The Problems that the Orphans Face and Alternative Care Services in Armenia
The Institute of War and Peace Reporting jointly with the Public Journalism Club organized a discussion on “The Problems that the Orphans Face and Alternative Care Services in Armenia” at Media Center.

Lena Hayrapetyan, Head of Family, Women and Children Issues Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Head of the Department of Children Issues, Hayk Khemchyan, Head of Children Protection Department of the UN Children's Fund, Grigori Hovhannisyan, Director of Development of National Programs of "SOS Children's Villages” and Mira Antonyan, Chairman of the Child Protection Network, the Chairman of FAR Children's Support Center participates in the discussion.    

Since 2003, the state takes care of the graduates of Armenian orphanages until they are 23. Grigori Hovhannisyan said that “SOS Children's Village” takes three-level care and differs from the state system.

“Ours is a children's village, youth centers and semi-independent living. These three phases provide the child with an opportunity to be more stable, to be integrated into the society and be more prepared to cope with the problems that they face,” Hovhannisyan said. 

"SOS Children's Villages” care system supports the youth up to 22 to 23 years of age, but the center does not keep them under its direct control. They are attached to teacher-psychologists, but at the same time, young people can make their own decisions, make mistakes and correct their mistake.

“After the age of 18, when he becomes an adult, the support becomes two-way. They know that not only the organization that should support them, and they should not grow with the psychology of consumers,” Hovhannisyan said.

There are 79 young people in “SOS Children’s Villages” today, who are in the youth centers and 40 young people are on the semi-independent living stage.

“This means that 40 young people came out from our subdivisions, either apartments are rented for them or they are in their inherited homes. They receive social support, so they can solve their problems properly and efficiently,” Hovhannisyan added. 

Today the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs operates 6 orphanages, 3 of which are vocational institutions and carry out the care, education and rehabilitation of children left without parental care or with mental, psychological and physical disabilities. 

“We have 3 ordinary orphanages which take care of children without parental care. These children have a huge problem of integrating in the society. Both psychologists and social workers work on the integration the graduates in the society. The NGOs that work with the ministry accompany children until they are 23 years old. During the ages of 18-23, the NGO is with the child, supports in the issues of health, education, profession orientation, employment and integration into society,” Lena Hayrapetyan said.

She added that the program with the alumni began in 2003. During this period maximum 500 graduates were discharged and supported, including 160 graduates who received furnished apartments. "Changes in the legal acts are carried out within the framework of the reforms. It is designed to strengthen the authorities of psychologists and social workers and to add the issue of the integration of the children up to the age of 18 into society,” she added. 

Hayk Khemchyan notes that with the funding of the USAID and the UN Children's Fund a five-year plan is carried out, one of the components of which is the reorganization of the 22 institutions, which include orphanages and boarding facilities.

“The project aims at the reorganization of institutions into multi-family or child support services which will be provided for children based on their needs, their families. In the case of special schools they will be reorganized into pedagogical centers, whose main activity will be aimed at ensuring the education of children in public institutions and the provision of inclusive education in Armenia,” Khemchyan said. 

 Mira Antonyan said that the state care of the children deprived of parental care until the age of 23 has a single ideology.

“It is the ideology of support, just the support options need revision. They do not always reflect the real needs of graduates and are not always able to respond to those needs. One reason is that we are starting late. At the age of 18 to think about what the child should become, what to do is rather late intervention, so that's the reason that such a reform was proposed by the government. Steps should be taken a day before, children should stay at orphanages as short as possible, long-term family models should be thought as soon as possible,” Antonyan said. 

He emphasizes that on the day of the placement of a child in an orphanage, the ways of taking him out from there should be considered.

"The reform is based on the following ideology. Let's take a child out a day before and whatever is possible let’s do for the biological family, in order it changes and gets healthy atmosphere and the opportunity to adopt a child. If this is not possible, the child should be placed with relatives, which is the guardianship," Antonyan said.

Arevik Sahakyan, Program coordinator at “Media Center”

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