Mother dies after failed appeal for family to adopt her teenagers

"It's not nice to say, but if these were children aged 2 and 4 we would have had a much greater outpouring of help," director of Foster Services for the Orr Shalom charity, tells 'Post'.

A dying mother's appeal to find a permanent loving home for her two teenage children has fallen short of its goal, with foster care services frantically searching for a family to care for the children after their mother passed away on Tuesday night. "It's not nice to say this, but if these were children aged two and four we would have had a much greater outpouring of help," Tali Halaf, director of Foster Services for the Orr Shalom charity, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. The mother, who used the name "Smadar" when appealing to the public for help over the past few weeks, had suffered from cancer for a year-and-a-half, Halaf said. The son and daughter, aged 12 and 14, respectively, are currently being cared for by family friends. "There is a system in place to help the children for the next month, but we really need to find a permanent arrangement for them, especially after all the emotional stress they have suffered in recent months," said Halaf, adding that the children's father died of illness three years ago. This case was unusual because usually orphans were adopted by close family members, Halaf said, but the children's only relatives were a 90-year-old grandmother, an aunt not in a position to care for them and a young couple not able to step up to the challenge. "We had about 250 people call us after the mother made an appeal on TV," Halaf said. "Fostering children, however, is an extremely big emotional responsibility. These children come complete with the whole package of social workers and extended family members that they need to keep in touch with." She said most of the offers to help were not suitable. "There are very strict criteria for fostering children," said Halaf, adding that while Orr Shalom was a private charity, all its requests for foster families came from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. "Families need to have a certain economic status, be a certain age, have no criminal records, and generally be in good health," she said. "While we do offer foster families a support network, many people are put off by the greater demands." Halaf added that Orr Shalom always had more children waiting for foster homes than families coming forward to help. "It is not permanent like adoption and many people do not like that," she said. Asked what would happen if no suitable family was found, Halaf said: "There is no way we will let that happen. The children can be put in a boarding school, but after the trauma they have experienced they need to live in a family setting." Halaf said that it was preferable for such a family to be situated in the center of the country, to minimize the children's upheaval, but that this was not the main criteria. Anyone interested in fostering children should contact Orr Shalom at (03) 529-3733.