When we commonly think of children in orphanages, who for various reasons do not live their childhood peacefully, we think of distant countries. But in reality, even in Europe, there are children living in these conditions.
Between the indifference of the population and the local and international media, in Bulgaria, the condition of children in orphanages is very worrying.
In 2007, a documentary entitled "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children" was published by the BBC, documenting the reality of a specific orphanage in the town of Mogilino, in the north of Bulgaria, where many children and adolescents with mental and physical disabilities lived.
The videos distributed by the BBC showed raw images, in which there were children and adolescents abandoned to themselves, at the mercy of the most primal and helpless instincts. The children showed that they had been deprived for many years of the care and assistance they would have needed, particularly given the already complicated situation they were in because they were suffering from illnesses. Not being able to complain, they were left for hours on potties with their excrements or, in the case of very young children, for entire days in bed, condemning them to severe delays in growth and development, not even being able to walk.
The children, despite having physical and mental difficulties, could have improved with continuous and targeted support from experts; however, the lack of medical stimuli also contributed to worsen a highly degrading condition.
In addition to the conditions in which the children were kept, it was particularly noticeable how they were in a state of severe malnutrition, as it was possible to see every bone of their helpless bodies. Others, besides having bedsores due to the long stay in the same position, showed an advanced state of hypothermia at the extremities of the body, as they were not adequately dressed and covered to face the particularly cold temperatures of the Bulgarian winters.
That orphanage was closed shortly after the publication of the report. Other similar centers, thanks to Bulgaria's entry into the European Union in 2007, have been able to access European funds, obtaining 136.5 million levs for the period 2015-2020 (about 70 million euros) and, of the approximately 80 orphanages in the territory in 2010, there are now 12 and all institutions are expected to close by 2025.
Thanks to the funds of the Union, the State has provided economic incentives for temporary foster care, and these resources have often been used by the poorest families. But, although foster care in these families should only be temporary, waiting to be adopted, the children risk remaining in these foster families for long periods, precisely because they are seen as a secure income every month and therefore, thanks to the connivance of social workers, these foster families are prolonged as much as possible, delaying the time of adoption.
Although the European Union has encouraged the overcoming of the condition in which children were kept in Bulgaria, unemployment, poverty and dishonesty of many people does not allow a real improvement in the lives of many - over two thousand - children.
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Sofia Perinetti