Pleven Institution for children
Rosa Monckton, from the *Bulgarian Abandoned Children’s Trust, wrote an *article in The Spectator dated February 9, 2013 called “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children”.
Says the author of her experience when visiting an institution in Pleven, Bulgaria (one of 32 in a country with the highest rate of institutionalized children in the European Union):
“I have been several times to Pleven, and carry memories that haunt me. I think particularly about the disabled children, locked away on a separate floor, many growing into the shape of their cots, and dying of starvation and neglect. These children are robbed of any chance of life. The stench of urine and feces and rotting teeth is all-pervading. If evil has a smell, then this is it. Only 2 per cent of the babies in these institutions are actually orphans. The rest are abandoned due to poverty and parental neglect, and many simply because they are disabled.”
There exists no education or affection as these children are seen as medical cases only. The lack of proper care, interaction, mental and physical stimulation results in muscles which have atrophied, mouths that don’t speak, and legs that have no reason to move.
Bulgaria is a part of the European Union where there does exist a commitment to “de-institutionalize”, a process of moving those living in institutions into smaller community group homes. According to Monckton’s and other articles I’ve read, these smaller group homes most often become smaller versions of institutionalized care. Lack of proper staffing numbers and training means those in these group homes also lie in their beds without adequate care, stimulation or opportunities.
One bright light in the Pleven institution is a program called the Granny Program started by the Bulgarian Abandoned Children’s Trust. Monckton explains:
“We have started a Granny (Baba) programme in Pleven. Twenty local ladies come in for four hours a day. Each Baba has one able-bodied child and one disabled child to look after. The difference this has made to the the children lucky enough to be on this programme is startling, but not surprising. Children are talking, and some are walking. They are learning to feed themselves, and to trust, to feel and to play. It is dreadful to see them being put back into their cots at the end of their four hours, and even worse to look at all the other children who have not yet been out of theirs.”