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Child Protection Program

Child Protection has always been a cornerstone of FAR’s work. FAR has been integral to bringing child protection to the forefront of Armenia’s national consciousness, which has led to the creation of a national foster care system and the FAR Children’s Center, the most extensive child protection institution in the country. 
 
The year 2021 continued to bring challenges due to COVID-19 and the aftermath of the Artsakh War and FAR’s Child Protection Program rose to the additional challenge of supporting children who had been impacted by war in myriad ways.  

Child Protection Program
HIGHLIGHTED BENEFICIARIES:

Armen & Artak

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 counts the day he joined Marine and Karo as the happiest of his life. The couple had already taken in his younger brother, Artak, before Armen joined them. 
 
Armen and his siblings were abandoned by their mother when Armen was around seven years old. Later, their father left for Russia. The children have not seen him since.   
 
In 2019, the children were taken to the FAR Children’s Center by their grandmother who was unable to take care of them. Armen was temporarily looked after by his older sister, but she, too, couldn’t take care of him on a permanent basis. He was brought back to the Children’s Center where he stayed until May of 2021. 

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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.
    
Marine said that Armen has brought balance to their family. While shy and even aloof at first, Armen quickly started interacting.
 
“Three days in I told the center that I wanted Armen in our family,” said Marine. 
 
She is certain that both Armen and Artak will choose to stay with them at least until they turn 18. 

FAR Children’s Center

The FAR Children’s Center remains Armenia’s main institution for safeguarding vulnerable and at-risk children, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The center assists children who have become victims of abuse, abandonment, neglect, and who are homeless or living in extreme poverty. Since it opened in 2000, the children’s center has helped 11,210 children and youth. During 2021, the center served 400 children through crisis intervention, temporary shelter, therapy and rehabilitation, family empowerment, and preventative services and life skills, in addition to other initiatives. 

With the philosophy that strong families are the best places for children to grow, family reunification or foster care placement is the ultimate objective for many of the children with whom center staff work. Twenty-five children served by the center were reunited with their families during 2021. And 79 children who were previously residing in childcare institutions like orphanages were reunited with their families. In addition, five sets of parents of de-institutionalized children were trained on positive parenting. 

Two children were re-enrolled in the education system after long-term truancy, and two asylum seekers from Afghanistan were as also assisted by the center during 2021. 

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As a pioneer of Armenia’s foster care system, the center leads on training and skills development for foster parents. During 2021, 46 training sessions were conducted in order to raise awareness about foster care in the more rural areas of Armenia. In addition, coaching and counseling sessions for foster families and children were continually conducted throughout the year. And 909 potential foster parents and 50 specialists were approached as well, with 74 people ultimately expressing their willingness to take the steps to become foster parents.

Capacity-building training sessions were also held for 99 employees from Armenia’s Department of Social Services in five different provinces, and 19 different child protection specialists and social workers from seven different provinces were also given professional development assistance through trainings as well as supervision and individual coaching and mentoring.

In response to the pandemic and in the wake of the Artsakh war, a special initiative trained 106 “frontline” specialists, including social workers, teachers, healthcare workers and speech therapists, on how to intervene in crisis situations on topics such as how to deal with protection issues, inter-sectoral cooperation, self-care, and the impact of crisis on response mechanisms. 
 
A Helpline for social services specialists dealing with emergency cases was established by the center during 2021. Widely promoted through an extensive awareness campaign, the helpline helps social workers and case managers with many topics, from assistance eligibility criteria to vaccination.
 
Center staff continued to offer psychological support to the children and their parents who had experienced trauma caused by the war; 110 parents and 138 children displaced from Artsakh received psychosocial support through individual counseling and group therapy. In addition, 195 needs-based support packages were distributed to 144 children and 115 adults. 

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CASP

The Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP), an initiative of the Women’s Guild of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, provides respite to orphans and vulnerable children of single-mothers through supplemental financial support in the form of annual stipends. The additional assistance helps them to cover the costs of basic essentials, like food, fuel, and clothing. Children accepted into CASP receive a financial stipend each year until they turn 18.
 
During 2021, 503 children from Armenia and Javakhk received their annual CASP stipends.
 
An additional 319 children who had lost their fathers to the Artsakh War in 2020, as well as 15 children whose civilian parents were killed during the war, received CASP stipends for the first time. Another 53 children of fallen soldiers from the 2016 Four-Day-War in Artsakh were also given CASP stipends.

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FAR SUMMER CAMPS

After being cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020, FAR’s summer camps were back on in 2021, reinstating FAR’s 20-year tradition of giving the gift of a memorable, carefree childhood experience to the neediest children of Armenia, Javakhk, and Artsakh. Camp staff and children followed all necessary precautionary and safety measures, including regular testing, to make this experience possible.

About 200 children supported by many of FAR’s projects, including CASP recipients, Syrian-Armenian children from vulnerable families, and the children of Artsakh’s fallen war heroes, spent part of their summer vacations at Aragats Summer Camp in the Kotayk Region. 

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The Aragats camp program, which is full of interesting cultural and physical activities for children and teenagers, encourages the children to practice leadership, get out of their comfort zones, make decisions, and handle consequences. Many of these experiences stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Another 40 children, ages 9-17, some of whom had been displaced from Artsakh, were given the opportunity to take part in the Angeghakot Summer Camp in Armenia’s Sisian Region. For 20 days, the children camped out on the grounds of the local school and participated in interesting outdoor and indoor activities, including sports and intellectual games.
 
One of the main objectives of the camp was to help foster continued social integration of Artsakh’s children who have been experiencing postwar trauma. The program helped them develop social skills, integrate into a new community, and understand local cultural practices, including language dialect, food, and activities.

CHILD PROTECTION PROGRAM

By the Numbers

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400

children assisted through crisis intervention, temporary shelter, therapy and rehabilitation, family empowerment, and preventative services and life skills, and related projects (FAR Children’s Center)

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104

separated children reunited with their families (FAR Children’s Center) 

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138

children and 118 parents displaced from Artsakh received psychosocial support through individual counseling and group therapy (FAR Children’s Center)

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890

number of orphans and children of single-mothers received financial assistance. (CASP)

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240

children given the opportunity to attend the memorable experience of summer camp. (Summer Camps)

CHILD PROTECTION PROGRAM

Top Donors

Mardigian Foundation

Dadourian Foundation
Hamparian Family Foundation
Harold & Josephine Gulamerian Foundation
James & Marta Batmasian Family Foundation
John Mirak Foundation
Joseph & Kristine Toufayan Casali
Karekin Arzoomanian, Esq.
Lisa Chobanian

Mary Bedoian
Private Estate
SJS Charitable Trust
Theodore & Marianne Hovivian
William & Sandra Kopcho Trust
Womens Guild Central Council-CASP
James & Marta Batmasian Family Foundation
John Mirak Foundation
SJS Charitable Trust