Every year hundreds of children in Israel need the supervision of a legal guardian, or in legalese – a reasonable parent. Irit Yerushalmi is a legal guardian at Yeladim–Fair Chance for Children. Irit, who is responsible for 22 children in this capacity, tells us:

"It's not easy. There was a time when I had four children who had no permanent arrangement. I simply couldn't sleep at night. It is a very heavy responsibility," she says. "At certain times it requires a great deal of energy as well as the understanding that you can't always change things. We fight battles against all the organizations when necessary and still, in the end, just like parents, we often encounter obstacles. It is difficult to convey the feeling that arises from these experiences. The degree of involvement is often as though they were our own children."

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What feeling does the position give you?

"It is one of a great mission. A clear knowledge that if we don't do this, nobody else will, at least not like this. We work with the children who truly have no one else. These children are surrounded in the residential group homes by many people, but when it comes down to it, there is nobody who knows what shampoo they like, and who'll buy that for them."

Considering all the difficulties, what gives you satisfaction?

"The knowledge that I am truly significant to them. For example, one day one of Yeladimthe children I take care of called me from the central bus station. He said, "I'll go wherever you tell me." You have to understand that this was a rebellious child. We had gone through a great deal of hardship with him. He had no permanent arrangement for six months. I had many sleepless night knowing that this child had no placement. It haunts you. When a child has no arrangement and you don't know what will happen to him in near future, you can't get that out of your mind.

In the initial interviews at the residential group homes, he was totally silent. They refused to accept him because he didn't cooperate with the diagnosticians, and his results were very poor. When he called from the bus station I immediately thought: "I want him to come to my house." That was a difficult moment. I knew that I couldn't take him in – neither him nor the other 21 children. Not everything is within our power.

Of course, the level of involvement and type of relationship is not the same with all the children, but he is a child (an adolescent) that arouses a great deal of affection and empathy in me. He doesn't give of himself easily. It took a long time to develop a relationship with him. The fact that I had to work on it only makes our connection stronger and better. I have very strong feelings towards him. That day, the entire association rallied, and through one of our staff members we reached a marvelous woman who took him into her home until we found a permanent solution. Not long ago I received legal guardianship of a five and a half year old boy, the same age as my son. At first I refused. I didn't think I could do such a job. But this is my mission."

*An adapted excerpt from an article that appeared on the Parents' Channel of ynet. Courtesy of Hila Yigal-Izon, Editor of the ynet Parent's Channel.

Who Needs a Guardian Ø Batia Meir

The Guardianship Body of Yeladim – Fair Chance for Children is responsible for dozens of the children in the residential group homes. These children come from very difficult family backgrounds. In some cases, one of the parents is imprisoned and in others the parents may be missing or totally incapable of caring for their children.

Irit Yerushalmi and Irit Kastan, both social workers, are two of the legal guardians on behalf of Yeladim – Fair Chance for Children. Each of them is responsible for the well being of 22 children. They are in constant contact with the children, and in effect function as a substitute parent, seeing to the children's welfare and all their needs: educational and psychological testing, paying for after-school classes, giving them allowance, providing school supplies, buying clothes and gifts for holidays and birthdays. They are also responsible for managing the children's finances and maintaining regular contact with their teachers.

The condition of the children cared for by the Guardianship Body generally improves more than that of similar children under the care of other organizations. Every day we receive dozens of requests for the Guardianship Body to take responsibility for more children.

Guardianship for a single child costs $3,600 a year.

The project is run with the generous daily support of the Dvora Fischer Foundation for Guardianship, the Kari Rechter Foundation and the Friendship Foundation.
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