The Media Center held a discussion on the child protection issues in the regions in Armenia. The speakers included: Naira Arakelyan, Head of the Armavir Development Center; Armen Petrosyan, Coordinator at Khoran Ard Intellectual Center; Astine Apitonyan, Head of the Department of Family, Women, Children Issues at Armavir Regional Council; and Lena Nahapetyan, Head of the Department of Family, Women, Children Issues at the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues.
Naira Arakelyan believes the overall operation of the custody and guardianship councils is not highly effective, especially in rural areas.
“The councils include volunteers, with unprofessional staff; there is no psychologist, or social worker who can work with vulnerable children and families. I think a certain share of local budgets should be allocated for the social worker's position,” Arakelyan said.
The lack of day-care centers in Armavir, Kotayk and Ararat regions is another big challenge, Arakelyan believes.
Armen Petrosyan said: “In the remote areas in Shirak region you can come across any type of violation, starting from a lack of a birth certificate to children who have fallen out of the education process. In this regard, it is cooperation between the civil society, government and international organizations that matters. The problem requires a systemic solution.”
Astine Apitonyan spoke on the ongoing projects of Armavir Regional Council. “Our department has now five employees and, obviously, we cannot manage to monitor all 97 communities in the region. And the custody and guardianship councils come to help us by reporting about violations of child rights. Our resources are not sufficient while the region is rather big.”
In 2014 the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues launched a new package of reforms, which will last till 2018, Lena Nahapetyan said.
“The flagship of the government’s policy is to ensure children’s life and education in a family. As a result, the number of children at residential institutions will become less, with more children living a full life in families and attending schools of general education,” Hayrapetyan said.
The reforms will fix the adoption mechanisms in the country and guardianship bodies will be able to develop and provide social and psychological support to foster families. The ministry’s project currently embraces residential institutions in Shirak and Lori regions, with an extension phase planned to cover the whole country.
“The number of children abandoned due to socio-economic conditions is no more than 200 now. The main problem is the number of children with disabilities. As there are not rehabilitation and medical services in our country, parents are forced to leave those children. Now, if a family is ready to adopt a child with disabilities, the Government provides a monthly support of 130 thousand drams for one year to facilitate a child’s care in a family,” Hayrapetyan said.
With respect to the institute of social worker, Hayrapetyan said presently an integrated social service is provided in 19 communities throughout Armenia.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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