Bulgaria: A Meeting with the Vice Minister of Social Affairs in Sofia and Travel to Varna, Site of Our First Granny Program

Ann Hassan, Spence-Chapin’s Humanitarian Aid Coordinator, comments on a productive and rewarding staff visit to Bulgaria, where we have been finding adoptive families for children since 1994. After a very busy trip, Milena Kazakov, Rita Taddonio and I are back in our Manhattan office—settling in and trying to kick our jet lag!  At the end of a rewarding trip to Moldova, we traveled on to Bulgaria where Samantha Walker, Spence-Chapin’s Assistant Director of International Adoption, joined the group.  Spence-Chapin has a long history of working in Bulgaria—in both adoptions and humanitarian aid—and it was great to see first-hand how the programs have progressed since we were there last year.

Spence-Chapin staff met with head officials at both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs in Sofia, the charming Bulgarian capital city.  We were pleased to hear directly from the Ministry of Justice, the governmental body that oversees international adoptions, about how international adoptions are moving forward since Bulgaria signed the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption and revamped the country’s adoption system.  The Ministry of Social Affairs is the section of the government that is in charge of the Bulgarian child welfare system, including domestic adoptions as well as individual orphanages.  During our hour-long conversation with the Vice Minister of Social Affairs, we were able to exchange ideas on a number of critical issues including deinstitutionalization, preparation of prospective foster and adoptive parents, and care of children with special needs.  We were both honored and encouraged by how receptive the Vice Minister was to hearing about the strategies that have been most effective for Spence-Chapin during our 100+ years of work in adoption.

With our work in Sofia concluded, all four of us piled into the VW Passat that belongs to our driver, Svetlio.  During our 6-hour cross-country journey, we couldn’t get enough of the beautiful countryside.  At the end we arrived in the beautiful town of Varna, located on the Black Sea.  It was in this location that the first ever Granny Program began in 1998, making this visit extra special!  Not only does the Granny Program continue to thrive, but we were so delighted to see a handful of the original grannies who were there at the program’s launch 12 years ago.  This kind of dedication says more about the program’s immense value than any words I could write.

All in all, we had an incredibly productive and inspiring trip to Moldova and Bulgaria.  My colleagues and I are eager to integrate the learning and insights we gained into our everyday work back here at Spence-Chapin!