Sofia, Bulgaria, November 21, 2019 – Disability Rights International (DRI) released a report today, A Dead End for Children - Bulgaria’s Group Homes, documenting the dehumanizing and dangerous conditions of children placed in Bulgarian group homes. The main finding of the report is that Bulgaria’s EU- and internationally-supported reforms have “replaced a system of large, old orphanages with newer, smaller buildings that are still operating as institutions.”

“Bulgaria calls them small, family-like homes. They are not small, and there is nothing about them that resembles a family,” said DRI Executive Director Eric Rosenthal. “The abuses DRI observed in Bulgaria’s group homes are every bit as serious as what we’ve seen in orphanages the world over,” said Rosenthal.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – which Bulgaria and the EU have ratified – requires governments to ensure that children can grow up with a family, be it the biological family, relatives, or foster care – but not group homes. “Large or small group homes are especially dangerous for children, for whom there is no substitute for the need to grow up with a family,” according to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Many families would keep their children with disabilities if they had support to help them. Funds must be redirected to keep families together. Legally and morally we are compelled to do this for children,” said Dragana Ciric Milovanovic, DRI’s European Program Director.

DRI visited 24 group homes, 5 day centers, 4 larger institutions, 2 schools, and other disability programs throughout Bulgaria. DRI found children with disabilities living lives of isolation and neglect, in total inactivity – immobile children permanently left alone in cribs – denied of readily available medical care, and left exposed to violence, sexual abuse, and bullying.