Save the Children in Armenia works to strengthen the capacity of families to care for their children and supports the development of family-based alternative care options for children who cannot remain with their families.
The adverse impacts of institutionalisation have long been proven by researchers around the world. Children in residential institutions face higher chances of having poor health, physical underdevelopment, motor skill delays, hearing and vision problems, and reduced cognitive and social ability.
In Armenia, there are around 4,500 children in residential institutions. This situation is caused by the weak social protection system, an insufficient number of community-based services and lack of gate-keeping mechanisms.
With funding from USAID through UNICEF, Save the Children supports the development of foster care system in Armenia including development of the guidance, training packages for foster parents and case managers and monitoring tools. The national alternative childcare framework - including on foster care - is being revised with the purpose of expansion of foster care services and their diversification in accordance with international standards and UN Guidelines on Alternative Care.
Save the Children has contracted Bep van Sloten, International Expert in child protection with specialization in alternative care to provide professional assistance for foster care system diversification and strengthening. From March 29 to April 3, she had a working visit to Armenia. During her visit, she had official meetings with Manja Henriette Ahrens, UNICEF Representative in Armenia and other UNICEF representatives, Irina Saghoyan, Save the Children Eurasia Director, high level officials from the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, child care and protection experts as well as foster families.
On April 1, Save the Children held a one-day national workshop on foster care lead by Ms. van Sloten. The event was attended by Mr. Filaret Berikyan, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Issues, Ms. Anna Harutyunyan, UNICEF/Armenia Child Protection Specialist, Mr. Arsen Stepanyan, Save the Children Armenia Country Director, Ms. Mira Antonyan, Children Support Center Executive Director, numerous representatives of state and non-state actors in the field of child care and protection.
The participants expressed readiness to promote foster care in Armenia. Meanwhile, there were also concerns about various aspects of that system and their application to the Armenian reality.
In response to their concerns, Ms. Sloten stated that such skeptic approach is common for many countries, and Armenia is not an exception. “Of course not yet everyone believes that it will work, that is our challenge. But this system worked effectively in many other countries which didn´t believe it would. So if I had not believed it would work in Armenia as well, I would not have come here.”
She mentioned about the positive example of the foster family she met with in Armenia, quoting foster mother´s words: “The five young people in my family are not brothers and sisters but live as if they are. They had difficulties because of their experiences and behavior in their families, on the street and in the institution but they would have ended in criminality or in human trafficking had we not taken them from the street. We are a family, and that is what counts.”
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