[Bulgaria] Amendments to Bulgaria's Child Protection Act Aim to Improve Institutional Cooperation

13 Jul 2019
National Network for Children

The National Network for Children announced that the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) has announced the passage of significant changes in child protection legislation. The Ministry notes that these changes do not introduce new principles in the field of child protection, but regulate the coordination mechanisms related to the work of institutions from different sectors involved in child protection, as the protection of children is not solely the responsibility of the social system.

The provision of Article 36 G of the Child Protection Act aims to regulate and improve the approach and cooperation of different sectors in cases of violence against children. This interaction has been in place in Bulgaria since 2010 with the Coordination Mechanism for Cooperation in Work on Child, Victim or In Risk of Violence Cases and for Cooperation in Crisis Intervention, and the Work of Multidisciplinary Teams on a Local Level. Changes do not introduce new authority points for social workers, but their focus is on providing timely and targeted support to children and their parents by competent authorities, with the ultimate goal of preventing child abandonment.

According to the changes, children are placed outside the family only after a court decision and in very extreme cases of violence, neglect, and violation of the child's interest (e.g., forced into prostitution, begging, or trafficking). At the same time, as a result of the adoption of the Social Services Act, the state gains a stronger stance on its ‘control over the provision, financing and quality of social services to protect children and adults who use them’.

On the other hand, there are no changes to the role of municipalities in delivering social services. Municipalities remain a major provider of social services as the only institution that can entrust the management of government-funded social services to private individuals. This has been a principle in the legislation in Bulgaria for more than 17 years. It is interesting to note that in 2018, only 15.6% of all social services were assigned to private providers by municipalities.

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