'More kids are murdered by parents than statistics show'

Expert says number is higher because doesn't include babies who die due to unknown causes; symposium held on early detection, prevention.

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December 22, 2010 04:01
3 minute read.
Baby sleeping in cot

baby in cot 311. (photo credit: Illustrative photo)

 
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The number of children in Israel who are murdered by their parents is far greater than official statistics show, a special one-day symposium for social workers, police officials, health professionals and educators working to prevent such tragedies was told Monday.

According to official counts, the annual number of children murdered by family members averages five or six, with figures from the National Council of the Child showing that some 42 children have been murdered by relatives over the past eight years.

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However, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the NCC, told The Jerusalem Post following the conference that the number was much likely higher because it did not take into consideration babies under the age of one who died due to unknown causes.

“In 2009 there were 592 cases of babies under one that died. In the majority of cases the deaths were due to ill health, genetic disorders or low birth weights, but out of those almost 600 cases, there were nearly 100 where the exact cause of death was either not known or [due to] crib death,” explained Kadman, who addressed the conference on comparisons of Israel’s child abuse statistics with those published recently in the US.

In the US, continued Kadman, “babies that die under mysterious or unknown circumstances, including crib deaths, are investigated by a special committee. In Israel, this does not happen. That means for a baby found dead in a day care center or somewhere else, there is no way of knowing the real cause.”

Kadman told the conference that in 2009 there were some 45,600 reports of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse against children, and over the past six months there have been at least two extreme cases whereby parents have murdered their children. The most recent came last month in Ra’anana, where 40-year-old Michal Aloni suffocated her two daughters, Natalie, six, and Roni, four. Before that was in July when Itai Ben-Dror, 38, admitted to stabbing his three children – Omer, 10, Roni, eight, and Or, five – to death in their Netanya home.

In addition to information from Kadman, Monday’s conference included presentations from professionals working in the field, with perhaps the main issue underscored by Welfare and Social Services Ministry director-general Nachum Itzkovich, who called on all official bodies to improve coordination and work more closely together.

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“People always talk about blame, but it is not the question of who is to blame that we should be focusing on,” Itzkovich told the Post. “We should be looking at how to piece together the puzzle and deal with these difficult issues in order to prevent them from happening again.”

Itzkovich said that the goal should be to improve the “collection of information and the sharing of knowledge by the authorities, especially when it comes to children at risk.”

He said the key was in reforming legislation so that the relevant authorities, including the health services, school system and police, could share information despite strict confidentiality codes.

“There is already general agreement that there needs to be change,” Itzkovich said, adding that potential legislation aimed at increasing coordination and information- sharing for early detection and prevention was currently being examined by the government’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

Kadman pointed out that currently “there is no culture [among the authorities] for sharing information, and without this we cannot move forward.” He said that professionals at the conference showed a great awareness of the problem and a clear concern to improve the steps for early detection and prevention.

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