Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Armenian Adoption Adventure, Armenia to press forward on Foster Care programs.

Zatik orphanage

Lots of rumblings out of Armenia in the last 24 hours and discussions of newborn orphans not being "registered" at the required 6 months but rather being "referred" while still in the womb. Look for news to break shortly about Armenian Adoptions.

The government of Armenia introduced the concept of foster care in 2004, but to this day nearly 5000 children wait in orphanages, and many of them are not eligible for adoption.
After the successful results of the pilot programs, Armenia and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) in February of 2011 initiated the "Every Child Needs a Family" campaign in Armenia. In fact, it was the world-renowned violinist Maxim Vengerov, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, who announced the launch of the program while in Armenia for concerts. "During my childhood I was surrounded by care and love of my parents and grandparents. Nothing and no one can substitute a family – the best place for a child to be and to develop," Vengerov said, addressing media, students and management of the Yerevan State Conservatory.
The campaign seeks public support to replace country's orphanages with families who stand ready to provide foster care and make the adoption process smoother. According to the campaign's website Infokids.am there are 4,900 children in Armenia living in orphanages and other related boarding institutions. 80 percent of them have at least one parent. The fact that these children have at least one parent means they are ineligible for adoption. These parents have left their children in orphanages, saying the harsh economic conditions don't allow them to provide a decent life for their children. Currently, only 237 children are registered for adoption.
Yet the public and the interest groups are skeptical about foster care. From the public's point of view there are two issues at play: recent pedophilia-related headlines and the fact that the idea is very new and time is required for it to be digested. Some of the interest groups that fuel the negative debate are those who benefit from the current system. The implementation of the Every Child Needs a Family campaign is a threat to orphanages and boarding institutions who fear government funding will end if the program is successfully implemented. On the other hand, there have been revelations of corruption cases in orphanages where the funds have been misdirected and inappropriately spend by certain managers.
In the United States, only few a orphanages have remained since the introduction of foster care. The program has benefited tens of thousands of children, who would have otherwise not know what is a family's care and love.
Years ago the author of this article was a Music Director in a large Catholic Church in Hickory, NC. In the community there was a middle-aged woman who provided foster care and would bring the children regularly to Sunday School, Children's Choir and Sunday Masses. Once, a seven-year-old girl came to my choir practice. It was obvious that she had not been in a family for a long time. I was later told she was a foster care child. I happened to see her and the foster parent three months ago. The change was tremendous and that is when I thought of foster caring as a successful program in live action.
The introduction of foster care is a move in the right direction. It is also good that the government of Armenia running this campaign to gain public support and, unlike the past, is not forcing an unpopular program on the public. This is yet another sign that the young Democracy is maturing in the country. Not only children will exercise their right to be raised in a family atmosphere, but also public funds will be spent more efficiently, in a targeted way, creating new job opportunities for Armenia.

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