Child Protection Program
Since FAR’s early years, child protection has been a primary focus, and FAR has been integral to bringing child protection to the national consciousness, pushing for a shared societal responsibility for Armenia’s most vulnerable residents. This mission was challenged by COVID-19 and heightened by the impact of Artsakh’s War, yet demand for the Center’s services remained critically high. FAR’s Child Protection staff rose to this challenge, ultimately continuing to provide services to children and families in need of protection and support during 2020.
Child Protection Highlighted Beneficiary
Nematollah Kuchai, or Mickael as he is now known, has been living at the FAR Children's Center for the past two years. Born and raised in the Baghlan Province of Afghanistan, he was only two when his mother died from a disease (of what he does not know), leaving him and his siblings in the care of his father and his aunt.
Since an early age, Mickael wanted to leave his homeland because he didn't like many of its entrenched cultural traditions, like the strict social norms regarding dress or hair.
“I never went to school in Baghlan; I didn't have right to do so, as the Talibs could have killed me on the way, like they did with other schoolchildren. When I came to Armenia, one of my main goals was to study and learn,” said Mikael in his now fluent Armenian, which he learned at the FAR Children’s Center.
Mickael was almost 16 when he fled Afghanistan and aimed to cross the Turkish border to enter Europe. In Iran, he followed a river for days, walking by foot through the forests and the mountains. “We had to eat whatever we found—even grass—until we found a small shop. We thought that we had finally reached Turkey, but it was Armenia,” he said.
Mickael was detained at the Armenian border and later taken to the FAR Children’s Center, which provided him shelter and connected him with much-needed support. “The first couple of days were the hardest. I didn’t know the language, I felt detached and would often sit alone in the garden. Then one day, I took chalk and started drawing on the ground. Some of the kids came to me and showed how to paint and we eventually became friends,” he said.
At first, he used body language and gesture to communicate with the others. Little by little, he started learning Armenian. The Center provided him with an Armenian teacher and once a week he would take classes. Soon, he said, it began to feel like home.
In 2019, he started taking kick boxing lessons. Then, in 2019, he won the Armenian Championship where he represented the FAR Children’s Center. Today, Mickael studies and he works at the Center as a security guard.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mickael embraced remote learning and he also participated in much of the gardening at the Center, planting new trees, strawberries, and some vegetables.
“When the children approach to me,” he said. “I tell them to keep acquiring new knowledge.”
The FAR Children’s Center has helped more than 11,000 children since it opened in 2000. During 2020, the Center served 384 children, 67 of whom were provided with 24-hour-a day shelter, intensive rehabilitation, and prevention services.
For the protection of its staff and for the children and youth who sought refuge in the 24-hour day facility, center caregivers and specialists worked in 14-day shifts, with all non-essential staff working remotely. New intakes were temporarily put on hold during the early days of the pandemic.
The Children’s Center was a major player in the efforts to coordinate support to those affected by the Artsakh War, chiefly by identifying and reuniting 23 unaccompanied children from Artsakh with their families or caregivers.
Working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Center formed Child Emergency Assistance Groups to mobilize resources and avoid any overlap in service provision. In addition, the Center staff were instrumental in creating a “live,” continually updated database used to coordinate information on those targeted as needing assistance.
Center staff offered psychological support to the children and their parents who had experienced trauma caused by the war. More than 400 of the most complex cases in need of psychologists and social workers were referred to the staff of the FAR Children’s Center. Each case was directly handled by the center or referred to one of their trusted partners in the Child Protection Network.
In addition, the center maintained outreach services in all regions of Armenia through its psychosocial services to children and their parents in difficult life situations, which helped more than 317 children directly within their communities.
In response to the war, staff also conducted remote training for six different communities on how to work effectively in crisis situations, and provided coaching to those working in centers where displaced persons were being sheltered.
Regular supervision and support, both online and offline, was provided to 76 child protection specialists in the field on topics including case management, crisis intervention, psychological first aid, and self-care to avoid professional burnout.
Another 157 specialists in the field were trained on foster care procedures, gatekeeping, case management, displacement, and inter-sectorial collaboration. Ten social workers in FAR’s Berd Office were also trained to effectively respond to crisis situations. And group therapy was provided to 13 specialists in Berd.
Workshops with 65 children were held on such topics as bullying and discrimination by peers. And youth empowerment activities (such as art events and sport competitions, etc.) were carried out for 40 children and young people.
In addition, the Center conducted various workshops and trainings on issues like foster care and the foster care model for 43 parents, bullying and discrimination, and child protection for asylum-seeking and refugee children. In addition, the Center continued to design guidelines and recommendation packages for the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues and others working in the field.
The Children of Armenia Sponsorship (CASP), an initiative of the Women’s Guild of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, provides supplemental financial support to orphans and the children of low-income single mothers. Routine in-person stipend distributions were initially postponed due to the pandemic and then ultimately arranged via bank transfers for a total of 543 children. While some of the families of the 2016 Four-Day War fallen soldiers were uprooted due to the conflict in Artsakh, FAR and Knights of Vartan ensured families received their stipends by the end of the year. Knights of Vartan also provided financial assistance to children whose parents were killed in the Artsakh War during fall of 2020.
Unfortunately, FAR’s Aragats Summer Camp was cancelled due to the pandemic and the money redirected to emergency support for those impacted by COVID-19.
By the Numbers
Child Protection Program
children helped by the FAR Children’s Center since it opened in 2000.
children were served at the FAR Children’s Center in 2020.
children were given 24-hour-a-day shelter, prevention, intensive rehabilitation, and prevention services by the FAR Children’s Center.
unaccompanied children from Artsakh were identified and reunited with their families or caregivers by the FAR Children’s Center.
children were directly helped within their communities by the FAR Children’s Center’s outreach services.
children received stipends through the Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP).
Child Protection Program
Armenian Students' Cultural Association of University of Michigan
Avedis & Beatrice Movsesian
Bonnie Barsamian Dunn
George & Anna Derderian Charitable Fund
Hamparian Family Foundation
Harold & Josephine Gulamerian Foundation
James & Marta Batmasian Family Foundation
John Kazanjian Family Foundation
Joseph & Kristine Toufayan Casali
Kevork & Sirwart Hovnanian Foundation
SJS Charitable Trust
Theodore & Marianne Hovivian
Womens Guild Central Council-CASP