Thirteen-year-old Armen Grigoryan didn’t want to have foster parents. That was before he met Marine and Karo Hakhinyan.
“It seemed that foster parents would just treat me badly, but now I regret having such thoughts. I made the right decision by moving in,” said Armen,who added that while the day he joined Marine and Karo was hard, it wasalso the happiest of his life. The couple had already taken in his younger brother, Artak, one year before Armen joined them.
Armen and his four siblings were abandoned by their mother when Armenwas around seven years old. Later, their father left for Russia. The children have not seen him since.
In 2019, the five children were taken to the FAR Children's Center by their grandmother who was unable to take care of them. There they received support from the Center’s staff before being put into long-term care. Two of the siblings were taken to Gavar Orphanage and Artak was fostered by Marine and Karo. Armen’s older sister, Margarita, was taken in by an uncle. Armen moved in with their other uncle, Venetik, and their Aunt Lilit.
Then, last year, during the Artsakh War, Venetik and Armen were severely injured in a car crash caused by sniper fire. Armen, who was in the car at the time, broke his nose and underwent surgery. Venetik is still recovering from his own surgery, too. With five children of their own, the couple was no longer able to care for him; Lilit brought him back to the Children’sCenter where he stayed until May of this year. A leader in pioneering the foster care system in Armenia, the staff of the Children’s Center trains and supports those who wish to foster children in need, like Marine and Karo.
With the support and love of his foster parents, Armen has slowly regained a sense of normalcy. The family lives in the Lori Region where Armen attends the eighth grade. Despite the learning gaps left by years of intermittent schooling, he continues to improve academically as Marine is dedicated to helping him improve and practice. He considers that he has started his life anew in a loving home.
To help Armen integrate into the family, Karo, 59, rearranged the house and made a bedroom for the two brothers. Armen likes to chop winter wood with his dad, feed the rabbits, and play chess in the evenings.
Marine, 56, said that Armen has brought balance to their family. “When we first welcomed Artak we had to work diligently with him to ‘correct’ his behavior at school or in the family. He was very active, even naughty at times. When we were offered to host Armen, I was hesitant. But I was told that Armen was different,” she said.
While shy and even aloof at first, they quickly started interacting. “I was supposed to host him for 10 days but three days in I told the Center that I wanted Armen in our family,” said Marine, who does not have children of her own. She is certain that both Armen and Artak will choose to stay with them at least until they turn 18.
“We are looking forward to this Christmas like never before,” she said.