Bulgaria and Romania inherited similar child protection systems from their communist past and had to address similar challenges in reforming their systems on their road to the EU accession. Romania ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990, and Bulgaria did also ratified it in 1991.
However the situation in both countries was far from responding to the UNCRC requirements as there was no legal framework related to protection of children’s rights, nor adequate capacity among state structures to work with children at risk. Both countries were confronted with very high rates of children separated from their biological families and placed in large residential care institutions, as institutionalised care was the only type of child protection service available in both countries. According to a census carried out in Romania in 1997 (at the beginning of the reform process), 98,872 children were living in 653 residential facilities nationwide.
This represented approximately 1.7 percent of the total population of children between the ages of 0-18. In Bulgaria, at the beginning of the reform process (in 2000) the percentage of institutionalized children was among the highest in Europe, at 1.78 percent, with over 35,000 children being placed in public institutions.
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