Тhe Deinstitutionalization (DI) kills people! Yes, this is a fact, as the last week case of violence against children with disabilities at the Chrysanthema Family Center. In this regard, we bring to your attention the position of several non-governmental organizations and prominent human rights defenders. We hope that it is begging for further discussion about the process of deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria and the real problems will be solved and solutions will be found.


Prime Minister

Boyko Borisov

Minister of Labor and Social Policy

Biser Petkov

The President of the Parliamentary Committee

on labor, social and demographic policy

Hasan Ademov

The Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria

Maya Manolova

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

The demonstrated brutal violence against children and young people with disabilities at the Chrysanthema Group Family Center- Gabrovo gives us – once again – a reason to state the following:

– The Gabrovo case is not isolated! Children and young people with disabilities placed in social services, as there are hundreds across the country, are often victims of various types of violence. It is not always physical, but it invariably leaves deep marks on the mentality of the victims. Moreover, in the quality of care, in different services but most often unable to support independence and social inclusion, these children and young people are doomed to remain under the state’s care for the rest of their lives. We have repeatedly signaled to various responsible agencies – including the European Commission – that the proclaimed deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria is not happening. The so-called “residential community type services” offer purely institutional care – with all its flaws, described in a series of reports by Bulgarian NGOs, featured in Kate Blewitt’s film “Forgotten Children of Bulgaria” back in 2007. The difference with the frames of the film is only on the material base – the houses are new, smaller and better equipped.

– Everyone is aware that health care for the “users” of these services is limited to emergency interventions and treatment of cold and flu symptoms. The primitive treatment is applied only at a pinch, when the “consumer’s” pains become annoying to the staff. Most children and young people are diagnosed by birth, which is often the reason for their placement in a social institution. With the naked eye you can see the difference between them and children with disabilities who grew up in a family environment. There is almost no case of surgical correction of congenital malformations; intensive rehabilitation to improve mobility or the provision of quality technical aids with healing effect.

– Even more tragic is the intellectual and social growth of children and young people with disabilities in these services – the retardation in this regard is at least four to five years from the level of their peers who lived with their families. In the mass case, social service’s users remain without education – sometimes with diplomas, but without experience – without skills and competences; doomed to unemployment, poverty, helplessness and lifelong dependency. Moreover, the institution does not make any effort to teach its “wards” to manage their own household, to handle basic everyday‘s tasks, to make and maintain friendships outside the institution.

– Institutional-type social services empower those who provide services at the expense of those who use them. Institutional care exposes ‘users’ to model treatment without respect to individual characteristics, needs and interests. Finally, institutional care deprives them of the opportunity to control their daily life and make decisions about their own life.

In general, the current network of social services forms a parallel system for people with disabilities, which is characterized by extremely low quality compared to common systems. It leads to segregation of these people, actually the opposite of what the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities prescribes.

There is many scientific evidence that institutional care produces imaginative and dependent people, who can easily become victims of completely unpunished violence, coming usually from persons from social services. That‘s why the control functions of the state’s bodies are of utmost importance for the basic rights of people with disabilities – respect for human dignity; the right to equally access to public development’s resources, etc.

In this regard, we urge that all methodologies for managing community-based services in the community should be revised and the following mandatory elements shoud be introduced:

1. service quality standards and set of clear goals supporting each individual;

2. periodic review of individual progress through the prism of social inclusion;

3. term of residence in such service;

4. individual plans for transmission from the service and providing support for community life.

We hope that the responsible institutions will take decisive measures to change and modernize the offered  social services and to ensure the development and social inclusion of children and young people with disabilities. There is a need for political will, competence and courage to uncompromisingly introduce a new approach to disability and a new type of service to support disabled citizens to live an independent life in their chosen communities.

Center for Independent Living  (http://www.cil.bg)

Kapka Panayotova (kapkapan@gmail.com)

Center for Inclusive Education (https://www.cie.bg)

Iva Boneva (i.boneva@cie-bg.eu)

Political Science Center (https://venellin.wordpress.com)

Venelin Stoychev (venellin.stoychev@gmail.com)

Teodor Mladenov (teomladenov@gmail.com)

Nadezhda Deneva (nadia_deneva@hotmail.com)