Boy's mother seemed normal, say social workers

Observations of four-year-old Alon Yehuda's family by social workers a year ago had not given any indication of the tragedy in store for their son, according to the Rishon Lezion Municipality Social Welfare Department. Alon's family had been invited to meet with social workers last year, after Olga Borisov lost consciousness, possibly due to stress, department head Naomi Ahimor told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. "The hospital report recommended finding a health treatment within the community for the mother, and it mentioned the mother's good connection with her son," she said. According to Ahimor, during the meeting, "We saw a very relaxed, calm family - two parents who had a good relationship [with each other] and great love for their son. The atmosphere was good, and no signs of distress were evident - not between the parents and certainly not toward the son, who seemed happy." "The social worker who was in touch with the family took it really hard," she said. "We are all devastated. The social workers are highly sensitive professionals; they are trained to notice hidden nuances, and they calculate all [the] information to make the right judgments." Ahimor said the welfare department constantly critiqued the system, its employees and the decisions they made. "It is almost impossible to predict such a tragedy, and people always ask in retrospect where were the authorities when something like this happens," she said. "But we do ask ourselves if we did the best we could within the limitation of respecting the privacy of the people we deal with, and sometimes despite their anger." The family had had no other obvious sources of distress, such as financial or integration problems, and the couple had not seemed like they were experiencing personal conflicts, Ahimor said. "We checked the environment in which the child was [being] raised and we asked among the neighbors, but they [all presented the picture of] a loving and functioning family," she said. "Our main goal is to identify an inappropriate, damaging environment for the child, and this did not seem to be the case back then." Dr. Tom Gumpel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an expert on violent behavior, refused to point an accusing finger at any of the authorities involved in the case. He cited similarities between the cases of Rose Pizem, allegedly killed by her grandfather Ronnie Ron, and Alon Yehuda: "Both children had special needs and were challenging children around the age of four years old; the parents in both cases are new immigrants and young, inexperienced parents." Research showed that murders, suicides, massacres and other violent actions bring with them a wave of similar cases that take place within 10 days of each other, Gumpel said. "It is not an easy task to locate these cases in advance and prevent them, even in a state that invests a lot of money in the welfare system," he said. "It is harder in countries that keep cutting these budgets. One social worker is in charge of hundreds of cases. "Of course, there are signs that can predict pretty accurately who will become a violent adult, but there are no instant solutions. No one teaches a parent how to become one, and in many cases they need guidance and a sympathetic ear, especially exhausted and weakened parents."