What Happens When Families are Matched with a Child from Bulgaria?


child from BulgariaThe international adoption process is a long one, and adoption from Bulgaria is no exception. Families diligently wade through mounds of paperwork, get fingerprinted numerous times, complete their education, submit their dossier, soak up everything they can about adopting from Bulgaria, and wait, wait, and wait some more. After what seems like an eternity, families finally get the call that they’ve received a referral! What does this mean? And what happens next?

In Bulgaria, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is responsible for identifying a child in need of a family and arranging for the child’s adoption. The MOJ’s International Adoption Committee (IAC) typically meets several times per month to match children with waiting families. At these meetings, the IAC reviews files of prospective adoptive parents called “dossiers,” and files of children, in order to match the children to appropriate families. A family’s dossier contains information regarding the characteristics of a child or children they are hoping to adopt, including age, gender, and any additional physical or mental needs.

Once the IAC has determined that there is a child who meets the characteristics that a family is seeking, and the adoption would be in the child’s best interest, they will contact our Bulgarian partner to let them know about the potential match and share the child’s information. Then, the child’s information is presented to the family for approval; this information is called the child’s “referral.”

The MOJ, in conjunction with its designated social services professionals, medical professionals and mental health professionals, performs and prepares the child background study that families receive at the time of referral. Families will want to take this information to a medical professional for review prior to accepting the child’s referral. There is the possibility of misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose a medical or mental health condition. It is also possible that the child’s health status could change over time.

The time frame to receive a referral varies considerably from family to family, depending on the characteristics of children in need of adoption at any given time, and the characteristics that other families are open to. Typically, it takes 12-24 months to receive the referral of a child, though families looking for a child as young as possible, with no known additional needs, will likely have a longer wait.

Once a family receives their referral from Bulgaria, has the referral information reviewed by a medical professional, and decides to move forward, they travel to meet the child in Bulgaria and formally accept the referral so the legal adoption process will begin. Our in-country team assists families the whole time they’re in Bulgaria, from reserving accommodations, meeting them at the airport, making arrangements for travel in-country, and taking them to all appointments. During this time, families will spend time each day with the child or children, depending on the orphanage or foster family’s schedule.

When they return home, many families feel that they have left their hearts in Bulgaria, and begin the difficult wait for the day they can return, and bring home their child.  This wait is in some ways harder than before, because families aren’t waiting for a child, they’re waiting for THIS child, and have already begun to bond with them.  But as difficult as the wait is, it’s also a sign that the long adoption journey is nearly over, and families are excited to know that they child they have been waiting for is REAL.

If you’re interested in adopting a child from Bulgaria, contact us.

Lydia Tarr works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Bulgaria and Ukraine. She is the adoptive mother of four children from Ukraine and was recognized as a 2013 Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Angels in Adoption Program.