In Bulgaria, there has been a significant decrease (more than 80%) in the number of children placed in institutional care: from 7,587 children in 2009 to 1,495 children at the beginning of 2016. In 2015 alone, 1,226 children left institutional care and 33 institutions were closed. All specialised institutions for children with disabilities have also been closed down now. Adoption of the Action Plan for the implementation of the National Strategy “Vision for Deinstitutionalisation of Children in Bulgaria” 2016-2020 in October 2016 marked another significant achievement towards deinstitutionalisation reforms in Bulgaria.
Two main reasons for children entering alternative care in Bulgaria are poverty and disability. This is often because parents of children with disabilities are not adequately supported in providing care for their children. Although vulnerable families have access to community-based services, they are not sufficient and require increased capacity and quality of provision.
At the beginning of 2016, 1,495 children were living in 47 institutions in Bulgaria compared to 2,721 children in 87 institutions in 2015. Despite the decrease, 726 children under the age of three are still remaining in Homes for Medico-Social Care for Children. More than 200 children in conflict with the law and children with delinquent behaviour remain in institutional care; their numbers are not accounted in the official statistics.
In 2015, 2,382 children were placed in 253 Family-Type Placement Centres (FTPCs) referred as Small Group Homes (SGHs) in Bulgaria. Only between 2014 and 2015, 135 of the FTPCs accommodated children, adolescents and young people above the age of 18 with disabilities. Although intentions were good and FTPCs were built rapidly to ensure that individual children’s needs were met, the transition from institutional care to FTPCs has not always been successful. Rather than a temporary measure, the FTPCs are mostly seen as a permanent alternative to large institutions. Staff is neither trained nor supervised and being poorly remunerated. These factors together with large capacity of placements (15 young people and children per home) jeopardise the quality of care provided. Furthermore, children are not given adequate support to help make the transition to independent living.
DI reforms in Bulgaria are funded by the national budget, the Operational Programme “Human Resources Development”, the Operational Programme “Science and Education for Smart Growth” and the European Regional Development Fund which will finance the foreseen infrastructure in 2016-2020.
The Action Plan for the period of 2016-2020 for the implementation of the National Strategy – adopted in October 2016 – introduces the following measures:
- prevention services,
- family-based care for children deprived of parental care,
- closure of all remaining institutions for children deprived of parental care,
- gradual closure of homes for children from 0-3 years,
- ensuring successful transition to independent living for young people,
- ensuring social and medical services for children with disabilities,
- improving the effectiveness of the system in order to guarantee children’s rights, and
- measures for building the infrastructure needed to provide services for children.
The National Network for Children, however, is concerned that the Action Plan does not provide an integral framework for implementation of the “Vision for Deinstitutionalisation”. It outlines general developments in the system of child protection and focuses on improving the infrastructure rather than enhancing capacity of the professionals working in the system. In addition, the National Network for Children recognizes the lack of sufficient measures for cross-sectoral primary prevention of the separation of children and families. It acknowledges the lack of financial mechanism to ensure the resources of existing institutions are ring fenced to finance the new services for children and families1.
FAST FACTS & LATEST DEVELOPMENTS
- 49% of the children in institutional care in Bulgaria are aged 0-3
- In 2015, there were 6,463 children in kinship care and 2,323 children in foster care in Bulgaria
- As of 2016, all specialised institutions for children with disabilities have been closed down
- The Action Plan for the implementation of the National Strategy “Vision for Deinstitutionalisation of Children in Bulgaria” 2016-2020 was officially adopted and published in October 2016