Community leaders from various professions encompassing the fields of social services, mental health, religion and the non-profit sector, gathered at the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western USA’s Regional Headquarters on June 18 to address issues and concerns regarding Armenian children currently in the foster care system in Los Angeles County.
In her opening remarks, Lena Bozoyan, ARS Regional Executive chairperson, stated, “Regardless if there are 10, hundreds, or thousands of Armenian children in the foster care system, the welfare of each single Armenian child remains an utmost priority for the ARS.”
Bozoyan was followed by Helen Berberian, executive assistant to the director of the Los Angeles County Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Accompanying Berberian at the meeting were various DCFS administrators.
Berberian said that the statement that thousands of Armenian children are in the foster care system is not an accurate depiction. Rather, that figure is one that represents years of cumulative data that included not only the names of children, but also parents. As of May 31, the number of children in the Statewide Child Welfare Services/Case Management System who were coded of Armenian ethnicity and/or speaking the Armenian language was 91 children. These children fall within the continuum of all phases of child protective service delivery, including initial investigations; family maintenance (under supervision in their birth homes); family reunification (placed outside their birth homes, either with grandparents, relatives or in licensed foster care); or permanency planning (legal guardianship or adoptions).
A discussion ensued regarding the need to plan a series of prevention and intervention strategies on child abuse/neglect education and foster care recruitment. Following the meeting, demographic and placement analysis of the 91 children under department supervision as of May 2013 was received from DCFS.
The ARS of Western USA wants to facilitate community outreach and education and is hopeful that this type of community meeting will set the groundwork to inform and educate communities about child safety, as well as the sharing the positive impact if Armenian families were to consider becoming foster, adoptive, or resource parents.