On September 12, 2014, USAID and UNICEF signed a cooperation agreement for a five-year program that will support the Government of Armenia’s national child welfare reform to stop the flow of children into residential educational and care institutions as well as reintegrate de-institutionalized children into a family environment through developing alternative family-based care options and community-based services for children and their families. This program underscores USAID’s commitment to assist the Government of Armenia in restructuring its child care system.
Due to the lack of alternative services, the existing child care system of Armenia encourages parents of disabled children and economically disadvantaged families to send their children to institutions for temporary or often permanent care. According to UNICEF research, nearly 4,500 children live in 42 state and non-state residential institutions across Armenia. Children reside in three main types of institutions – orphanages, night care institutions, and special educational facilities. Ninety-seven percent of children living in child care residential institutions are children from socially vulnerable families who have at least one parent alive.
The Government of Armenia recognizes the acute need for de-institutionalization and has made it a strategic priority since 2011. USAID, together with UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children and Bridge of Hope, will support the Government of Armenia to fulfill its commitment of establishing community and family based alternative services and inclusive schools that accommodate children with special needs.
Over the next five years, joint efforts will help ensure social inclusion and equal access to services and opportunities for children in target residential institutions. De-institutionalization will result in the progressive elimination of residential care and the establishment of tailored family- and community-based services available to citizens of Armenia.