Children’s rights in Bulgaria between theory and practice

The case of the deinstitutionalization reform


  • Gergana Nenova Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski"
  • Radostina Antonova New Bulgarian University, Sofia

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deinstitutionalization, children’s rights, action research, children in alternative care


Like many post-socialist states, following the transition to democracy, Bulgaria had to close the large institutions for children in which orphans, children with disabilities and other types of children were being raised. The so-called deinstitutionalization reform has been an important part of introducing children’s rights legislation in contemporary Bulgaria. However, it is still unclear how the consequences of the reform relate to the normative framework of child’s rights. To address this problem, we present the results of a study conducted in 2020/2021 that explores the implementation of the reform through the approach of action research. We analyse interviews with children, social workers and public officials conducted in two big cities in Bulgaria. We outline the ways and extent to which children’s rights are integrated into the professional practice of social workers and in the lives of children that are part of the reform, as well as the reasons for their violation. We conclude that there are significant contradictions between the ‘theoretical framework’ of children’s rights and their implementation in relation to the deinstitutionalization reform. The former may be seen as ‘unintended consequences’ of the reform resulting from Bulgarian society’s socio-cultural specificities.




How to Cite

Nenova, G. and Antonova , R. 2023. Children’s rights in Bulgaria between theory and practice: The case of the deinstitutionalization reform. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics. 9, 2 (Sep. 2023), 54–71. DOI:



New questions of children’s rights