National context and key trends
Bulgaria is an upper-middle-income country and an EU (European Union) member state since 2007. Its population as of the end of 2016 is 7,101,859 people, of which children aged 0-17 (completed years) are 1,194,454, or 16.8% of the country’s population. Data of the latest census (2011) indicate that the main ethnic groups are: Bulgarians 84.8%, Turks 8.8% and Roma 4.9% (325,343 people). Bulgaria’s Human Development Index (HDI) for 2014 was 0.782, which places the country in the group of states with high degree of human development and ranks it 59th of 188 states and territories.
Although Bulgaria has made significant progress in adapting its legal and policy framework to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, still there are many challenges ahead:
Health and development
- Infant mortality rate (6.5 per 1,000 live births in 2016) is twice higher than the European Union average;
- 9.5 per cent of live births are from adolescent girls and young women aged below 20;
- 13% of all births annually are to women without health insurance and limited access to health care;
- Many children do not receive nurturing care during the first years of life due to poverty, lack of responsive caregiving and insufficient opportunities for early learning from birth.
- Fewer than 80 per cent of children aged 3 to 4 attend kindergartens;
- Each year, about 1,000 school-age children do not enroll in school;
- 45 per cent of Roma children do not attend preschool and 15 per cent do not attend school;
- It is estimated that about 14,000 children with disabilities are out of school and kindergarten.
- Around 2,000 children are separated from their families each year;
- More than 1,000 children continue to live in institutions;
- Over 11 000 children live separated from their families.
Violence against children:
- On average, over 3,500 reports of violence against children are received each year and around 1,000 actual cases are opened after investigation;
- 68% of parents accept the use of “reasonable violence” as a means of discipline;
- Over 4 200 incidents of violence against children happen every year in schools.
Children participants in legal proceedings:
- Annually, about 5,000 children are investigated for committing various crimes in Bulgaria;
- Around 200 children are placed in closed institutions where they are deprived of freedom;
- On average, around 3500 children become victims of various crimes each year and participate in criminal proceedings that are not adapted to their rights and needs;
- There is no reliable data on the number of children participants in civil and administrative proceedings, including in parental rights disputes and domestic violence cases.
Children on the move
- Almost 100 percent of unaccompanied children intercepted by the police are attached to unrelated adults or recorded as adults and detained, in breach of the best interest of the child principle and the legal ban on detention, introduced in December 2017.
- All accompanied children – a total of more than 250 in 2017 and the first three months of 2018, are detained, unless they apply for international protection.
- There are no services for appropriate temporary accommodation and no effectively functioning guardianship system for unaccompanied and separated children in Bulgaria.