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25 Factors to Consider When Adopting From Bulgaria

Also available in a printable version

Current as of May 2009. This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency that places from this country for the most current information.


Parental Age


Maximum- One parent must be at least 15 years older than the child. There is not a firm upper age limit, but generally, parents that are 50 and older must be open to an older child. If there is one parent that is younger than 50 and one in their 50’s it may be possible for them to adopt a younger child. Greater flexibility for parents adopting an older child or child with a special needs. (See Children Available for what is considered a special need.)

Length of Marriage

No country requirement, although agencies may have a requirement.


No country requirement, although agencies may have a requirement.

Children in Family

Allowed, although large families (more than 4 children in the home) are discouraged unless considering a child with special needs or an older child.

Single Applicant

Single women and men allowed.

Sexual Orientation

Bulgaria does not knowingly place with homosexuals.

Children Available

  • Bulgarian law has recently changed to require children to be on the national database for 6 months, rather than 12 months, prior to being eligible for international adoption. This has not yet resulted in the referral of children less than 1 year. Right now, the youngest healthy children being referred are about 18 months, although younger children with special needs might be referred if a special needs referral is requested by the family.
  • Children with special needs usually include boys, children age 7+, sibling groups, and children with identified major medical needs. I have been told that what other countries consider to be a major medical need, such as cleft palate, is not considered to be major enough to be a special need in Bulgaria. If you are interested ask your agency about the Bulgarian Special Needs Registry.



Most children are of Roma (Gypsy) ethnicity or Turkish decent, with dark skin tones. Prospective parents are not allowed to request ethnicity or skin tone, and must be open to all children of any ethnicity.


Boys and girls; gender can be specified. Many more boys are in need of homes.

Adopting more than one unrelated child at same time

Allowed; although, there will be minimal, if any, discount of adoption fees since they are treated as two separate adoptions. There may be savings on travel costs. If the two children are siblings, the adoption fee is reduced for the second child. Agency may have restrictions against placing more than one unrelated child at the same time.

Travel in Country


Two trips.

  • First trip: about 5-8 days; parents visit the child in the orphanage for several days and then complete documents accepting the referral which will then be presented to the MOJ by their attorney. Both parents are strongly encouraged to go on this trip, but it is possible to adopt if only one parent is able to go to Bulgaria and meet the child. If only one parent travels, the referral can’t be accepted while in Bulgaria. After returning home, both parents must prepare and sign specified document and send them back to the country. As with all countries, if only one parent meets the child before the adoption is finalized, the child will arrive in the US on a IR 4 visa, and must be re-adopted in the US and apply for US citizenship. (For a more detailed explanation, see page 134 of The Complete Book of International Adoption, available at most libraries.)Second trip: About 3 months after the first trip; only one parent needs to travel; about 5-7 days; escort may be requested with some agencies if absolutely necessary, but is not encouraged by Bulgaria.

Referral Method

Standard. The dossier is sent to the country to be translated: and then is submitted to the Ministry of Justice to be reviewed. The family is then registered (typically within 30 days) and are “waiting for a referral”. The International Adoption Committee in Bulgaria reviews the applications of prospective adoptive families in the order they have been filed, and looks at the list of children available for adoption trying to make the best match according to each child’s needs. Under this system, first in line does not necessarily mean first to get a referral.

Wait for referral (after dossier received)

International adoptions are just beginning to pick up from Bulgaria, so waiting times are guesstimates at this time.

  • Healthy young child: 18 months is the official estimate from the Ministry of Justice, but some agencies are reporting greater and lesser times. I have heard anywhere from 12-18 months. There is a greater need for families for boys, so the wait may be shorter for boys. It is expected and hoped that this time will decrease as more young children are referred, but this has not happened yet.
  • Children with special needs (+7 child, sibling groups, major medical needs): 6+ months Referrals will be expedited for families requesting a child on the Special Needs Registry.
  • I have been told that children approaching the age of 7 may be referred faster since the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice tries very hard to find a permanent home for a child before they must be moved to the older child orphanage at age 7.

Wait after referral

  • Parent must travel on first trip within two months of receiving the referral, or the referral is revoked.
  • A 2-4 month wait is usual between the first and second (pick up) trip.

Approximate Cost

$20,000- $28,000 + travel ($30,00 total cost fits what I’m hearing from parents.)

Adequacy of medical reports

All information is shared with parents, but limited information is known, especially pre-placement in the orphanage. Orphanages usually provide The orphanages seem to take care to document all illnesses and treatments of the child since he/she has been in the orphanage. They also try to include information about the child’s daily routine, likes, dislikes, etc.

Youngest Age Upon Arrival Home

18 months

Orphanage/Foster Care

Orphanage; some foster care

How children enter government care

Unwed motherhood, poverty, cultural acceptance of abandonment. Most of the children available for international adoption from Bulgaria were relinquished or abandoned at birth and have not been removed from the home due to abuse and neglect.

Prevalence of FAS

Not enough children have been adopted from Bulgaria recently for IA doctors to give a realistic assessment. For more information on the prevalence of FAS by country, listen to the Creating a Family radio show where I interviewed Dr. Julian Davies, pediatrician with the Center for Adoption Medicine at the University of Washington and with the University of Washington FAS Clinic, the longest standing FAS center in the US.



Number of children placed in the US from 2002-2008

The last year Bulgaria made the list of top 20 placing countries to the US was 2004. The number of Bulgarian children placed in the US between 2002 and 2004 was 568. The number of children placed between 2005 and 2007 was 77, and only 5 children were adopted from Bulgaria in 2008.



Highly variable. This is a tough one to call. Bulgaria has placed very few children for international adoption since 2004 due to political pressures and to implementing the requirements of the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoptions. Implementing of the new law is moving smoothly, but we have not seen a increase in children coming home. The current Minister of Justice (the agency in charge of international adoptions) has been active in trying to improve conditions for Bulgarian orphans, including improving the procedures for domestic and international adoption. National elections in Bulgaria will be held in the summer of 2009. and it is unknown if the current Minister of Justice will be re-elected (due apparently because of the political party she is affiliated with). No one knows what impact this may have on the future of international adoptions. The current Minister is trying to pass legislation on adoption policies before her term expires that cannot be reversed. It is hopeful that the current Assistant Minister will remain in her position, since she has been equally involved with adoption reform and improvement in Bulgaria.



Post Adoption Reports

4 reports; one report every 6 months for two years, prepared by home study provider.

Hague Treaty


Additional Information

  1. Check the US Embassy in Sofia website for the most current official information.
  2. Adoption agencies must be licensed by the Bulgarian government to place children for international adoption. Most American agencies that have a Bulgarian adoption program operate in partnership with a licensed Bulgarian adoption agency. The US Embassy in Sofia maintains a list of licensed agencies, but this list is not up to date. Make sure that your US agency is working with a licensed Bulgarian agency or has their own Bulgarian international adoption license.
  3. Adoption agencies must be Hague accredited in the US.
  4. Access to orphanages in Bulgaria are not open to continual visitation. Before you accept your referral, you will be allowed into the orphanage to visit with that child, but after this visitation, parents will not be allowed to visit.


Useful Links

Creating a Family Sponsors

Bethany Christian Services

Carolina Adoption Services

Children's House International Adoptions

Nightlight® Christian Adoptions

Hopscotch Adoptions

MLJ Adoptions, Inc.

Sunrise Family Services Society

Spence-Chapin Adoption Services


© Creating a Family

Available from, a nonprofit providing education and resources for adoption and infertility. Please do not reprint without giving credit to Creating a Family and a link to the website.




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