Ethiopian children 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski (illustrative))
Immigrant children and youth at risk face an even tougher environment and are
much harder to reach than children from other weak socio-economic populations in
Israeli society, Talal Dolev, director of the National Program for Children and
Youth at Risk told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Speaking a day ahead of
a national conference aimed at helping local authorities and professionals
working with immigrant communities and the young to address the needs of
children and teens at risk, Dolev pointed out: “It’s easier for us to focus on
Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors because they live in specific cities or
neighborhoods, but identifying immigrant children and youth at risk is more
tricky because they are spread out and live among the general population in most
Among the data to be presented at Tuesday’s symposium are
figures showing that out of some 150,000 children identified as “at risk” over
the past two years since the government launched the National Program for
Children and Youth at Risk, 15,000 were from immigrant families.
50,000 children and youth participate in a variety of programs run in community
centers, clinics, kindergartens and schools in 56 cities, with roughly 6,000 of
them from immigrant families.
With assistance from the Immigrant
Absorption Ministry, the programs are culturally sensitive and place emphasis on
education, young girls at risk, individual counseling and a program for young
According to information published Monday, the conditions that
bring the at-risk immigrant children to the program are much deeper and more
troubling than those faced by other Jewish children at risk, with 22 percent of
immigrant children being victims of neglect compared to only 17% of other
children at risk and 24% lacking any adult supervision, compared to 17% of other
atrisk Jewish children.
In addition, the figures show that 62% of the
immigrant children do not receive adequate educational or emotional enrichment
from their parents, as opposed to 43% of other children at risk, and in 39% of
the immigrant families, parents struggle to provide their children with basic
necessities such as nutritious food and school supplies.
which will include professionals from the Welfare and Social Affairs, Immigrant
Absorption, Education and Health ministries, as well as local authorities with
large immigrant populations, will also discuss worrying information pertaining
to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as anti-social behavior among a large
percentage of at-risk immigrant youth.
Dolev said that the largest group
of immigrant children enrolled in programs funded by the forum were of Ethiopian
origin (37%), while the rest were from the Caucasus region (25%), the former
Soviet Union (21%) and the rest from other immigrant communities.
really varies depending on the city or area,” said Dolev, a social worker by
training, adding that in towns such as Beit Shemesh and Betar Illit, the
programs include children from English- speaking immigrant
While the national program’s activities are coordinated by the
Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, the Immigrant Absorption, Education, Health
and Internal Security ministries also contribute to developing the
While the majority of the 56 participating towns and cities
have a majority Jewish population, around one-third are Arab-Israeli
“The program is a result of a study, which found that the
three main populations not getting enough resources to help children and youth
at risk were the Arabs, the ultra-Orthodox and new immigrants,” explained Dolev,
adding also that research has found that much of the emphasis in the past was on
teenagers while little was done to identify pre-school children suffering
neglect and abuse.
“It is much easier to identify teenagers that are
having a hard time but for younger children, especially those from immigrant
families that might not attend pre-school, the problems are harder to find,” she
said, “Our data shows that this age group merits more attention than what we