Karen, 7, and his two sisters, Elen, 4 and Yana, 3, found shelter at the FAR Children’s Center one year ago. Previously, they’d lived in a one room apartment that shocked FAR social worker Rima Harutyunyan when she visited them.

“A parent of another child who was at FAR’s Children’s Center alerted us about them and we went to check and see if we could help,” Rima recalled. “I have seen extremely bad housing and sanitary conditions during my home visits, but their house and the conditions in which the children lived were beyond my worst expectations.”

The three children were hardly noticeable in the room which was filled with smoke and soot. Rima learned that the three siblings spent most of their days alone in the apartment. They had no bathroom, no access to basic sanitary materials like soap, and they had very little mental or social stimulation.

“The children’s disabled grandfather earns money begging in one of Yerevan’s rail stations, accompanied by his wife who pushes his wheelchair. Their mother is absent for weeks at a time. So, nearly every day the children would be locked in their apartment for the whole day while adults went off to take care of their business,” Rima said.

Children’s Center’s social workers managed to convince the grandmother to take the children to the Center temporarily. They arrived not knowing basic things like how to use a spoon. In time they learned such things like how to wash their hands, use the bathroom, and take a bath. After adopting some of these basic habits, the kids started visiting the Center’s art therapist and psychologist. Elen and Yana wouldn’t talk so they began working regularly with a speech therapist . Karen started to attend school and gradually he is improving his learning skills.

“I still can’t believe they survived in those conditions. It was clear they would need a lot of rehabilitation. And while they were at the center, we started consulting with local officials and those from the Ministry of Social Affairs to find out the best solution for them,” Rima said.

Since the Children’s Center is a temporary shelter that helps children in difficult situations by either easing their family conditions or directing them to orphanages as the safest solution, it was decided that Karen, Elen and Yana would stay longer at the Center while the court examines their case.

“Their mother doesn’t care for them. The children are more connected to their grandmother, and although she obviously loves them, she just can’t ensure minimal standard conditions for them. The best solution for the kids would be placement in a foster family that is willing to take care of all three of them,” Rima said. “Now we are waiting for the court decision to know if the kids can be directed to a foster family, or in a less ideal scenario an orphanage, because the children are very much connected to each other. Otherwise, they will return to their apartment which is not very good for them. We hope for the best solution and will do everything from our end to reach it.”