orphans may soon have parents paid to care
The Armenian government approved on Thursday
a scheme designed to encourage local families
to accept and raise children from state-run orphanages,
promising to reward them with financial assistance.
The move followed a major toughening of procedures
for the adoption of Armenian children by foreign
nationals which was announced by ministers late
The government is now seeking amendments to Armenia's
laws on children's rights and education that would
enable orphans to grow up in families having both
parents and meeting specific criteria set by the
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Under the
new arrangement they would not be formally adopted
by caretaker families.
"The state will select families that are
willing to host children without parents or parental
care and will pay those families for that,"
Deputy Social Affairs Minister Ashot Yesayan told
reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting that
approved the draft amendments.
"We have dozens of families that have expressed
a desire to take three, four and even five children
in addition to having their own ones."
Yesayan said caretaker parents will receive a
monthly allowance for every orphan brought up
in their family. The government will pay at least
50,000 drams ($90) per child for food expenses
alone, he added.
The scheme appears to enjoy the backing of Western
donors that have already promised cash for its
implementation. The Japanese government has emerged
as the single largest contributor, pledging $960,000
worth of assistance.
UNICEF, the United Nations' child protection
agency, has already begun to implement a similar
program worth $620,000 in the Gegharkunik region
whose capital Gavar has the country's largest
home for orphans of school age.
Many of its residents find themselves homeless
and without work after they finish school and
come of age -- a serious problem admitted by Yesayan.
He said the government has developed a plan to
build or buy homes for them with donor assistance.
According to official data, there have been 161
such young people since 1992 and only 35 of them
have so far been provided with housing.
The orphan placement plan appears to be a further
step aimed at complicating foreign adoptions in
Armenia which were relatively easy until recently.
Officials acknowledged that the previous rules
introduced in 2000 were conducive to government
abuse and corruption. Media reports last year
suggested that the process involves thousands
of dollars in kickbacks paid by foreign adoptive
parents and their local "facilitators"
to Armenian officials.
According to the Social Affairs Ministry, 76
Armenian children were adopted by foreigners --
most of them U.S. citizens -- from January through