Support for vulnerable children and families

Every child has the right to live in a family environment

Mother with her baby, many other children and relatives, living in poverty, miserable living conditions and sad faces
UNICEF Bulgaria/2016/Popov


Many children are separated from their families each year

Bulgaria has made impressive progress towards reforming its child care system and guaranteeing the right of every child. 

The number of children in old-type institutions has decreased significantly* - from 7,587 in 2010 to 900 towards late 2017.

As a result of the implementation of the National Strategy ‘Vision for the Deinstitutionalization of Children in the Republic of Bulgaria’, all institutions for children with mental disabilities and almost half of those for children up to the age of 3 have been closed down. Such progress was made possible as a result of the development of services in support of vulnerable children and families, the creation of an extensive network of foster families and family-type placement centers for children. The number of community-based social services has jumped from 241 in 2010 to 607 by early 2018. Towards the end of 2017, over 2,300 children were living in foster families, with one-third of them being under 3 years of age. Over 6,000 children are placed in kinship care*. Over 2,500 live in residential-type services.

Notwithstanding with this progress, every year many children continue to be separated from their families. Children from marginalized communities and those with disabilities face the highest risk of being separated from their families. Other factors leading to separation of children from their families include stigma and prejudices, early pregnancies, as well as child marriages in some Roma communities.
Other factors leading to separation of children from their families include stigma and prejudices, early pregnancies, as well as child marriages in some Roma communities.
Children from vulnerable families and marginalized communities are faced with numerous deprivations and an impossibility to reach their full potential. Quite often, social exclusion begins from the birth of a child, while poverty is passed on from generation to generation. Child marriages continue to rank among the serious violations of children’s rights. In the past 10 years, the numbers of child marriages and early childbirths have been decreasing both in absolute terms and as percentage of all marriages and live births in the country. In 2001 6,181 girls under 18 were in cohabitation, of whom 2,283 under 16 years of age. In ten years, the number of 18-year-old girls in cohabitation has decreased by about 30 percent, to 4,334 in 2011. Among the under 16-year-old girls in cohabitation, the decrease is by 33 percent—to 1,505 in 2011.



Support for the child protection system and the process of deinstitutionalization

UNICEF supports the child care reform and deinstitutionalization. UNICEF focuses on the development of intersectoral policies and at strengthening the capacity of the child care system to identify, prevent and respond to risks to children and families and provide support to ensure that children receive adequate and loving care in their families. ,

UNICEF works with the Government, the local authorities and non-governmental organizations for:
- conducting analyses and data gathering;
- Training and support to the social workers at the Child Protection Departments and the other child protection bodies for application of an individual approach towards every child, based on his/her needs and rights,
- Coordination of support and services for children and families at municipal level;
- Development of services in support of vulnerable children and families;
- Ensuring quality of social services for children and families and family and residential alternative care; Closure of specialized institutions for children
- relevant legislative changes and more effective and efficient utilization of financial resources in the child protection sphere.

UNICEF works for the prevention of child marriages, early childbirths and adolescent pregnancies by:
- employing an intersectoral approach
- programmes for retaining in the educational system and graduation;
- empowerment of girls and women;
- provision of information, health education and changes of the traditions for child marriages and adolescent pregnancies;
- facilitating access to justice and protection.