Kids at the kotel 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Knesset plenum approved a bill enshrining the State’s legal responsibility toward the foster care system in Israel for the very first time this week.
The bill, drafted by Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar and the National Council for the child, regulates the rights, duties and authority of all parties involved in the foster care process: families, children and biological parents, among others. In addition, it also addresses the bureaucracy involved in being part of foster care services.
In introducing the draft law to the Knesset on Wednesday, Elharar said that it will “directly and significantly affect the lives of thousands of children and families in Israel.”
“By just reading the dry sections of the law on the subject, it is difficult to understand the importance and the decisive influence of the foster care system on the lives of foster children and their families,” she said, “For those who live in the system, growing up or raising a child, this is a huge change that ensures their rights and facilitates their daily functioning with all parties concerned.”
“To date, the issue of foster care had never been properly legislated in Israel, leaving many families who provide a home for children and do so with love and compassion, without a constitutional structure to regulate their rights and the delicate relationship between them and their foster child and between them and the child’s biological parents,” she added.
According to her, about 10,000 children living in Israel today have been removed from their parents’ household for a reason or another, and the lack of regulation surrounding the issue puts foster parents in a difficult situation as they have no authority or right to make simple and basic decisions regarding the child’s life and his future. In addition, foster care has been left out of the national budget for years.
Elharar explained that today, the system is primarily controlled by NGOs, under the relatively loose supervision of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
“The current situation not only makes it difficult for families and children in foster care, but also prevents the system from expanding and providing a home to more children,” she stressed.
Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron, who himself is the foster father of a child with disabilities, praised the bill on Wednesday.
“Today is the day when we, foster families, receive legal recognition for our actions for the first time,” he said.
“My wife and I chose, over a decade ago, to join foster families,” he wrote on his Facebook page, “I do not know the scientific, cultural or sociological definition of foster father. To me, he’s my son, but over the years we have fought for basic rights.”
“Today, the state decided that it is ready to foster me too, me and my wife,” he added.
Elharar and Piron also called on families to join the foster care system.
“There are children waiting for you, needing you” the Minister said, “Opening your home and hearts will give them a lot of love and faith and it would give more meaning to your life, your family, your children and society.”