Bulgaria

Bulgaria Adoption Story: Lee-Ann and William

Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

bulgaria-1.jpg

“Hi! We are the Cotner family! We are a big, fun, loud, loving, rocking family. We have six beautiful kiddos. Four were homegrown and two grew in our hearts via international adoption and they both just happen to be rocking an extra chromosome a.k.a. they have Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.

Our first son, Harvey, came home from Eastern Europe and completely stole our hearts. Soon after our first adoption, we knew that we wanted to adopt again, and specifically another kiddo with Down Syndrome. We knew financially that it might be easier for our family to wait a few years, but when I saw the profile of this waiting kiddo, my heart skipped a beat. I requested his file and I read it over and over. I was looking at it, yet again, when my youngest daughter Quinn said, “Oh, there he is… there’s my brother. I’ve been looking for him!” I knew he was our son and another adventure was beginning!

bulgaria-2.jpg

Harrison joined our family thanks to help from Spence-Chapin and our fabulous in-country team. In a beautiful coincidence, Harrison came home in October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is truly a blessing. Our sons who have Down Syndrome have overcome so many obstacles that most people take for granted. Seeing them overcome and succeed has given us a new insight on life and we truly appreciate all the little and big things. They are our shining lights. There are the hard days when the struggles of Down Syndrome and prior institutional trauma can hurt your mama heart, because we want to take all their pain and struggle away. But it just makes us love them more and remember that with love and patience we can all do hard things.

Our older four children are incredible with their little brothers. They are so loving and protective, and they are the boys’ biggest cheerleaders. They loved them before they even met them, and their admiration for their brothers only grows. I always say the greatest gift we’ve ever given them was each other.

My husband, William, is active duty Army and that can add some additional hiccups, but Spence-Chapin handled it with such grace and ease. Our process was smooth, and we truly fell in love with Harrison’s birth country. The Army is incredibly supportive of adoption and we are so grateful for this. They let my husband take a substantial leave and even reimbursed some of our adoption expenses.

Every child deserves a family…. every child has worth, and we are forever thankful to be a part of the lucky few that get to have some rocking kiddos with Down Syndrome in their family thanks to adoption and Spence-Chapin!”

To learn more about adoption from Bulgaria and the children in need of families, visit: www.spence-chapin.org/bulgaria

Bulgaria and Roma Adoption

Bulgaria as one of Eastern Europe’s treasures but underneath the rich sights and sounds, there is an imbalance and a need to find loving homes for many Roma children.

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s history is vast and its culture rich, and like all countries, it has customs that are unique to itself.

Reasons Roma Children Need Loving Families

kids

Roma people represent around 12 million of Europe’s overall population and Bulgaria is home to the third largest population of Roma in the world. We see this reflected in the large population of Roma children in need of families in Spence-Chapin’s Bulgaria adoption program. Though the Roma are an estimated 5% to 10% of the general population in Bulgaria, around 60% of the children in need of permanent families are of Roma descent. Why are such a large number of Roma children in need of adoptive families?

_49096443__49044278_europe_roma_popnTo begin scratching the surface of why many Roma children are waiting for families in Bulgaria, exploring the larger scope of Romani history is an important first step. The Roma make up the largest and most vulnerable ethnic group in Europe. After migrating from India over a thousand years ago, the Roma people have endured oppression and discrimination. Yet quite remarkably, they have been able to preserve Romani language and culture.  You may be more familiar with a commonly used term for Roma – “gypsy”. This term is an outdated and historically inaccurate word stemming from a time when Roma people were thought to have come from Egypt. As the term has negative and derogatory connotations, the most widely accepted term today is Roma.

article-2486333-1922058400000578-107_964x635Centuries of structural discrimination and social exclusion have led to the difficulties that Roma people are faced with today, leaving Roma children vulnerable and, at times, in need of loving homes outside of their birth families. The most prevalent issues faced by Roma families include discrimination, poverty, and limited access to education and medical care. While it can be difficult to picture the realities of what social exclusion may look like for a Roma child in Bulgaria, poverty is the most common reason Roma children are over-represented in child care facilities. The World Bank estimates that the poverty rate for families of Roma descent is 6.7 times greater than non-Roma in Bulgaria. Housing conditions illustrate a powerful snapshot of what living in poverty can look like for a Roma family. While sewage and water supply are available to 93% of the Bulgarian population, 50% of Roma families have no sewage and over 30% of families do not have access to a water supply system.

