In 2007 on BBC Four, an engrossing documentary was aired, called “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children.” Bulgaria has the highest number in Europe of physically and mentally disabled children growing up in institutes , or it did when “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children” first aired. This documentary takes us inside the walls of one of these institutes in Bulgaria for nine months.
This social care home was home to more than 70 children at the time the documentary took place. Although it was closed down in 2009, one of the children, Didi, is quoted saying that it is “a sanctuary for the damaged.” She is slightly autistic, but otherwise normal. Most of the children are blind and/or non-verbal, autistic, and often so malnourished that their bodies simply don’t grow, making many of them appear much younger than they are.
There is no schooling in the institute, and the only things the children do all day are rock back and forth. With very little to look forward to, meal times last for only fifteen minutes. There’s also a clear pecking order among the children; leaders, followers, and bullies. The children are obviously not cared for properly, they are treated like pets and are simply bathed and fed. A shocking, depressing home for children at all, let alone those who can’t even take themselves to the bathroom and some who are unable to get out of bed anymore due to malnutrition and various disabilities.
A follow up documentary was broadcast in 2009, see: Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children, Revisited.