Strengthening and preserving village communities and empowering village residents are key to COAF’s holistic approach to rural development. The Child and Family Support Program aims to build stronger self-reliant social networks and offers a multitude of child-centered services which include:
Armenia’s social and child protection system has undergone significant improvements in recent years, yet COAF remains committed to addressing shortcomings that continue to exist with regard to rural Armenia.
Local social workers receive training from COAF experts to ensure that individual villagers and groups are aware of their rights and of the resources available to them through the state welfare system. Encouraging personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, with the goal of reintegrating often marginalized vulnerable populations into the larger village community is at the core of the social-legal services program. Frequently addressed issues include domestic violence, bullying at schools, challenges in interpersonal family relationships, reintegration of the disabled into society, access to legal rights for socially vulnerable segments, social assistance to disadvantaged groups, gender issues and child protection.
The program creates a positive and supportive environment that fosters child development through preventive and corrective psychological services and counseling. Various workshops and trainings are held in each community, focusing on issues and challenges encountered by youth as they transition toward adulthood. Involving teachers, parents and school administrators in creating and supporting a nurturing environment for schoolchildren and adolescents is one of the main goals of the program.
Although the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia suggests that a counselor be available at each school, many of these counselors tend to lack adequate guidelines and support. COAF actively employs consulting psychologists who provide training to local school counselors on the most effective methods for working with children with emotional problems. COAF also provides counseling services at schools that do not have trained specialists on staff.
Psychologists are also assigned to kindergartens in an effort to help children develop emotionally and cognitively, and also enhance their interpersonal and communication abilities. The integral components of the program feature sessions with children, during which they create fairy tales, draw paintings and engage in other activities that urge them to express and understand their emotions. Individual and group counseling for children and their parents is also provided on an ongoing basis.
COAF psychologists also designed a special program to help prepare preschool-aged children in their transition to school. Tests are administered to first graders in an effort to assess their level of adaptation to school, and address the evaluation and analysis of previously observed problems. Based on the test results, psychologists develop and implement specific interventions that increase the child’s motivation for school.
One of COAF’s most innovative initiatives has been the establishment of the Interactive Theater as an alternative method to respond to psychological issues of children. The Theater has enabled groups of middle and high school-aged children to increase their creative and analytical skills and helped them learn how to identify and express various thoughts and feelings artistically in regard to their personal, social and community life experiences.
Two new Child Development Centers (CDC) operating in Myasnikyan and Karakert provide integrated age-specific services to target children and include psychological, social and speech therapist services, as well as developmental programs, such as emotional and cognitive development of preschool-aged children through reading, art and sand therapy.
Specialized assistance is provided by therapists and special education teachers to children with speech and learning difficulties, who also work with parents in helping them address identified difficulties. Elements include screenings and assessments of elementary school children, corrective interventions and teacher and parent involvement into intervention activities. COAF’s Tutoring/Support with Homework Preparation Program helps children from socially vulnerable families who also experience learning difficulties. Dozens of children lagging in their intellectual development, requiring psychological, academic or speech therapy support, have daily access to integrated interventions that help them overcome these vulnerabilities, become more motivated to learn and improve their academic performance.
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