Haifa launches $4.5m. project to guide parents

Program seeks to affect the lives of Israeli children by reaching out to the ones they’re closest to: their parents.

January 4, 2012 05:49
2 minute read.
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A program launched last week will seek to affect the lives of Israeli children by reaching out to the ones they’re closest to: their parents.

The program, Horim Bamerkaz (Parents at the Center), will provide guidance to parents starting at pregnancy, to give them tools to help their children avoid becoming at-risk youths down the road, according to the program’s founders.

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The program will be run by the “Boston-Haifa Connection,” an organization founded by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and the Haifa Municipality in 1989, to strengthen collaboration between the two “sister cities.”

Horim Bamerkaz will receive an investment of almost $4.5 million over the next five years, and has its sights set first on the city of Haifa.

According to the program’s organizers, their approach stands out among other youth programs in Israel, which have focused on the children and youths themselves, and not on providing guidance to the parents.

The partners running the program in Israel will work in collaboration with a committee in Boston, which counts among its members Prof. Carolyn Cohen, who attended a launch event for the program last week in Haifa with her husband, attorney and Jerusalem Post columnist Prof. Alan Dershowitz. The team will also work in collaboration with the Health Ministry and the Joint Distribution Committee’s Ashalim association for at-risk children.

The pilot program began in Haifa’s Kiryat Eliezer and Bat Galim neighborhoods last week, and steps are under way to implement it in the district’s health clinics, kindergartens, daycare centers and playgrounds.

According to the Social Services Department, 15 percent of minors in Haifa are classified as at-risk. In the country as a whole, over 300,000 children are at-risk, according to Welfare Ministry figures.

The pilot program is the first of four planned for the initiative, which will also include a parenthood support program, offering pre and postnatal guidance to parents, group workshops with parents and children, home visitations by professionals and a training program to guide those who will work with parents in the future, the organization said this week.

Noa Ben-David, who heads the pre-school education department in Ashalim, said the program considers counseling parents a crucial component in the development of young children.

“We place great importance on combining programs for parents and consultation with experts, with the goal of influencing the life and development of children,” Ben-David said.

The CJP representative in Israel and director of the Haifa-Boston connection in Haifa, Vered Israely, said the program is devoted to “making Haifa the best city in Israel to raise children.”

She said the initiative will spread to cities across Israel, beginning with 10 more cities next year.

When asked what makes the program different than others that have been formed to work with at-risk children, she said it focuses on prevention, rather than treatment.

“We have studied the issue of at-risk children and have discovered that in most of the country they deal with youths who are already at risk, and the resources go toward welfare and treatment services to deal with the issue. There are very few that deal with the parents or on preventing students from becoming at-risk in the first place.”

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