What is going on with Israel’s daycare law?

“In Israel, the children don’t belong to the Education Ministry until age three,” Glantz said. “Until then, the centers are completely unsupervised."

By EMMA MCAVOY, STEPHANIE WASSERMAN
July 22, 2019 05:29
4 minute read.
What is going on with Israel’s daycare law?

A DAYCARE CENTER in Jerusalem. [Illustrative photo]. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A daycare staffer is charged with several counts of abuse.


A preschool teacher murders a baby by smothering her with a blanket.
Despite an effort to make changes in the toddler daycare system – including passing the Supervision Daycare Law – the system continues to experience minor and major challenges. What is going on with the daycare law?


The Supervision Daycare Law was passed last October. Its intention was to regulate private daycare centers for toddlers up to age three, requiring every manager to have a valid license obtained from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. However, the law has not been fully implemented, and is not expected to go into effect until at least September 1.


Moreover, according to Liat Glantz, coordinator of the Coalition for Early Childhood Education, the law has failed to protect infants and toddlers from harm not only because it has not yet been implemented, but the law only protects kids in centers with seven or more children.


“In Israel, the children don’t belong to the Education Ministry until age three,” Glantz said. “Until then, the centers are completely unsupervised. No one knows where 77% of these children are being cared for.”


And it has caused harm to Israel’s babies.


Recently, Carmel Mauda, 25, was charged with systemic abuse of 11 children, allegedly tying them up, forcing them to eat their own vomit and suffocating them with blankets.


According to Glantz, parents never would have suspected Mauda if it hadn’t been for video footage revealed in the case.


“She was such a great actor,” Glantz said. “The parents wanted to defend her. They couldn’t believe it until they saw the film. It was really a nightmare… Something has to change.”


The Coalition for Early Childhood Education works with parents, academics and all kinds of organizations to ensure the well-being of the children. According to Glantz, they have three main goals aimed at meeting the challenge for childcare: government regulation for facilities for children aged three and younger, expanding the scope of daycare facilities, and transferring responsibility from the Welfare Ministry to the Education Ministry.


These elements are supposed to go into effect when the law will be implemented September 1. However, according to Carmit Polak-Cohen, legal adviser for the Israel National Council for the Child, the Welfare Ministry has indicated it will not be ready to implement the regulations in time.


“This week we heard the Welfare Ministry say they are not ready, that they can’t check for criminals, and that they can’t know which places to supervise,” Polak-Cohen said. “They are supposed to supervise the law.”


Polak-Cohen said that the ministry is unsure if it will be able to establish the necessary measures needed to be taken to train those who want to be certified in childcare – another part of the law. According to her, the ministry says it could take five years or longer to move forward and ensure all aspects of the law go into effect.


Polak-Cohen stresses the importance of acting now.


“We demand that it won’t take five years,” she said. “That is too long for these kids to wait. [The ministry] needs to apply a law including all new elements and standards now.”


The Welfare and Social Services Ministry was unable to provide a comment at press time.


Polak-Cohen said that until the law is implemented, there is no one to ask questions.


“You can be a sexual offender and open a daycare with six kids and not be charged,” she continued.


Parents, too, have expressed their concern.


Adina Shoshani told The Jerusalem Post that she struggled to find an appropriate daycare for her child, and was even warned by the assistant of one she visited to never send her child there.


“When you give away your kid to someone you don’t know, it’s terrifying,” she said. “You can only hope that what you see is what you get. I don’t even know how parents who’ve been through this can trust again.”


According to data released by the Coalition for Early Childhood Education, not only are 77% of children in Israel from newborns to the age of three not accounted for by the government, those who are placed in private daycare centers are under the supervision of untrained staff, leading to common accidents.


Polak-Cohen said it is in the power of the public to fight for change and to point out these unsafe facilities to the ministry.


Achaz Agam is one of the many parents who work with organizations like Anu Make Change to bring these issues to the surface.


“Someone needs to take responsibility for children of these ages,” she said. “It’s harder to open a falafel stand in Israel than it is to open a daycare center. We need the right facilities for these children.”


Agam said that since the case of Mauda came to the surface earlier this month, his organization and others have led demonstrations. Last Sunday, 6,000 parents took to the streets across the country to express their frustration and demand change.


“We need to make the government understand that we will not rest until our kids are safe,” Agam said.


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