It was just a few months ago that eight-year-old Syuzi found a new home in a foster family when Anichka Grigoryan, 46, a mother of four and a grandmother of four, decided to open her heart to another child.

“It was my wish and desire to take care of another kid so that she could be raised in a real family,” Anichka explained. She made this decision after a series of consultations with her husband, Artur, 49, and their children. “Frankly speaking, I specifically wanted a little girl so that we could see her off to school. When I was told that Syuzi is older, I was hesitant as to whether we should take her in or not. But now I am confident that we made the right decision,” she stated.

Syuzi currently lives with Anichka, Artur, their daughter, Roza, 18, son, Artak, 25, and daughter-in-law, Ani, 23, in Vanazdor. Before moving in with the family, Syuzi lived at Vanadzor Orphanage.

Anichka was initially interested in becoming a foster parent after attending an information session at the Foster Care Family Institute in Vanadzor. The FAR Children’s Center, which helped to establish Armenia’s foster care system beginning in 2005, helps to facilitate the foster family process. With support from UNICEF Armenia, and as part of its latest project* which is aimed at assisting children from orphanages, the Center has placed a total of 13 children in foster homes since the start of the year, another of them also being Syuzi’s brother, Sevak, 10.
Families were selected according to pre-defined criteria and have attended project-based trainings.

Sevak now lives with Agapi Galstyan, 54, in Bazum Village, nearby Vanadzor. Agapi’s husband is in Russia, however, he is looking forward to meeting Sevak when he returns.

“He has already sent a parcel with a ball, tablet and some clothes. Sevak was happy. He is very close to us, like a true family member,” said Agapi, who was initially worried when he came into the home because Sevak refused to eat at first. “However, in a few months of being with us, he has already gained 1.5 kg.”

Sevak likes to show off his new room, his bed and his new items, as well as the yard, and he likes to help out around the house. He loves his new bike and his new mother, he said. He lovingly calls her “mom” and kisses her cheeks.

Children’s Center Executive Director Mira Antonyan said there are many families in Armenia who express their willingness to foster a child. “Hopefully, this process will soon gain a new impetus for the process of accommodating children with disabilities and in different complex situations,” she said. “For the majority of children, being loved is a normal process. Unfortunately, this is not the case for these children. They know the difference between being just a child in a group and having a family. Maybe they cannot formulate it with words, but we can. So we should encourage the use of the foster care model widely yet gently, with cautious, personalized approaches.”

* The project’s official title is “Expansion of Foster Care Services for Children Deprived of Parental Care from Residential Institutions in Armenia.”