Since gaining its independence in 1991 with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, landlocked Armenia has endured a devastating earthquake, economic collapse, and war with neighboring Azerbaijan resulting in the ongoing closure of its eastern and western borders. Armenia’s geographic isolation, lack of employment opportunities, and dependence on the perilous Russian economy contribute to the large numbers of vulnerable youth in Armenia living in extreme poverty, single-parent homes, and state-run institutions.
Government institutions and many impoverished families are hard-pressed to provide more than just the basics – food, clothing, shelter and discipline. Little assistance exists for the approximately one-third of Armenian families living in poverty. State-run facilities are ill-equipped to handle the serious issues their residents face, including coping with their family backgrounds; psychological concerns including abandonment, trust and self-esteem; and behavioral consequences of institutional life. The public schools routinely push these youths through the system without encouraging their education or development, failing to integrate them into Armenian society. After these youths age out of the government institutions at 18, they are forced to leave, often with nowhere to go. They, as well as many young people growing up in severely disadvantaged families, are unprepared for safe and successful independent life.