fee for a long time. She actually lives with a partner who was also raised in children’s institutions and is the father of her children. He is not officially placed in the centre but lives there with her. He has furnished the two rooms in which the family lives with a TV set, furniture, computer, washing machine etc. According to X. he has a good attitude towards the children but abuses her regularly. The older child witnesses this every day. She is very afraid of his reaction if he understands that X. told the researchers about the domestic violence she experiences. X. filed a complaint about the violence with the police station located next to the centre and the police issued a precautionary protocol, but X.’s partner continued to abuse her. According to her there was also a restraining order but the centre guards do not stop the man at the entrance. Because of these measures taken against him, the partner became even crueler to X. She is completely financially dependent on him and was very upset with this situation during the interview. Social workers at the centre explained that nothing can be done to improve the situation of X. and her children. 20. D. is a 40-year-old Romani woman who has lived in the centre since 2005 with a man. His family has a house in the ‘Hristo Botev’ Romani neighborhood in Sofia. He does not want to live with them as D’s ex-husband lives next to his house and he wants to avoid her seeing him. The man is not officially placed in the centre. Both of them do not pay fees for services provided in the centre. D. and her partner have never attended school. They were involved in temporary employment programs but at the time of the interview they were not employed. He often abuses her. D. and her partner have a son who is 2.5 years old and were expecting another to be born in February 2011. D. and her partner also take care of D’s other child from her previous partner. The boy is 10 and studied until third grade but did not attend school for the last two academic years. According to D. and the centre staff the child’s behavior is 66


Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

deviant. D. decided herself to place two of her other children from her ex-husband in the Dragalevci home for children deprived of parental care (aged 3 to 7). She explained she did so because she wanted her children to attend kindergarten. D. does not use any pregnancy preventive methods. She asked a medical doctor in a Sofia hospital for an abortion but was told that she had to pay it. She was examined by her personal doctor and wanted him to help her abort the child. But she was with her husband and they quarreled during the examination over keeping the baby. So the doctor made them leave and this is why she kept the child although she wondered whether they would be able to take care of her. Her partner insisted that she had to keep the child. The family lives in one room and they have a kitchen and a toilet. In the room there were two beds, wardrobe and a TV set. D. explained that she visits her children in the home in Dragalevci. The family stated that when both of them work they had an income of around 450 Euro per month, but this happens rarely and temporarily. D. shared that she tried to enroll her son in school and asked the Child Protection Department for help but did not receive any. However, she said she received diapers, notebooks and teaching materials from NGOs, but she thought she did not need the teaching materials.

‘Maria Rosa’ home for children deprived of parental care (aged 4-18), village of Assenovec, Sliven region 21. H. is a 14-year-old Romani girl born in the village of Topolchani. She was placed in the institution as a protective measure applied by the police. Her mother is in Germany, her father, who has parental rights, is in Greece. H.’s aunt was taking care of her but the aunt decided to ‘marry’ H. to a boy D. who was 20. He abused H. by beating her with an iron stick. H’s grandmother called the police and this is how H. was placed in the institution in January/ February 2010. H. studied in sixth grade until the end of the first school term before being accommodated in the institution. Because she was institutionalised in January/February, the staff could not enroll her in the local school for the second term and it is expected that she will repeat sixth grade. H’s parents visited her in the institution when they came back to Bulgaria. The Child Protection Department decided to work on H’s case for reintegration.

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria

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Romani Children at Risk in the Child Protection System in Bulgaria  

This research was performed in two phases – a legal and policy analysis, carried out in May- June 2010, and а field research, performed in J...

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