How to Support a Child without Parental Care in an Emergency
Why is emergency foster care important and who can become a foster parent
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Emergency situations are very different, neverthless, they affect children in similar ways. They often come unexpectedly, and as the circumstances drastically change, people find it difficult or are not ready to cope, physically or pyschologically, be it a war, a natural disaster, or an epidemic.
Emergencies make children even more vulnerable as they may cause psychological trauma or lead to loss of hope for a better future. When a child is separated from his or her parents due to an emergency, it often feels like losing your ground in life or your connection to the world. The world becomes obscure, chaotic, making it difficult to understand what is going on or how to cope. If the child's needs are not responded to at the right time or at all, this unresolved crisis can turn into a protracted suffering, accompanied by low level of self-esteem and loss of self-confidence.
Experience shows that in emergency situations children left without parental care react in many different ways, depending on the child’s characteristics and experiences, the social and economic circumstances of the family and community, and the availability of local resources and services. Infants may become more cranky and cry more than usual or want to be held and cuddled more, while preschoolers may return to behaviors they have outgrown, have tantrums, bedwetting or have a hard time sleeping. Older children may feel sad, angry, afraid or withdrawn and have trouble concentrating, while adolescents may engage in risky behaviors, feel overwhelmed by their intense emotions and feel unable to talk about them. The same is true for children with disabilities who might have more intense distress.
It is in those difficult times that a warm family environment, an emergency foster family, can welcome the child and help him or her to cope with the new reality in a safe, loving environment. Of course, continuity of education and skilled psychological support also play an essential role in supporting children during emergencies, but, in the long run, a family environment is indispensable for the healthy development of children to grow into self-sufficient and resourceful individuals.
What is an emergency foster family?
The emergency foster family makes it possible to continue ensuring a family environment for a child that may be left without parental care in an emergency situation. This family is trained for that purpose and able to respond to the needs of the child and properly support him or her. The child can stay in a foster family for up to six months, in some cases up to a year. The state will then monitor the child’s situation, and when the biological family is again able to care for the child, the child returns to his or her parents. So the primary purpose of foster care is reunification, allowing the biological family time to overcome their immediate diffulties and cope.
Why should you become a foster parent?
You can change a child's life for the better at a crucial moment when their family is struggling due to a war, a natural disaster, epidemic or other situation.
If you care about children and want to help keep children in vulnerable situations safe, this is your opportunity to help a child in need. All you need is an extra room in your home, stability, and room in your heart to love a child, regardless of how long they will stay in your home. For children impacted by an emergency or trauma, this can be incredibly impactful!
Helping a child who needs care in your community, helps your community grow stronger and provides an opportunity in life for that child.
Who can become a foster parent?
Armenian citizens over the age of 18 – 55 years old can become foster parents. Both two-parent as well as single parent families can apply.
Although one parent signs the contract, the whole family is considered a party to the contract. Foster parents must have good parenting and communication skills. Being patient and consistent are also important.
To become a foster parent, you need to apply to your local department of family, women and children at the municipality and, in Yerevan, to the social support department of the city hall. You will need to submit an application together with specified documents about your health and conditions in your family. Once the potential parents pass the initial assessment, they have to then participate in training, only after which they will be certified to become foster parents. Foster parents will be fully supported by social workers and the State to take on the role.
Learn more about emergency foster care at 060 54 01 50.
Foster parenting may be the most challenging job you will ever have, but it can be the most rewarding one as well
UNICEF, in partnership with the Armenian Association of Social Workers, supports the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to improve emergency foster care services in the country. We hold awareness-raising meetings in communities for interested candidates and provide potential candidates with more thorough guidance and training to develop their skills. We also work to build the capacity of local communities and local governance bodies in supporting vulnerable children to facilitate a smooth process and strengthen monitoring of their situation.