romanogrenci[1]Regular school attendance can be difficult for Roma children due to circumstances caused by poverty. Issues include a lack of transportation, caring for younger siblings and experiencing discrimination in the school system. Teenagers who experience unplanned pregnancy are also faced with difficulties not only in school attendance but also with their health due to a lack of medical care access. This culminates in only 13% of Roma people with high school diplomas compared to 87% of employed non-Roma Bulgarians.

gypsiesLower levels of education lead to higher levels of unemployment and combined with the discrimination faced when seeking work, the Roma experienced an unemployment rate of 59% in 2010 while the national average for unemployment in Bulgaria was 11.6%. Since joining the European Union in 2007, many Roma who have not been able to find employment in Bulgaria have migrated to other European countries for job opportunities. This can create a difficult decision for parents who may not be able to parent their children as they leave the country and then choose to make an adoption plan.

Another factor in the over-representation of Roma children who are adopted internationally highlights the discrimination the Roma people receive within Bulgaria. If a child cannot be raised with their birth family, it is the best choice for a child to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country. Due to a long history of falsely held beliefs and discrimination against the Roma population, Bulgarian families may choose to adopt ethnic Bulgarian children, leaving Roma children waiting longer to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country.

Hundreds of years of oppression have created an environment where Roma children are more vulnerable to factors that leave children in need of a family. While the reasons any Roma child in Bulgaria are in need of a family are complex, Spence-Chapin’s mission is simple - to find families for the most vulnerable children. We are committed to the idea that all children deserve a forever family, regardless of their age or medical condition.  There are thousands of school-age children, sibling groups, and children with special needs languishing in orphanages and foster care in Bulgaria.  These children blossom when given the opportunity, support, and resources to live within the stability and safety of a permanent loving family.

3117352423_cd4be0dbf4_o

To learn more about adoption through our Bulgaria program or to view profiles of Waiting Children in Bulgaria ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at info@spence-chapin.org..

 

Waiting Children in Bulgaria

There are over 1,800 older children, siblings, and children with special needs in Bulgaria who are eligible for international adoption but have not yet found families.

Celebrate Roma Culture at the Gypsy Festival

For a fresh, modern take on Romani culture, don't miss the events during the  8th Annual New York Gypsy Festival, starting September 8th and running through the 30th. This festival celebrates the Romani diaspora, a people widely spread throughout the world, to transcend barriers of location, language, and status, for a true celebration of roots and ethnicity in music, art, and dance.

 

 

 

 

The film screening of A People Uncounted, a 2011 documentary about the Roma will surely be a festival highlight. It uncovers the rich, and sometimes painful, history of the Roma, who, now, are commonly referred to as Gypsies. The critically acclaimed, feature-length film was directed by Aaron Younger and edited by Kurt Engefh.

The Gypsy Festival will present a special screening of this film on Tuesday, September 18th @ 6:00pm

Watch a preview for A People Uncounted, here:

Bulgaria - Goreshtnitsi

Bulgarian traditions include a number of holidays during the month of July. From July 16th to the 18th The Romani celebrate Goreshtnitsi or "the dog days,” named so because they're usually the hottest days of summer. While the origins of these feast days are pagan, The orthodox calendar also celebrates these holidays. According to the calendar, July 15th is Churuta, the 16th is Pyrliga, and the 17th is Marina.

The Romani believe that during these days no-one should work in the fields, and women, who traditionally keep the household and cook food, shouldn't bake bread to prevent destructive fires and hail storms from raining down from the sky. The Dog Days are also used to predict the weather for the next winter season. If the all three days are hot and sunny, the Romani predict that the next winter will be a mild one. After the three day break from work, the Romani renew the fires in their homes and resume their daily tasks.

Bulgarian Orphans receive a Helping Hand from Spence-Chapin Families and Friends after a Tragic Fire

Spence-Chapin is delighted to report that, thanks to the generosity of our Bulgarian adoptive parents and their friends, we were able to send a donation of $4,145 to the Varna Children’s Home in Bulgaria. This orphanage, with whom Spence-Chapin has a nearly two-decade connection, suffered a tragedy in February when a fire swept through their building. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured, though a great deal of damage was sustained. Dr. Jankova, the orphanage’s director, sent the following words in response: “I’m writing back to you with gratitude for your compassion for our situation. The knowledge that in a difficult for us moment, we can rely on your help coming from so far away, brings us the comfort that we are not alone.”

We are glad to have assisted the Varna Children’s Home with their recovery efforts.