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Gov't program to help kids at-risk has grave faults
By RUTH EGLASH
05/01/2012
State program failing to track, assess its own work over 5 yrs; state youth at risk program took 4 yrs to get programs active.
 
A flagship government program aimed at reducing the number of children and youth considered at risk has been sharply criticized by the State Comptroller’s Office for failing to properly assess and keep track of its own work over the past five years.

The National Program for Children and Youth at Risk, which is under the auspices of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, was also faulted for taking more than four years to get any of its programs actually working in the field.

Established in 2006 based on recommendations made by the inter-ministerial committee headed by child welfare expert Professor Hillel Schmidt, which found that more than 300,000 children in Israel could be classed as at risk, the national program brought together professionals from five government offices in an effort to address the needs in some 56 local authorities.

Budgeted at NIS 155 million a year for multiple years, the comptroller said that the program had succeeded in fostering better cooperation between the various professional government departments working with children and local authorities.

However, it criticized the program for taking more than four years to actually reach the children at risk in the various locations, by which time, pointed out the authors of the report, many of the children identified at risk no longer fit the original criteria and were therefore not eligible to join any of the frameworks that had been created for helping them.

In addition, the comptroller’s report found that the program had not established any quantifiable goals to reduce the number of children at risk. No evaluation had been carried since the program was established. The operation was further chided for using a decentralized computer system to collect and store its data.

The program’s director, appointed by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, was also faulted for not providing transparent or substantial data from the program.

The State Comptroller’s Office recommended that the program’s steering committee and its director immediately introduce a centralized computer system for collecting and analyzing data. The office also encouraged the program’s director to set quantitative targets for reducing the scope of children at risk.

“At the time of the audit, five years after the government decided to implement it and two years after municipalities started to use the programs to help children at risk, it is unclear to what extent the plan has actually achieved its goals,” wrote the authors of the comptroller’s report.
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