By Levon Lachikyan
The “Every Child Needs a Family” campaign recently began in Yerevan. Aimed at shifting society’s attitude to this idea, the campaign is implemented by the Armenian Public Relations Association (APRA), with support from FAR’s Children’s Support Foundation Center (CSFC), UNICEF and other specialized services.
Nearly 4,900 Armenian children live in orphanages and schools that cater to children with special needs. According to UNICEF, children who grow up in the care of such institutions have fewer opportunities and are more likely to get an education and support themselves than children who have grown up with the support of a family. Still, there is a widespread belief in Armenian society that Armenia still needs orphanages and that children with dysfunctional families or those in abusive situations should be placed in orphanages.
This attitude desperately needs to change. Since 2004, the Armenian government has partnered with UNICEF to implement a foster care program through which 22 children from orphanages either currently live or have lived with foster families. Some of these children have even eventually returned to their biological families. The first successful run of this program was implemented by CSFC.
“The best environment is, of course, the family – biological or foster,” explained CSFC Director Mira Antonyan.
CSFC provides temporary shelter to nearly 200 children annually. Based on the center’s experience, Mira says the majority of these children have an opportunity to safely return to their biological families. In cases when reunion is not safe, foster families will be second to take them in, instead of an orphanage. This approach, she says, is beneficial for both the child and the family, and ultimately for society.
“In our society there is a huge resource that is often neglected,” Mira said. “Hundreds of families will happily take care of abandoned children. We only need to organize professionally and with balanced approaches to utilize this resource.”
The center has started the procedure of registering potential foster families, which will be followed by a long and detailed training for candidates. “We hope to implement the placement of abandoned children with new foster families with the help of sponsors and supporters. Next year, the state will undertake the further financing of those families,” Mira said.
“Every Child Needs a Family”