Vesta working on Bulgarian adoption laws
Holt Managing Editor
Not quite 3 years old, the little boy with the dark hair and dark eyes loved to dance — and he knew how to relate. “He got me dancing with him,” said Abbie Smith, director of the Holt International Waiting Child program.
Smith and Angie Wharfield, social services director for Holt International’s Bulgaria program, were in Bulgaria a week ago, where they interacted with dozens of children in five childcare institutions – four baby homes for children birth to 3, and one orphanage for children 3 to 5.
At one of the baby homes, they met a group of especially glowing children. “The children were obviously well cared for, and happy, and they had spent time learning folk dancing,” said Smith. “This little boy liked to dance with a partner.”
Wharfield and Smith also met with Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Justice. The attorney and CEO of Holt’s Bulgarian partner agency, Vesta, is currently working with the Ministry of Justice to draft a new family code that will amend the law favorably for adoption practices, including children with special needs.
“Overall, I have been motivated by the tireless care and work being done for children living in institutional care in Bulgaria,” said Wharfield. “Even when adoptions slowed and most U.S. agencies had to withdraw from adoptions in Bulgaria, Vesta and these institutions found creative and innovative ways to continue the good, quality care to children. The care I observed over the last week reflected the sacrifice and commitment these individuals have to the children in their care. And the proof is in the smiles and laughter observed in these children.”
More than a dozen families are now in process of adopting from Bulgaria through Holt International. Holt recently renewed its license to facilitate intercountry adoptions from Bulgaria after a hiatus of four years.
“The questions that resonated in my heart as I looked into the wide, hopeful eyes of these children were, ‘What about tomorrow? Who will make a difference in their future?’” said Wharfield. “As good as any institution can be, they are still institutions. Children need families, and each one of these children needs their very own family to make a difference in their tomorrow and each day after that. We know making a difference to even one child can create a ripple effect that reaches wider than we could ever imagine. What I experienced during this trip bridged language, nationality and culture. What I saw was the commitment to the best interest of children. While there are still improvements to be made and advocacy needed with those in power, there is no doubt the people we met have a heart and dedication for helping children who need families. This is something Holt understands, and I am excited Holt is once again able to be a part of the good work helping children in Bulgaria.”