The Opening Doors for Europe’s Children Campaign was delighted to join the Bulgarian family Antonov as they shared their experience with Mariya Gabriel MEP from Bulgaria on 11th December.
Accompanied by a sleeping Dimitr, Biljana and Hrsto shared the reasons why their son spent his first months in institutional care. Ms Gabriel heard how they had looked forward to the birth of their baby with anticipation. However, when the day came and Dimitr was born, he was diagnosed as having Down syndrome.
Midwives and social workers advised the parents to place their child in an institution, claiming the doctors there could take better care of him. Knowing nothing about Down syndrome, and given no information about other options and the support they could receive, the family relented, trusting that professionals would know what was best for Dimitr.
Thankfully, the family was reunited when the institution Dimitr was placed in was closed as part of Bulgaria’s ongoing reform process. The NGO working to close the institution, Hope and Homes for Children Bulgaria, was able to connect the family with the support they needed to take Dimitr back.
Ms Gabriel was extremely interested to hear how NGOs in Bulgaria are working to change attitudes among health and social care professionals and ensure that parents receive the support they need to prevent separation within hospitals in the country.
The family was able to travel to Brussels with generous support from the European Expert Group (EEG) on the transition from Institutional to Community Based Care, to speak at the Dismantling barriers to community-living conference in the European Parliament.