Anahit Petrosyan and Roman Aghajanyan have been married for 23 years. After trying unsuccessfully for more than a decade to have a child of their own, two years ago the couple decided to become foster parents through the FAR Children’s Center.

Anahit and Roman live in a three-room house in Armenia’s Lori Region. Roman is a guard at a local university. Anahit grows and sells seasonal vegetables from the couple’s 600-square-meter home garden. Twelve years ago, they tried to adopt a baby, but without success.

 

 

“For different reasons I would always be met by a deadlock of some sort; it was like bad fate,” said Anahit. The experience left her heartbroken. Then, in 2016, she learned about the Center’s Foster Care Program and immediately registered for the trainings, which strengthened her determination to become a foster parent.

The FAR Children’s Center has been an integral player in the Armenian government’s efforts to develop a national foster care system. Since 2006, the system has enabled about 70 children to be placed in the care of loving foster families. Between 2006 and 2008, the Center placed 32 children with families in the Gegharkunik, Kotayk and Lori regions. After the Ministry of Social Affairs took over the program for a few years, in 2015, the Children’s Center once again became involved, specifically with foster parent training. So far this year, 12 children have found homes with families in Lori, Kotayk and Yerevan thanks to the Center.

 

 

Foster parent candidates must first participate in interactive seminars, where they discuss things like the probable challenges they may face when taking in children who have faced abandonment, abuse, neglect, or any other host of horrible treatment, and learn practical ways to approach such issues. Candidates are then interviewed and further assessed to determine whether they have the necessary demeanors, attitudes and conditions to properly care for a child/children.

While they knew that becoming foster parents could be incredibly rewarding but also complex and unpredictable, Anahit and Roman felt ready. On July 16, the couple experienced an incredible life change when they opened their home to Lusine, 6, Avet, 8, and Arthur, 9. The siblings are also originally from Lori, but they spent several months at the FAR Children’s Center in Yerevan after being abandoned by their parents.

 

 

“What does ‘foster care’ mean?” said Anahit. “It means caring for a child, giving her/him your love fully, honestly and sacrificially. That love fills you, and strengthens you and drives you. A mom is not necessarily the person who gives birth to, but is the one who raises a child.”

Today, she and Roman are happy to be full-time parents. They are a mom and dad who love, laugh, struggle, stumble, and sometimes mess up, said Anahit.

Roman said that the first two days were the most difficult and challenging. “We used to have a tranquil life—no kids, no noise, but when they came our house became a real battlefield. Avet and Arthur would jump on the trees, pick our unripened grapes or tomatoes, run all over the yard and through the house, fight with pillows.” Now, he smiles when he says that he and Anahit would be unable to live without the noise and games.

Arthur was the first one to call Anahit “mom,” just two days after his arrival. Lusine and Avet soon followed. “I couldn’t hold back the tears,” said Anahit, choking up as she remembered. “I had been dreaming about it for such a long time.”

 

The new parents have renovated and refurbished the children’s room, trying in every way to make it a comfortable space. Anahit takes the kids to and from school every day, and while she does her best to give them what they want and need, she and Roman are also tough on enforcing discipline. “Last week, they were deprived of watching their favorite cartoon because they didn’t do well at school,” she said, emphasizing that their goal is to raise educated, well-behaved and self-disciplined children who will grow up to be good professionals that take care of one another. The couple also hopes to be able to officially adopt all three one day.

“The foster care program was our chance—our chance to finally become a family,” said Anahit.